As many other runners, the taper crazies start to take over. However, one of my favorite taper past times is to analyze and over analyze the elevation profile of the race I’ll be running. Since I generally tend to never run a marathon course twice, what’s expected and what my feet actually hit always seems so different. Unfortunately, Boston Marathon is not a race I can use that excuse. Having raced on it 2 times already, and ran on it countless times, there’s very few surprises it can bring besides the weather. Weather, I can’t control, so I just let it be. Although, as I mentioned on facebook, I’m expecting it to snow this year.
Five days until race day and this is what I woke up to this morning.
Anyway, I don’t like to brag about it, or even really mention it but my first Boston Marathon was a complete disaster. I ran a 5:11, well 5:10:54 to be exact. I don’t hide it, but it does put a dent into my Athlinks profile, my pride and joy as a midpacker.
Well, I learned my lesson, many of them in these tips and came back in 2013 with a 3:26 before the whole nightmare occurred at 2:40PM. Did I get faster? Not really, I ran a 3:24 in March 2012, only four weeks before my 5:11. However, within a year, I did get smarter. Knowing your mistakes mile by mile, brought me hours faster to the finish line.
Run To Munch’s Mile by Mile guide to the Boston Marathon
Mile 1 – When I first ran Boston in 2012, this was the mile that killed my race (that and the 90 degree weather.) But I also learned a ton about marathon racing within this mile. The first mile is the largest elevation drop you will have on the course, 130 feet. This drop will make everything, including the flat parts feel slower and harder unless you ease into it. I’m not gonna tell you to take it easy, but I will tell you that going into tempo speed here is not a good idea. And this is coming from someone who believes negative splitting is NOT for everyone.
This is also one of the most narrow roads you’ll be running on. It will become incredibly tempting to try to pass by other runners. With the large fields, I doubt this part of the course will feel any more spacious than it did in the past. And I get it, I like to start out fast and bank on time, but the problem here is that you will waste more energy weaving between other runners, than the time you will bank. Trust me, I’ve tried it and I’m a relative tiny person whose quite talented at sliding in between people and not caring. Just try to go with the flow, until the road opens up a bit more.
And please don’t be the d-bag that takes a piss on the side of the road, I don’t care about your public urination, but I do care that you’re getting in my way and I have no desire to see this when my stomach is already in bolts from the race.
Mile 2, 3, 4 Around mile 2, you’ve peaced out of Hopkinton and into Ashland. What’s Ashland? Just another town in Massachusetts, don’t worry about it. Although, some history, the Boston marathon used to start in Ashland until it moved to Hopkinton in 1925 and became the glorious 26.2 miles of fun it is now. There’s also some kinda famous clock or something there. You’re still going downhill, and it’s fun! It feels easy, the course is starting to spread out and you’re having the time of your life!
Mile 5, 6, 7 And then it starts to suck. It doesn’t really suck, but compared to pounding four downhill miles, these little bumps in the road feel painful. Mile 5 actually have a net elevation gain, but it’s only about 25 feet and you lose it again around mile 6. This is where I set into my marathon pace. If I’m feel really good, I might go a little bit faster than marathon pace. Furthermore, just before your Garmin beep 5 miles, you can take a shot (of water) for a third town you’re entered; Framingham.
Yes, Framingham at mile 6, just like all the other Massholes, will welcome you with a bumpy start, three bumps in the road. Worry not, you go down for a lot more than you go up and lucky for you, what goes down, won’t go up since it’s a point to point course. As you run over the 10K timing mat, you can snap a photo of the Framingham train station with a ton of strangers in front of it!
Mile 8, 9, 10, 11 The Natick Miles. Everyone always talks about the Newton/Wellesley hills and the heartbreak of it all, but everyone seems to forget about Natick. If Newton is the heartbreak, Natick are the repeated strokes your heart will take before the break. This is a good time to plug-in some headphones and run to some beats. You will be running through industrial/commercial/boring areas for a few miles until mile 10 when you reach an awesome crowd of people at Natick Center at mile 10. They call these hills “minor” but I after running downhill, they still feel like mountains to me. You gain 25 feet at mile 8, drop 30 to gain 20 and 10 on mile 10 and 11. I continue with a steady effort because this is still just the start.
