I started the year off with The Hangover Classic 10K in Salisbury, MA. Over the past 10 years, I’ve run this race seven times. One year I ran the 5K with my daughter, another year I ran another race.
Getting 6.2 miles under your belt on January 1st is a great way to start the year.
There are a few races I run almost every year like The Hangover Classic, but I like to mix things up.
A few times in 2019 I gave away my registration due to unforeseen conflicts. Over the years I’ve been the recipient of such generosity.
A few years ago I had to pass on to a colleague a Boston Marathon charity bib with the fundraising obligation covered! That’s like a Willie Wonka golden ticket! Who hasn’t seen an Umpa-Loopa somewhere out there on Comm. Ave?
BAA 10K Running Streak
The BAA 10K is my only streak race. I’ve run each one since they added this race in 2011. My goal is to keep running this race until I can’t run anymore.
It’s a great 10K that starts on The Boston Common, runs out Comm Ave to the BU Agganis Arena and turns around.
Held the 3rd Sunday in June, it’s usually hot. Sometimes blazing hot. A few years ago in poured cats and dogs right up until the race started and then turned into a sauna. Steam was rising off of the pavement!
It’s a massive race with well over 5,000 runners. There are so many runners that they start the race in waves. I’m not sure if they did this early on but the race has become very popular.
Two Marathons for 2019
I was fortunate enough to get a 2019 Boston Marathon charity bib again. This was my ninth time running Boston over the past 17 years.
Between work and laziness I didn’t do all of the training that I should have. My training went pretty well and I had a decent 20 mile long-run. Better than some of my previous year’s 20 milers.
I ran Boston on April 15th and finished in 4:14:56. Excepting for 2018, this was my slowest Boston in five years. 2018 was 4:46:20 but we had horizontal rain the entire way and no one set any world records that year.
In November I traveled to Philadelphia with two friends to run The Philadelphia Marathon. While not my first destination marathon it felt like it.
Leading up to Philly I ran five half marathons for training. All of them felt pretty good and were well under two hours. The relative success of these comfortable halfs had lulled me into complacency.
But experience kept reminding me to respect the distance and that you get back what you put in.
Philly is a great marathon and I’d encourage anyone to run it. It is a big city marathon but doesn’t feel as big or produced as Boston.
The weather was cold, it rained the last hour of my run and I did not execute well.
My finish time was 4:21:09. I had hoped for 4 but deserved nothing better than 4:30. So no complaints on my finish time.
2019 was the third year in a row that I’ve run two marathons. I hope to keep that streak alive in 2020.
Goals set and Goals missed
The closest I’ve come to running 1,000 miles was in 2014. I ran 977.82 miles over 123 runs including three marathons.
When you have three marathons on your calendar you do a lot of training. By the time my third marathon came around, The Baystate Marathon, a certain amount of joy of the run was missing. I ran my 2nd fastest marathon at Baystate – 3:49, two minutes off my previous year’s finish.
That same year I ran one of my most magical races, The Bay Of Fundy International Marathon. I went with my oldest sister and we ran into friends of hers, went to the runner’s dinner and met a physics student from Heidelberg. He had hitch-hiked from Boston and was Air BnBing on someone’s couch. Everyone in town knew him!
He didn’t have a ride back to Boston, so I drove him. We spent the night at my sister’s and I think he had a great experience with us Americans. I dropped him off at North Station so he could get to Syracuse University for some physics experiments.
2019 was my 2nd highest miles run. So having a goal, even without three marathons, helped me.
Over the past seventeen years, I’ve had a variety of injuries. These effected the number of miles I ran and my speed.
Runners are always learning and avoiding injury and recovery is probably the most important lesson to learn.
My knees bothered me so much in 2018 that I consulted with an orthopedist and had PT. By the end of the year I was well enough to run Honolulu and improve my finish there by almost eleven minutes.
In the past, if I had inflammation I’d take the maximum dose of ibuprofen. And I’d do this for months at a time.
In 2018 I stopped that and began to use spices with anti-inflammatory properties. It may sound crazy but I ran Honolulu in December 2018 and didn’t have any significant running issues in 2019.
Looking back on 2019 that seems pretty remarkable to me. I probably took 5 ibuprofen all year and those were for headaches.
Food as medicine is real.
