Advices needed for the first time Boston marathoner

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    Nov 12, 2009 5:41 AM GMT
    Running Boston for the first time next year, 2010, and I need as many advices as I could get about where to stay, how to get to the starting point, likely weather, the course, etc. Any and all advices from the past participants are greatly appreciated.
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    Nov 12, 2009 11:34 AM GMT
    If you search any of the running forums on other sites (, for instance) you may find some good advice about lodging and so forth, as well as answers to your other questions. Boston is an easy drive from where I live, so I've never had to worry about finding a place to stay when running the race.

    Most people stay in Boston, as close to the finish as they can manage/afford, but you can stay outside the city and take the T or a cab. Buses take runners to the start in Hopkinton so no worries there. The town is packed with runners who meet on the grounds of the high school and have to wait for quite a while. Everyone walks to the start together and they guide you pretty efficiently.

    Here are a few links:

    I ran the race twice and it was no picnic. To this day, I can't explain what went wrong but they were definitely two of my most unpleasant marathons. The weather can be very tricky that time of year. On both occasions I had trained very hard through very cold winters here in New England, only to be met by warmer weather on race day. I think it was 2004 (my second go at the course) that the temperatures were blazing hot—close to 90º, if not more. No one could stay hydrated, everyone ended up with incredible blisters and bleeding feet due to the water the fans were spraying on the runners. My worst marathon time was that year.

    Stay hydrated for days before the race, not just on race day. I do think the heat is the big gamble because you don't know what the weather will do. I found myself wanting to walk at about mile 17, which was really alarming. If that urge comes along in a marathon, it usually doesn't hit me until the last three miles of a course.

    The first part of the course is a very gradual drop in elevation and this can do a couple of things: it can start you at a faster than advisable pace and it can wear out your quads for the later uphill portions of the course. Take it easy the first few miles, but not too easy. I've run up worse hills than the famed "Heartbreak Hill." It's not so much the elevation there as it is the timing in the race. It comes toward the last 1/4 and you're pretty wiped out by that time.

    If you like a lot of screaming and support from the sidelines, this is the race for you. I find it motivating when things are going well, but when I am struggling there is nothing more irritating than a loud-mouthed Bostonian screaming something like "Get yer ass movin!" For me, marathons require a lot of concentration and Boston is crowded with both runners and spectators—you won't be able to run much for the first mile or so, especially if you're in one of the later corals with a higher bib number. You get tremendous support from the people on the sidelines, but I found it tough to keep my mind on my pace and other things which help me run a good race.

    I have to say that running Boston is not something I regret, and I am glad to have done it both times—even when I was saying "never again" I was thinking, "I wonder how I will do next time, in better weather." And some people do just fine at Boston. It's a benchmark for a lot of runners—the pinnacle of standards for qualification—and when you earn a number by racing a good qualifying marathon, it feels fantastic, that's for sure.

    Good luck!

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    Nov 12, 2009 4:47 PM GMT
    For getting to the starting point you just need to get yourself to the Boston Common early the morning of the marathon. Your race instructions will probably suggest that you're there by 6 am. There are a large number of buses that carry all the marathon runners to the start line in Hopkinton. If you're staying anywhere in downtown Boston, that's not too difficult -- the Common is centrally located and is either walkable, a couple stops away on the subway, or you could take a cab.

    I've run the race twice and weather can be tricky. My first year in 2007, there was a nor'easter storm that lingered through marathon morning. It wasn't so bad during the race as the rain eventually tapered off, but standing around in driving wind and rain in a flooded athletic field waiting for the marathon to start was misery. Even wearing big garbage bags over my race clothes, I was still drenched. And starting a marathon in wet shoes meant blistering.

    I also ran this past year and the weather was perfect during the race (high 40s/low 50s), but the rain started toward the end.

    I agree with the previous poster's comments about the course. Keep your speed under control during the first half. It's a gradual downhill and it is easy to go out too fast both because of the course and your enthusiasm. The Newton Hills (4 of 'em at miles 17 through 20) aren't easy, but the toughest part of that course for me is the downhill at mile 21 that just eats up your quads after you finish Heartbreak Hill.

    Good luck to you -- my favorite part of that course is the screaming girls from Wellesley. You can hear them almost a mile before you get to the college. They're a nice pick-me-up about halfway into the race.
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    Nov 14, 2009 12:38 AM GMT
    Thank you for the advices, Rob and allgoodinhwood. Good to be able to mentally prepared for the challenging race icon_smile.gif Training in San Francisco hills, I've been telling myself that I will be fine with the Newton Hills, but you guys are right: It's the timing in the race. I'll try not to start too strong and fast.

    Not only the race, but it seems getting a hotel is challenging. I do want to stay near the Boston Common, but the hotels around there are either very expensive or already booked. Definitely I need good luck there! I guess I can always find something outside town if I have to...

    Thanks again,

    Happy running!