The Boston Marathon: tips for a successful race day
It’s April 1st and that means something very special in the city of Boston, it’s Marathon Month! The Boston Marathon is such a remarkable experience for runners, a 26.2 mile journey full of history and lined with fans who will help to carry athletes from Hopkinton to Copley Square. For those runners who have the honor of donning a bib on Marathon Monday, the journey began long before the third Monday in April. It takes months, sometimes years, of training just to get to the start line, and then there is still a marathon to run! Read on for a few of my top tips for a successful Boston Marathon and remember to join me, Marathon Sports, and Brooks Running on Friday April 12th for a night of all things Boston and marathon running!
1.Nothing New on Race Day: Remember that everything you eat and everything you wear will be with you for 26.2 miles.
Make sure that you eat a breakfast that your body is accustomed to. Ideally, this will be what you have typically eaten before your long runs. When our bodies feel stressed (as they often do pre-race and throughout the course of a marathon) several hormones and neurotransmitters are released and can impact a range of physical systems, including digestion. It is important to control what you can and ensure that you are not placing additional stress on your body by asking it to digest something unfamiliar.
Wear clothing and shoes that you have run in before. It may be true that we all love the idea of unveiling a cute new race day top or fancy new sneakers in our pre-race post. It is also true that, while this may get a lot of social media love, it can also cause trouble on the course. Running in familiar clothing reduces the risk of unexpected discomfort such as chaffing or blisters.
2. Have a Fuel Plan: It’s easy to get lost in the magic of the marathon, having a fuel plan ensures that you’ll give your body what it needs to go the distance.
Beginning at the two mile mark, the BAA provides aid stations with water, lemon lime Gatorade, and Clif Shot Energy Gels. Prior to your race take a look at the course map and begin to plan when and how you will fuel. Remember rule number one, if you haven’t trained with it, don’t touch it. If Gatorade and Clif Shots are not what you have been training with, be sure to have a plan for carrying your own fuel. Perhaps more importantly, do not wait until you are hungry or thirsty! Fuel early and often to help avoid dehydration and make sure that your body is building up the stores of carbohydrates it needs to carry you to the finish.
3. Run Your Marathon:Think about what your body has been trained to do and run your own race.
This is a helpful approach to any race and is especially important during a race like the Boston Marathon. It’s easy to get swept up in all the excitement, the energy around Boston on marathon weekend is palpable and that downhill start can be dangerous for your pace. Take some time before race day to think about your goals. Identify a realistic finish time goal and mile pace, while remembering that your first mile or two will be a bit slower.
There are about 30,000 runners who line up in Hopkinton each April, you are going to be passed and you will pass some runners. Focus on running your race and your pace to ensure that you don’t burn out your legs in the first half. Avoid bobbing and weaving at the start and give your body some time to settle into the marathon. Allowing your body to ease into the race and focusing on maintaining your pace during the middle miles may leave you feeling ready to kick it into high gear for a strong finish!
4. Pay Attention to Your Body: Knowing the difference between discomfort and pain is essential.
Throughout the course of the marathon you will likely experience some physical discomfort. As a marathon runner, you define yourself by being mentally and physically tough, you are programmed to push through. Sore muscles, a cramp, or some minor chaffing are all expected annoyances. It is likely that you have experienced many of the typical aches and pains throughout the course of your training. On race day it is important to pay attention to your body in the event that you are experiencing pain that might signal an injury or more serious medical problem. If you do notice pain that is outside of what is typical and expected for you(this is different for all of us) it is important to stop at one of the 26 medical stations on the course to consult with a medical professional. It may be difficult to wrap your head around the idea of stopping (even for a brief time) or not completing the marathon. After all your hard work, being sidelined by an injury would be incredibly disappointing. The truth is, running through an injury can lead to more serious issues that may sideline your running for a longer time. The best option is to leave the decision to the professionals.
5. Visualize Your Finish: Planning for a strong finish can help to push away negative thoughts about performance during the race.
It is inevitable throughout the course of 26.2 miles that you will have some difficult moments, feeling physically and mentally fatigued creates a space where self-doubt and self-criticism can easily blossom. Using time before the race to visualize your finish can help you to redirect these unhelpful thoughts in a more helpful direction. Whether you focus on the famed sights of the last few miles, the image of the finish line, or who you will call first to celebrate with, imagining yourself finishing is an important step in setting yourself up for success.
If you are struggling to form a clear picture of your finish, I recommend the following.
Sit in a comfortable position, soften your gaze, and take three slow, deep breaths. Imagine, it is Monday April 15th. You have made it through the Newton Hills, celebrated with the women of Wellesley College, and pushed your way up Heartbreak Hill. A short time ago, as your strong legs carried you down Beacon Street you looked up and saw the Citgo sign, letting you know you were almost there, it screamed “YOU ARE GOING TO FINISH THE BOSTON MARATHON!” Now, as you push through the famed Right on Hereford you look up and see what you have been waiting for all day “Boylston St.” You’re here, you have made it to the finish, just a few blocks left to celebrate all of your hard work. You take in the crowd, letting their cheers push your legs to find that last bit of energy to propel you forward. Then finally, left on Boylston, you look up and see BAA blue and yellow, the FINISH LINE. You have done it, you have finished the Boston Marathon! As you cross the line greeted by cheers, a shiny new medal, and some much needed water you take a minute to notice your strength and thank your body for pushing through to give your heart what it wanted today.