In 2018 my sister also turned me onto Arenica gel. It’s a topical anti-inflammatory and it seems to work. When ever my knees or IT bands are sore I rub that gel on and the pain and tightness goes away.
You can get in at any pharmacy and it’s relatively inexpensive. Best of all, it doesn’t mess with your liver or kidneys.
The biggest lesson that I’ve learned over the past 17 years is consistency.
It’s better to run shorter distances five times a week instead of two long runs. You’re more likely to get injured running two long runs. And the ease of shorter runs helps keep the motivation level up.
When setting a goal such as 1,000 miles or 3 miles per day, consistency is also important.
I was within 50 miles of my goal early in December. I could have pushed hard and hit my goal but I would have risked injury. I had too many other obligations and I just had to let it go.
This is similar to running a race. There is always a point in a race where I question how much I want it. I tell my self I didn’t train for this race, didn’t train enough period. I’m just running for fun.
Those moments of doubt and hesitation can be the difference between a PR or achieving an incremental goal and just another finish.
Large goals like 1,000 or 1,095 miles need to be chunked and each chunk needs to be met. Otherwise, you end up in December with the goal within sight but out of reach.
I didn’t reach my goal for 2019 but I learned a few things, and I’ll take that.
Running and Chewing Gum is an easy way to make a long run enjoyable by avoiding a dry mouth. It’s really quite easy to do.
These days, most of us are multi-taskers. But can you run and chew gum at the same time?
It seems the only way to keep up with the never-ending demands on our time is to multi task. It may be as simple as putting in a wash and then cooking supper. While cleaning the kitchen as I wait for the food to cook. With the BBC News playing in the background, getting me up to date with the world.
These tasks are more of process and time management. Chewing gum and walking is the proverbial physical coordination test.
Running and Chewing Gum
Doing two physical tasks at the same time can be challenging.
Try rubbing your belly while patting the top of your head. Now do it faster. Now rub you belly in the opposite direction! Now switch hands!
Chewing gum and doing most anything else is much less taxing than this exercise. Chewing gum is done pretty much unconsciously.
Because it is so effortless is why people joke that you can’t do anything else and chew gum. It’s a very low bar!
Often while I run, my mouth will get dry. Sometimes my throat gets horse and it’s difficult to get words out. Even drinking water doesn’t relieve these issues for me.
This Sunday I had a pack of gum in my car. I decided to have a piece before the Sunday Long Run to knock back my coffee breath. Then I forgot I had it in my mouth and started running.
During the entire eight mile run I barely noticed that I had gum in my mouth except at water stops. Then I had to avoid swallowing it with a cup of water.
As I drove home I realized I had run the entire eight miles, about 70 minutes chewing gum. “I guess I can walk or run while chewing gum” I said to myself with a chuckle.
It’s really not that big of a deal.
Most runners don’t run with gum. Many worry they will swallow it or inhale it. It can also get in the way when you take a gel or other food and beverage.
I’ve run a few races with gum and one of my running buddies does it often.
Because I had gum in my mouth, my mouth never dried out and my throat felt fine for the entire run. I was even able to carry on a conversation with the two people I was running with.
Without the gum my mouth and throat would have been too dry to talk after a few miles.
Sunday Long Run Week Ten
This week the Sunday Long Run was sixteen miles. The long run ran out Main Street from Brueggers in Melrose, looped Lake Q and headed down Nahant Street to Breakheart Reservation for a hilly loop of the park.
I didn’t run last Sunday because of an odd hip pain. I only ran a 2.5 mile test run up to the bank and back on Thursday to see what was going on. Oddly enough, my left knee acted up on that run but my hip was fine. After a mile I could have done 10K.
I’m beginning the 10-week road to Philadelphia right now, so I decided to play it safe and run eight miles.
This early on I don’t need big miles and I need to make sure I’m okay. It’s better to deal with an injury early in the plan than later, but you do have to deal with it.
I ran with Aine and David Lunney this week. Two relatively new club members. David is training for his first half marathon, the Newburyport Half Marathon on October 20th.
Since I could talk this week, we were able to have a good conversation about running. I’ve been running since 2003 so I can answer most questions and have plenty of advice. I also tried to keep quiet and let them talk!
Running and chewing gum worked well for me this week. Hopefully I didn’t talk Aine and David’s ears off!
