Thursday, April 07, 2011

Boston Marathon Race Strategy

I've never run Boston before, so like a good student I've been trying to do my homework. That's equated to running the last 15 miles or so of the course a couple of times. That also means asking lots of questions to veterans, reading race reports and advice in its various forms. Lots and lots of that. As those Schoolhouse Rock public service announcements said, "knowledge is power!"

One thing has become clear to me with Boston: You are running huge risks by going out too fast. That's true with any race, but seems especially crucial on this course. I've heard of several folks way faster and way more experienced than me going out too quickly here and paying the price. Seems like it's a combination of getting caught up in the hype of it being the big show and also those first four miles being pretty big downhills and the quads get hammered. When the hills start at Newton, many people are toast as a result.

Gary Allen, the race director of the Mt. Desert Island Marathon and a dude who has really accomplished a lot in marathoning (Boston included), posted a tip list on Facebook recently that I thought summarized very well much of what I've researched. Notice much of it is centered around proper pacing. He wrote:

1. As you've all heard don't start too fast. (stats don't lie 90+% of all runners at Boston start too damn fast and explode every single year.)

2. A good rule of thumb is make sure that lots of runners are passing you in the early miles.

3. Don't worry about your corral number as your chip time is the official time. (from timing mats to timing mats)

4. I watch for people from the corral behind me to start catching me (just glance at their bibs as they pass, they should read one digit higher than yours) if I see this I know I'm running smart.

5. The tide usually turns around 15K and all those who have gone out over their heads start to crumble.

6. Do the math and decide what you want the finish line clock to say and run 10 sec per mile slower than that over the 1st 10K. Be patient. (the alternative is to go 10 sec per mile faster which will result in 30 sec per mile added to every mile past 30K)

7. Don't treat Boston any different than any other race because if you make it bigger than life it will be. Instead just think of it as another race with a lot of people.

8. Don't follow the crowd. In other words many do not even attempt to run tangents. Unless you want to run 27 miles try to work yourself right and left as the course twists and turns.

9. Keep your head down in the early downhill miles. If your head drops back you hips go fwd and each stride will produce a braking effect which will result in massive quad fatigue.

10. Have fun!


That underscores all I've heard about being careful. I've just heard of too many people blowing up on that course and I don't want to be "that guy". Sure, the MDI Marathon was a hillier course, but thinking that the Boston course is easier is dangerous thinking.

I'd much rather go out :10/mile slower the first handful of miles and be able to run stronger later on. It's kind of the opposite of what I did at MDI, which was banking time knowing I would slow down on the monstrous hills at miles 21-25. I don't think that's a good strategy for Boston, where it's mostly downhill just past mile 20. You want to be strong that last 10k. If you go out conservative and have fuel to burn, seems like that's the place to use it.

So that's where my thinking is at right now. Any advice or comments are appreciated.


Grellan said...

Sounds like you know the course Jamie. I've never ran Boston but got enough of a picture following other runners experience, particularly Mike Power's, as he runs it year on year.

Knowing what to do is one thing but doing it is still the challenge - let the head rule for the first 20 miles and the heart for the last 10k.

Jamie said...

Thanks Grellan. Seems very true about knowing what to do and actually doing it.

sn0m8n said...

Blah, blah,'re going to crush that sucker! Sub-42 for the final 10k! BRING IT!!! (That's why they have the medical tent.)

Blaine Moore said...

Yup - sound strategy.

The only thing it's missing is your second trip through Wellesley...sure, it adds a few minutes, but it's worth it!