Planning the Race: Part II

In part I, I talked about how important it is to be ready on race day and discussed nutrition and hydration.  In part II, I’ll go through wearing appropriate clothing and visualizing the course.

What to wear

Deciding what to wear is one of the biggest issue I face before a race.  It is hard to plan too ahead of time as you don’t know how the weather is going to be on race day.  Therefore, it is important to be prepared for every weather condition possible.  The body go through extreme contrasts of temperature – very cold in the pre and early stages of the race to very warm/hot once you get going. Therefore, it is important to not OVERDRESS!  I remember when I run my first half marathon, I didn’t know better , I wore too much clothes that I should have to the point I got really hot after running for a while but I could not shave off any layers since my number was pinned on the outside layer.  As a rule of thumb, it usually feels 10 or more degrees warmer once you get going, and temps will rise as the day goes on too. Wearing too much clothing, will make you sweat more than you want, possibly increasing your body temperature and risk of dehydration.  Since the Marathon starts early in the morning when it’s chillier, I am planning to wear layers and lose the layers as I heat up on the course.  Also, because I will be hanging around for few hours in the Athlete’s Village, and I would not want to get very cold I am planning to bring warm cloths and a throw-away blanket to the start, to keep comfortable and warm before the start.  The clothes I am certain I will not need to stand around the starting line, I will put them on the baggage buses provided, prior to the start in Hopkinton.  And the clothes I will take off right before the start , the volunteers will pick up and donate them.

Yesterday on my 10 miles run I “dress rehearsal”.

Dress Rehearsal

I found it very helpful to have an idea of the course not only to be physically prepared, but mentally prepared.  Relax in a comfortable chair and try to visualize the race and imagining what you will see, how good you’ll feel and crossing the finish line.  On the Marathon Nation website were describing how the Boston’s course is unique for several reasons.

  • First, it’s a point-to-point course that is relatively straight in nature. As a result, a headwind or tailwind can impact your entire race, not just one segment.
  • Second, it’s a net downhill course. Despite the famed hills of Newton, there are many other marathons with more challenging terrain. I personally trained on the course regularly and I think the hills aren’t that bad — however on race day, after 17 miles of downhill running, these hills grow in stature and can really put a hurt on you.
  • Third, there are significant temperature swings by year, and also within the race. In April can be close to freezing, or hot as to cause heat exhaustion — that’s New England for you. As the Bostonians say, “Don’t like the weather? Wait five minutes…”  On top of that, you need to conside that the temperatures will change over the day, from a chilly morning wait in Hopkinton to a cool start, to a warmer point at halfway to slowly dropping temperatures the closer you get the city.

Visualize the Course

On the last one of  the three Boston Marathon Training Clinic that I attended to, the assistant Coach Terry Shea of the B.A.A. gave some racing tips and a general description of the Boston Course that it’s really helpful for visualization.

The Boston Marathon route from Hopkinton to Boston’s Copley Square can be looked at in three parts.

  1. In the first 16 miles of the course, through Newton Lower Falls, there is a 480 foot drop in elevation, but there are some uphills in this section  of the route.  The first 4 miles of the race is when over 330 feet of the course’s decline in elevation happen.  In this section some of the grade changes are small, but they do help you.  You can use different muscles, which lets those that have been taxed for a while get a break.  Forget about even splits on the rolling terrain and focus instead on even effort.  Try to start off nice and easy and slowly progress to goal race pace and remember that the first miles are downhill, try not to get to excited and start off too fast.
  2. From miles 16-21 -Newton Lower Falls to Boston College) the course gains 230 feet in elevation.  Here after you cross route 128 you need to be careful, since you will encounter a long, steep downhill followed by an uphill as you cross 128. Don’t run the downhill too hard or you will pay the price later on the Newton Hills.  Instead, try to relax and let the downward momentum carry you along. The “Hills” start at the 16.2 mark (950 meters, average grade 2.5%), 17.5 mark (450 meters, average grade 4.7%), 19 mark (625 meters, average grade 3%), and 20.2 mark (600 meters, average grade 4.5%).  At this point is more about trying to maintain the same effort through the hills and less about a specific pace.  Between 16 and 22 miles, you will be running 20-30 seconds slower, it’s okay.  Do not try to make-up the time on the downhill, or you could do some damage to your quads & hams.
  3. The finish part of the course, miles 21 to the finish-Boston College to Copley Square- has a decline in altitude from 230 feet to sea level.  If you’re still feeling good, “the course is finally sweet to you at the end,” Bill Rodgers, four-time Boston Marathon champion, says. “It gives you all this good downhill, and you can just glide.   Commonwealth Avenue leads you to a right onto Hereford Street and a final short incline before taking a left onto Boylston Street.  Keep your legs moving and your arms swinging, and most of all, soak in the roar of the crowd while focusing on the finish line!

Last year chalking on Heartbreak Hill

The Single digit countdown starts today: 9 days…….


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