Do you run with gum? Besides water, do you have other ways to keep your mouth and throat from drying out?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported in May of 2018 that the number of illnesses caused by mosquito, tick, and flea bites more than tripled in the United States between 2004 and 2016.
Nine new germs spread by mosquitoes and ticks were discovered or introduced into the United States during this time. “Zika, West Nile, Lyme, and chikungunya—a growing list of diseases caused by the bite of an infected mosquito, tick, or flea—have confronted the U.S. in recent years, making a lot of people sick. And we don’t know what will threaten Americans next,” said CDC Director Robert R. Redfield, M.D. 1
As runners, athletes and active people, we cannot simply stay inside with the windows locked tight and fear in our hearts.
Most of us grew up with mosquitoes, black flies and ticks. When I was a kid running around the Maine woods I rarely heard about ticks but black flies and mosquitoes were a common topic of conversation.
We knew that these insects were most active from dusk to dawn in the cool evening air. It was not unusual to see these insects during the day, but you could be eaten alive by them at night.
Ask anyone who has camped out in the Maine woods what it’s like to try and get to sleep with all of that buzzing, hopefully just outside of your tent.
Tick and Mosquito Season
Tick season is generally April through December and peaks from May to August in Massachusetts. During these months you should be particularly aware of the symptoms of tick born diseases.
It should be noted that ticks do not die in the winter. When it is below freezing they take cover in leaf litter and possibly your yard under the snow.
If it is over 40° ticks can be active and you should take the same precautions that you would in peak season.
Mosquito season generally begins when the temperature approaches 50°F.
As the temperature rises, so does the population of mosquitoes. It should be noted that some mosquitoes hibernate during the winter and some can winter-over in your house.
Closets are a common place to find mosquitoes in your home during the winter months. 2
In general, you should be safe from mosquito bites most of the winter in North America.
Tick Born Diseases
The most common tick-borne disease in Massachusetts is Lyme Disease. Much less common are Babesiosis, and Anaplasmosis. Rarer still are Tularemia, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Borrelia miyamotoi, and Powassan virus.
All diseases carried by ticks start out the same way according to Massachusetts Deputy State Epidemiologist and State Public Health Veterinarian Dr. Catherine Brown.
The four most common symptoms are fever, chills, headaches and muscle aches. More specific symptoms related to each illness develop as they progress, but they all start with these four symptoms. With Lyme Disease you may also see a rash around the bite location.
Lyme Disease is wide-spread in Massachusetts, most of the Northeast and in Michigan and Minnesota. Lyme disease appears to be spreading to any area with ticks.
Lyme Disease is named after Lyme and Old Lyme, CT where the disease was first discovered.
Lyme disease came into public view when an epidemic of what appeared to be rheumatoid arthritis began afflicting children in Lyme, Connecticut.
A young rheumatologist at Yale named Allen Steere, who now conducts research at Massachusetts General Hospital, in Boston, studied the children.
In 1976 he named the mysterious illness after its locale and described its main symptoms more fully: a bull’s-eye rash; fevers and aches; Bell’s palsy, or partial paralysis of the face, and other neurological issues; and rheumatological manifestations such as swelling of the knees.
After much study, Steere realized that the black-legged ticks that live on mice and deer (among other mammals) might be harboring a pathogen responsible for the outbreak. In 1981, the medical entomologist Willy Burgdorfer finally identified the bacterium that causes Lyme, and it was named after him: Borrelia burgdorferi. 12
Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts are hotbeds for Lyme Disease in the US.
40% of Nantucket’s 10,000 year-round residents have had the disease or are currently being treated for it! 3
It is so bad that they are considering the release into the wild of mice genetically modified to be immune to the disease. A team from MIT lead by Kevin Esvelt wants to use a gene editing technology called CRISPR and Gene Drive to make the mice immune to Lyme Disease. 4
White-footed mice carry the disease and ticks get it when they bite the mice and then humans. Research and discussions continue but many people on Nantucket are ready to try anything to deal with this problem.
The most common early symptom of Lyme is a rash which can look like a ring around the bite site. Flu-like symptoms, such as fever, headache, stiff neck, sore and aching muscles and joints, fatigue and swollen glands may also occur.
