Training for Boston…In Boston!

Headed “home” to Boston last weekend to spend Easter with the family and got to do some Boston marathon recon work and take a run on the actual course. My kids were not impressed with our tour of the course, but it was a lot of fun for me. (My kids were even less impressed that this is what passes for fun for me. Teens and tweens. You can’t win.)

Hopkinton Start 2

On Friday, I drove from the Hopkinton start to Heartbreak Hill to get a sense of what the early part of the course looks like, and on Saturday, I ran from Wellesley in to the finish line. I’ve run Heartbreak Hill many times, but never took the course the rest of the way in to Boylston. It was great, and I have a bunch of random bits to share:

  1. There is something about a point-to-point marathon that seems awfully long. 26.2 straight miles just seems longer than a loop. Yikes. When we were driving from Hopkinton to Newton, my 13 year old remarked, “I’m getting bored just driving this course. I can’t believe you have to run it.” Ummm…thanks.2015_bostonmarathon_coursemap
  2.  As I have heard, the starting stretch is indeed narrow, windy and steep. I am going to be lucky to get through it without taking a digger. Thank God my mother has never seen the start, or she would make me wear a mouthguard. All joking aside, it freaked me out a little bit. I’m the perfect size for getting knocked over. I’ve always wanted to be perfect at something, and apparently, this is what God chose for me.
  3. There is still snow in Boston, but fortunately not on the roads. Unfortunately, the roads are a MESS. Pothole city and lots of frost heaves with huge craters. I feel terrible for the city workers in the various towns who are working on getting the roads ready for the race – they have their work cut out for them. After a winter of hell. God Bless Them. And if they aren’t able to finish in time, then I feel terrible for me.
  4. The Boston Marathon is such a big freaking deal in Boston. For the first few miles of the course route, the fire hydrants are painted in BAA colors. The painted start and finish lines on the roads are permanent (although freshly painted every year) and there are already signs up about “Marathon Monday.” Got me very excited!
  5. Training for Boston in Boston must be EPIC! When I ran the Wellesley-Newton-Brookline section of the course on Saturday, there were at least another 100 or so people on the course, most of whom were with teams or wore BAA shirts. Several running clubs set up tables along the Newton stretch of Commonwealth Avenue with “Free Watah” for the “Runnahs.” Yes, that is exactly what their signs said. The energy on the course was incredible, and training teams had already put up “Right on Hereford, Left on Boylston” signs.

    So we don't get lost.

    So we don’t get lost.

  6. There were a lot of members of the Martin Richard team – Team MR8 – and it was both inspiring and heartbreaking to see them out there.
  7. The hills of Newton are, well, hilly? The one foot in front of the other method will be my strategy. And I’m glad I live in a hilly area. If the hills came earlier in the course, I don’t think they would be such a big deal. They were miles 6-9 of my run on Saturday and were no problem. The problem is that they start just before mile 18 on the full course. By mile 18, you’re kind of tuckered. And by the time you finish them at mile 21, you’re a shell of your former self.
  8. This was my last double digit run before the race and I couldn’t help but think that I should have used a formal training plan. Yes, I know it is a little late. And no, I’m not going to start one now. Just a realization to file away for my next race, whenever that may be. I don’t know if I would be in better shape physically if I followed a set plan, but I do think that I’d be in a better place mentally. More on this in another post.
  9. There is a definite technique to running downhills without killing your quads, and I don’t think I have figured it out yet. I have done many google searches in the past few weeks on downhill running, but probably not enough actual practice to grasp the technique. Note to self: a marathon is not a 9th grade history test. I’m pretty sure you can’t “cram” for it. I suspect I will confirm this on the 20th.
  10. For a bazillion years I have stood at the top of Heartbreak Hill and yelled to runners, “It’s all downhill from here!” This is just not true. I’m mortified. You have to run over the Mass Pike overpass at mile 25, and just before Hereford, there is a small incline that probably feels like Everest at that point. I am clearly a lying liar who lied. Apologies to all. I will never say it again.
  11. If the narrow, windy start doesn’t kill me, there is a good chance that the several stretches of the course where the roads are covered in trolley tracks will. God help me if it is a wet day. I am more than capable of falling on dry pavement – I can’t imagine running across wet iron tracks.

    These types of tracks greet you at a few places on the course.

    These types of tracks greet you at a few places on the course.

  12. The few blocks of Boylston between Hereford and the finish seem like a marathon in themselves. I thought city blocks were supposed to be short?
  13. You just don’t get more Masshole than running down Boylston Street, listening to Boston (Rock & Roll Band) on your headphones, training for Boston, while wearing a Red Sox hat. Aaaah…Home Sweet Home! You can take the girl out of Boston…
  14. There is no sweeter place to finish any run than here:


36 thoughts on “Training for Boston…In Boston!

