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home > training > training tips > expert and timely boston marathon advice

Expert and timely Boston Marathon advice

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By Chris Russell
Posted Friday, 8 April, 2005

(Warning: If you follow any of this advice, your chances of finishing the marathon will be greatly reduced.)

When I’m out running and racing one of the questions that people frequently ask me, (besides “Do I know you?” and “Do you ever shut up?”) is “Chris, since this is your 8th Boston Marathon, do you have any advice for us who are new to it?” As it turns out, I do indeed! As a matter of fact, I have first hand secrets that the so called ‘experts’ won’t share with you!


There are three basic pacing strategies that you can employ at Boston. Negative Splits, Even Splits and “Go for it!”

Negative splits won’t work at Boston. The first 17 miles are down hill. If you try to hold back, you’ll have to fight the hills and you are guaranteed to burn out your quads. Only attempt this strategy if you have trained with down hill tempo runs. If you haven’t it’s too late now.

That leaves ‘steady pace’ and ‘go for it!’ Take a moment to read the following two narratives and tell me which one will impress your friends more? Which one will you remember years from now when you’re old and grey?


This is a race I’ll never forget


First Narrative: “I started slow, walked some water stops, and comfortably finished.”

Second Narrative: “I took off like a rocket from the gun! I was 10 minutes faster than goal pace at the half! I don’t remember much after Newton, but somehow I ended up wearing someone else’s shirt. I started to bleed from my eyeballs at mile 24 but I gutted it out! I finished with a sprint, even though I lost a shoe somewhere, and, as I told the EMT’s, ‘This is a race I’ll never forget!’”

Who do you want to be? Mr./Ms. Comfortable Casper Milquetoast? Or a hero with the courage of a tiger? Come on! Are you a mouse? Carpe diem! Go for it!

New duds make the race:

Here are some more useful tips that you won’t get from the ‘experts’. Buy a new pair of shoes for the race. They will be taking pictures and you don’t want to have your crowning moment memorialized in those old shoes you’ve been training in, do you? While you’re at it, make sure you buy something flashy and photogenic, like those hot-looking racing flats. Don’t be seen in a pair of boring cushiony trainers. Don’t worry, all that stuff about not wearing new shoes for the race is a myth concocted by the anti-shoe lobby.

But don’t stop with sprucing up the old feet. Why not get a new outfit too? Don’t waste your money on those expensive space-age fabrics. Get some good old cotton. If it’s hot like last year, the cotton will retain all that cooling dampness and keep it close to your body where you need it. You’ll conserve fluids and you won’t have to stop at so many water stops. This will surely lead to a faster time. If you can’t find cotton, wool is good too.


You can conveniently stock up on your new duds and other cool things at the race expo. While you’re at the expo make sure you sample all the wonderful performance enhancing products on display there. What could be better than turbo charging your body the day before the big race? And it’s all free! Eat it up! It’s got to be safe, or it wouldn’t be at the expo, would it? You haven’t trained all these months to run an average race! Suck down all those tablets, goops and powders! Supercharge yourself for the race!

Chow down:

After the Expo, make sure you go to all the pasta parties and stuff down lots of noodles. 26 miles is long way to run and you’re going to need all those carbohydrates. Make sure you stuff yourself to the gills. Heck, you might even consider bringing some home to re-heat for brunch on race day. It’s a late start and you might need a few more pounds of pasta to top things off on Monday.

Internal heat:

Here’s another great insider tip for you…Hot Peppers! If you read the label on your sports gels and creams you’ll discover that the active ingredient is capsicum. This is the same muscle relaxing, wonder ingredient that is found in hot peppers. Make sure you eat lots of hot peppers the night before the race so your muscles will be greatly relaxed and ready to go on race day. Why waste time rubbing it on the outside when you can take it on the inside? This will greatly enhance your performance on race day.

Drown your pain:

While you’re out stuffing in your pasta and peppers, make sure you drink plenty of alcohol. We here in Boston are quite proud of our traditions and are famous for our beer. Don’t miss out. A little known fact is that the original course was designed to favor runners with hangovers. Get busy Saturday and Sunday nights. If you sober up before Newton, you haven’t had enough.

Ancient ways are the best:

Do you ever experience chaffing? If so, then do what the ancient Greeks did to toughen up their skin. They invented the marathon, right? They would know about chaffing. There is nothing in the reports about Phidippides complaining about bloody nipples is there? Why, because they toughened up their skin by rubbing salt into it. You can benefit from this ancient healing method by rubbing plenty of salt vigorously into your pointy bits on race morning. The old ways are the best!


I hope this has been a helpful and informative article for you newbies to Boston. Don’t believe the stories about how we disdain outsiders. We’re a warm and loving bunch up here in New England and look forward to having you on Patriots Day. We’ll see you in Hopkinton and I’ll call the EMT’s for you on Heartbreak Hill.



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