Early treatment is crucial to prevent more serious problems as the disease progresses.
The joints, nervous system and heart are most commonly affected as the disease progresses.
• About 60% of people with untreated Lyme disease get arthritis in their knees, elbows and/or wrists. The arthritis can move from joint to joint and become chronic.
• Many people who don’t get treatment develop nervous system problems. These problems include meningitis (an inflammation of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord), facial weakness (Bell’s palsy) or other problems with nerves of the head, and weakness or pain (or both) in the hands, arms, feet and/or legs. These symptoms can last for months, often shifting between mild and severe.
• The heart also can be affected in Lyme disease, with slowing down of the heart rate and fainting. The effect on the heart can be early or late.
Prompt treatment with antibiotics prevents later, more serious symptoms. 5
Lyme Disease is nothing to fool with. If you are in an infested area you need to check yourself often and take precautions to protect yourself.
The other tick born diseases are less common and generally less dangerous to your health. If you have been in a tick infested area and develop flu-like symptoms or develop a rash call your doctor right away.
Mosquito Born Diseases
The most common diseases carried by mosquitoes are West Nile Virus (WNV) and Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE). Less common in the US are Zika, Chikungunya and Dengue.
The majority of people who are infected with WNV (approximately 80%) will have no symptoms.
A smaller number of people who become infected (~ 20%) will have symptoms such as fever, headache, body aches, nausea, vomiting, and sometimes swollen lymph glands. They may also develop a skin rash on the chest, stomach and back.
Less than 1% of people infected with WNV will develop severe illness, including encephalitis or meningitis. The symptoms of severe illness can include high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and paralysis. Persons older than 50 years of age have a higher risk of developing severe illness.
Since most people exposed to WNV have no symptoms it is difficult to say how many people actually become infected each year.
Between 2000 and 2010, 67 people were reported infected with WNV in Massachusetts. Six of these people died. There is no specific treatment for this virus so we are fortunate that most of us have little to no reaction from the infection. 6
The first symptoms of EEE are fever (often 103º to 106ºF), stiff neck, headache, and lack of energy. These symptoms show up three to ten days after a bite from an infected mosquito. Inflammation and swelling of the brain, called encephalitis, is the most dangerous and frequent serious complication. The disease gets worse quickly and some patients may go into a coma within a week.
There is no treatment for EEE. In Massachusetts, about half of the people identified with EEE died from the infection. People who survive this disease will often be permanently disabled. Few people recover completely.
Since 1938 fewer than 100 cases have been reported in Massachusetts, with 60% of cases in Plymouth and Norfolk counties. Outbreaks of EEE occur about every 10 to 20 years with the most recent Massachusetts outbreak starting in 2004 and ending in 2006. Of 13 reported cases, six were fatalities. 7
Zika is a relatively new disease to North America. 80% of people exposed to Zika report no symptoms. Those who do react to the virus report symptoms 2-7 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. Symptoms include fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis. If a woman is pregnant and contracts Zika the disease may spread to the fetus.
It is extremely unlikely that anyone could become infected with Zika virus from a mosquito bite in Massachusetts. The kinds of mosquitoes that are known to carry Zika virus are generally not found in Massachusetts. 8
Most people contract Zika when they travel to areas where it is prevalent. Zika has been reported in Texas and Florida in the past with a few neighborhoods in Miami listed as active transmission areas.
Zika can also be transmitted through unprotected sex and can be transmitted by a pregnant woman to her baby during pregnancy.
Tick and Mosquito Bite Prevention
As the old saying goes an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Here is what you need to know.
Preventing Tick Bites
Ticks are most active in warmer weather and can be found in tall grass, brush and wooded areas. Ticks do not fly or jump. They latch onto passing mammals when they brush up against grass or a plant where the tick is clinging.
DEET and permethrin are both recommended to repel ticks. You can buy clothing infused with permethrin and permethrin actually kill ticks, not just repel them.
Permethrin should be applied carefully and according to the manufacturers directions.
Long-sleeved shirts and light colored pants tucked into your socks or boots are also recommended. This doesn’t work very well for runners who typically have a great deal of exposed skin.
Staying on cleared trails while running and avoiding the brush and grass along the trail is also recommended. Ticks are literally hanging out on the vegetation next to trails and clearings waiting for a mammal to come by.