Mile 12, 13, 14 – You reach your next town of Wellesley, For the most part, it’s either flat or the elevation is dropping. Around mile 13, you pass by the screaming infamous “Wellesley girls” college. I mostly use these miles to bank up time and run past all the craze as fast as possible. I know the dudes like to stop and grab a kiss here, but hey whatever floats your boat.
Mile 15… Enjoy the first half, because now the race is about to start. You wrap up this mile with a climb, the first of many. conserve with a steady effort, because this is just the first of many as you leave Wellesley.
Mile 16 – This is my favorite mile. It means I’m just a 10 mile race away from the finish line. Be prepared to drop down 100 feet in less than half a mile. Since I don’t have any knee I problems, I bomb down the hill and bank up some time.
Mile 17, 18, 19 Mile 17 is my second least favorite mile and probably the second hardest one for me. You start your 55 feet of climbing. The feel of the climb only feels tougher after all the downhill. Suck in your gut and hold a steady effort. Remember this is why you didn’t waste energy weaving in and out of people at mile 1. It doesn’t help that the course gets uglier here as you run on an overpass and highway looking roads. I plug in my headphones once again for another 5K. Mile 18 is another 30 feet of climbing with a stronger but shorter incline that’s rewarded with a little break at mile 19 as you climb down 15 feet. I use mile 19 to catch my breath.
Mile 20, 21 They say your race is determined by the final 10K of a marathon. I hope that’s not true. You remind yourself that you’re almost at 20 miles which is almost like the finish line. There’s constant debate whether these two miles share two or three or four hills. I’m going with four. The first part of this mile is steep but short hill. Then it flattens and climbs again for a second (IMO) hill. This is the number one winner of my least favorite part of the race. By the time I reach mile 20 and the actual Heartbreak hill at mile 21, I have given up on life. I often wonder why I run marathons. What kinda idiot pays to run over 26 miles. The only thing that gets your through this heartbreak are the crowds. Oh and that little kid with the Swedish Fish in a cup. Thank you! Thank you! This is so much tastier than the diarrhea GU I picked up at mile 18!
Have your mantra ready for the hills. Mine is slow and steady. I let a bunch of people pass me on the uphills. I shorten my stride and conserve some energy, but I always lose more energy going up hill on same amount of effort than I do on flat or going downhill. My strength is not in climbing and so I save it. Mile 21 of 80 feet of climbing and I probably lose 2 minutes on it. I remind myself to not stress out and that for me, it’s part of my race strategy. Slow and steady choo choo! I think I can. I think I can. I think I can… mnn candy!
Mile 22, 23, 24, 25 You know how they say, it’s all downhill from here. Totally true. This is what I remind myself of when I want to die at the bottom of each hill in Newton. This is also why I try to conserve energy on the uphill. I know my strength comes in running downhill/flat surfaces. I can make up more time here, if I don’t burn myself out on the hills. Remember all those fools who passed me on the hills, well guess what buddy! I get to pass some of your here. Somewhere in mile 23 there’s a little climb in there and I always hated that area of Brookline. When I used to bike down Beacon street I could never understand why they didn’t just flatten it out, and instead had to build upon this evil hill. Mile 23 is when I start to hate everything again. I’m feeling weary of the uphills, the downhills, the crowds and life. You keep seeing the Citgo sign of Boston in and out of the these miles reminding you that you’re so close, yet so far from the finish line. Hold nothing back! Pain is all just temporary.
Luckily for me, the final 10K is where I get to see all my friends as well! If I’m having a good race, I smile hug and run on. If it’s a bad race, an extra 30 second break to chat won’t hurt anyone right?
Mile 26 – You know how you think there’s nothing left in you at mile 22? Mile 26 brings on the opposite. This magical burst of energy surges through you as if you just crossed the starting line in Hopkinton. As you make your turn onto Hereford, you forget just how far those .2 miles after the 26 mile marker are, and yet it all passes through with a blur.
You’re done. A friendly volunteer wraps you in a blanket and put a medal on you. Don’t try to sit, you’ll get yelled at. Keep moving, go get your bag of food and keep moving, there’s plenty of runners behind you so make room.
Or at least that’s my plan. What will actually happen in 2014? We’ll see on Monday.
P.S. I used this list and my experience for my elevation numbers