  1. The boss and coworkers know – don’t mess with the psycho blonde bitch in the corner, wearing blue and yellow, on a certain Monday morning, who keeps watching her phone while working, yelling what seems to be an unintelligible language about such things as Yaz, Citgo signs, stopping for watah, and making hills your bitch. Only a blessed certain few understand…..

  2. Sounds like the recon work really paid off! Especially in the final miles when you’re exhausted, it pays to know what’s coming ahead, even if that means that you know what’s coming is going to suck.

  3. I really hope to make it there one day. This is AWESOME!!
    Oh and the trolley tracks haha…I have lots of experience running on those unfortunately. Downtown Baltimore has lots. 🙂

    • Fortunately, having lived there, I have had to run over them before. The main thing that makes me nervous is that with a lot of runners around, I might not be able to see them coming. My first marathon, I was focused on finishing. This one? I’d like to finish with my teeth intact.

  4. I AM SO FREAKIN’ EXCITED. I even have what I plan on wearing so you’ll see me. What am I talking about? I might just pop up randomly on the course like a SCREAMIN’ MIMI! And for the love of god. Please don’t fall. I say we’ve filled our quota for falls haven’t we.

  5. I remember flying into NYC about a decade ago for the marathon. I had a window seat and I was able to locate Staten Island, the Verrazano Narrows bridge, and then the bridge where you cross into Manhattan (about mile 16) and then I was able to see the bridges into the Bronx. I almost had a heart attack on the plane seeing how far 26.2 miles was from above, and ever since, I’ve hated driving the course. I did it for the last time in St. George in about 2009 and it seemed so far that I swore never again, so I actually never drove Boston. As you said, it’s a lot longer with point-to-point courses, and 26.2 miles is a frigging half hour almost at highway speeds!
    As for the downhill, lean forward. You can absolutely practice that some in 10 days!
    Good luck!

  6. I’m with ya on the downhill running!! I hate it – i almost prefer uphill running to downhill, because i’m convinced if i’m going to roll my ankles because my quads are going to give out. I’m sure you’ll kill it!

  7. ahh such a cool post. I’ve never been to Boston or ran Boston.. but someday. Thanks for the little overall of Boston.

    • I am always happy to share my beloved hometown! It’s a special place and a special race. Where else does everyone get a Monday off in April for a race? (technically, it is to celebrate “Patriots Day,” but we all know the truth.)

  8. Look at you Tina training like an elite on the course! You go chica! You know I totally love the fact that you are doing this. Whenever you can train on an actual race course prior to racing it, it just gives you a certain peace of mind. I can’t for you to rock Boston!!! I hope they are ready for you and Colby ha! 😉

    • Oh, Lee. We have plans. We have so many after parties to go to, we might as well be at the Oscars. Fortunately, Boston has dealt with us before – see Spartan Fenway #1 and Spartan Fenway #2. We left our mark, but Beantown somehow survived.
      As you may know, Heartbreak Hill is very close to where I grew up. I used to run the Newton Hills for soccer team training runs in high school! It was funny to see all the runners on “my” running route on Saturday!
      I have never even driven part of a course prior to a race, let alone run part of one, but I was so close! I had to! Exciting!!!!

  9. I’m so excited for you………and for everyone running the race! I’ll pass on your course notes to my husband – although living in a hilly city at 4500ft I think he’ll be OK with those Newtons.

  10. I didn’t know you were a Boston gal. I was born in Newton-Wellesley Hospital. When I ran by it last year during the Runners World Heartbreak Hill event, I got all choked up. I hope to run by it again as a BQ’d runner.

    How awesome that you ran the back end of the course! I hope you have an amazing, fall-free race!

    • Thank you!! I am most definitely a Boston gal and was a candystriper at Newton-Wellesley during high school! I would be shocked if I made it through this race without choking up. From Natick – where I would go to my cousin’s house on the route to hand out orange slices in the 70’s, to Wellesley Center, where I would go shopping with friends, to Newton, my hometown, BC, my alma mater and on in through Brookline to Boylston, where I have so many memories of restaurants, bars, shopping, Red Sox games and great times with friends and family – it’s like a run down memory lane for me. Cannot believe it is just over a week away. Yikes.
      I was at the Heartbreak Hill event last year too – I loved it, but read that they are not doing it again this year. Hopefully another year.

  11. Tina, I’m so very excited for you and can’t wait to hear about your experience! I predict that running past BC will be one of the happiest minutes of your life! I’m so sorry that we won’t be there to cheer you on, as we’re taking a family trip to CA, but I know you will be just stupendous, and I wish you tons of luck!!

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