For runners the best advice is to put on some DEET or permethrin and to stay on the trails. Since it’s almost impossible to avoid brushing up against foliage while running, you need to do a post run tick check.
Ticks like warm and moist areas of the body. Areas to check include:
Inside and behind the ears
Along your hairline
Back of your neck
Behind your knees
Between your toes
You should also check your skin for new freckles which could be a tick.
The best way to remove a tick is with fine point tweezers. Do not use a hot match, petroleum jelly or any other home remedy. 10
You should save the removed tick and make note of the date and where on your body the tick was removed from. Ticks can be analyzed in a lab to discover if and what they are infected with. This can be crucial to your diagnosis if you end up with an infection.
Save the removed tick in a tightly sealed container.
Notify your doctor if you develop flu like symptoms or a rash.
If you run with your dog, this article from YourDogAdvisor.com has some good information for you.
Preventing Mosquito Bites
DEET and permethrin are recommended to repel mosquitoes. Since mosquitoes are active 24 hours a day, it is a good idea to use repellant if you are in an area active with mosquitoes any time of day.
You are more likely to find mosquitoes near bodies of water such as ponds or streams. Mosquitoes can lay their eggs in a table spoon of water, so anywhere near any standing water could have a high concentration of insects.
Dusk to dawn are peak hours for mosquito activity, so using repellent at these times is highly encouraged.
Long-sleeved shirts, long pants and socks are also recommended. Since these are generally impractical for runners it is best to use repellent, avoid high mosquito activity hours and locations.
Unlike ticks, mosquitoes do fly. While running, you are probably safe from getting a bite. But when you stop running the little buggers are sure to find you and all of that exposed skin!
How to Choose a Repellent
The EPA has a great site where you can select a repellent based on your needs. You can specify how long you need protection for, what you need protection from and which ingredients you are interested in.
You can also look up specific products, companies and EPA registration numbers.
Click HEREand scroll to the bottom of the page to look for your repellent.
Tick and Mosquito Season Running Go Bag
I always keep a bag of running gear in my car. In the winter this is often just a pair of gloves and a winter hat that I’ve picked up as swag at a race. Why leave them in a pile at home when they could literally be a life saver in the winter?
In the summer time it is easier to spontaneously go for a run after work with friends. So in addition to keeping some running gear in my go bag I also keep sun screen and a can of insect repellent.
If you are running after work in the summer, it is likely you will be out at dusk. While you are running you will probably be okay. But when you stop for a drink or to hang out after your run, you could be swarmed by mosquitoes, black flies and possibly horse flies.
Having a DEET based repellent in your car is a great idea. I’ve been at races along The Charles River in Boston and seen runners freely passing around a can of bug spray. Stranger or no, no one can stand by and watch others suffer. Hanging out next to the river before a race can literally suck!
I hope you have a great summer running season and stay healthy.
If this isn’t your first rodeo, you know what to do. If you are giving it a go for the first time, here are a few last minutes tips.
One Week to Boston
This is the last week of your taper. If you ran more than you should have last week, cut it out! You should have run your last long run over the weekend. You just need to run a few short easy runs this week.
This week is about resting your legs. Do a few easy runs at or below your marathon goal pace. At this point in the game you can’t improve your fitness, but you can certainly hurt your self.
The two weeks of taper give your body time to recover from what you have put it through over the past few months.
With all of this time on your hands you will feel lazy. Expect to feel lazy.
Watch some of those movies or shows on your DVR or binge watch something on Netflix. You’ve earned some lazy time.
You’re about to kick your own ass, so you absolutely deserve some ass in chair time!
What to do One Week to Boston
You should have all of your clothes picked out by now. If something is too tight or loose, fix it. Some of us have actually lost weight during our training. Not me, but maybe you. So if those shorts are falling off of your now skinny ass, you need to choose a different pair.
If you buy any new clothes, god forbid!, wash and wear them two or three times. You don’t want to get to Framingham and realize there is a seam or tag ripping a hole in your skin. Framingham starts at Mile Five. So that would be 21.2 more miles of skin ripping agony if you make a mistake here.
Clip your toe nails. Super important. You don’t want to run with long nails which may tear your socks or rub against your shoe toe box. If you happen to cut a nail too closely, you have a few days for that mistake to heal up. Get those clippers out!
Pack your drop bag and go bag. The BAA will give you a drop bag and a go bag at the Expo. The drop bag is an 18″ x 19″ clear plastic bag for all of the clothes and stuff you will want after the race.
You won’t get these bags until the Expo, but start getting your gear together. Don’t leave anything for the last minute.
Don’t put anything valuable in your drop bag. Nothing ever happens, but it can. I’d keep my car key or hotel key card in my running belt or a pocket. You don’t need your wallet, but you should tuck your ID and some cash in your running belt or pocket.
I always include some food in my drop bag and a long sleeved shirt. You will get cold after the race and you only get so much food at the end of the race.
Your “go bag” is a one-gallon clear plastic bag that the BAA will let you bring on the bus out to Hopkinton. The last time I ran they didn’t provide this bag, so I’m really happy that they provide these now.
The BAA web site says this bag is only for food and drinks, so don’t stuff it full of other items. If you want to bring sun screen or anything else, try to get it into your running belt or a pocket.
Anything that you bring to Hopkinton will either be carried back to Boston by you, tossed in the trash or donated to charity. The BAA no longer returns bags to Boston.
If you don’t like bagels and coffee, your go bag should have whatever you like to eat before you run 26.2 miles.
Yes, you will need sun screen. Even if the skies are overcast our tender winter skin is going to get fried over four plus hours of running.
I also like chap stick with an SPF built in. It always wears off after a few miles, but I hate dry lips just a mile or two into the race. That’s just me, but you might want to consider it. I bet you can pick up half-a-dozen chap sticks at the Expo.
Don’t walk in the dark
With one week to Boston you don’t have time to recover from stupid mistakes.
Don’t walk around your house in the dark. If you step on a Lego or ram your foot into a chair leg or doorway you could be screwed.
You should be wearing slippers or a pair of clean shoes that your spouse will let you wear around the house.
The other night I came home from my Tuesday night club run and made this mistake. I dutifully took off my running shoes and shut off the front hall light. I was in total darkness! I’m pretty good with walking around my house in the dark.
But I knew I was taking a stupid risk. One that I should know better than. Except for that one time, I always wear slippers or shoes in the house. You should too.
One Week to Boston Check List
Get all of your clothes together
Get all of your race food and beverage together
Confirm travel plans, parking etc.
Confirm where you will meet family and friends after the race
Make sure your ID is in your wallet or the BAA wont give you your bib
Make sure you have your Bib Number Pick-up card, or the BAA wont give you your bib
Check the BAA web site for all and any additional details.
If you are looking for a frame for your Boston Marathon finisher’s medal, I can help you with that. click HERE
You’ve done the hard work, now it’s time to relax a bit and make the final preperations for the race.
There have been thousands of books, magazine articles and blog posts written about running The Boston Marathon. I’ve written a few of those blog posts my self!
I’m not an elite runner, famous or a certified running coach. But I have run The Boston Marathon eight times and seventeen marathons all together.
I ran Boston in 2018 in the middle of a storm and I ran Boston in 2012 when it was over 80 degrees.
This advice is from my own personal experience and is written for first time Boston Marathon runners.
Five Things Every New Boston Marathon Runner Needs to Know
Train for the Boston Marathon
If this is your first marathon, I hope you’ve been training for quite a few months. Most running plans will advise new runners to train for eight or ten months.
Going from your couch to 26.2 miles is a long process that should not be short changed.
This may seem obvious, but there are people who have never run a marathon or any race and decide to run Boston. If you are able to complete the 26.2 miles, you may cause harm to your self in the process.
I ran my first Boston Marathon in 2003 with only about four months of training. I advise against this!
Running a marathon is unlike any other running event you may have participated in. The level of fatigue and pain that you may feel is unlike anything that you have ever experienced.
Proper training is the best way to minimize fatigue and pain and enjoy your Boston Marathon Experience. Boston truly is a special race weather it is your first marathon or your first running of The Boston Marathon. You want to enjoy it as much as possible.
My advice is to pick a training plan that matches your goal and stick to it as closely as possible. There are plans out there for all levels of runners.
To pick a training plan you need to pick a goal finish time. The Boston Marathon has a six-hour cut off. So you should pick a plan that will set you up to meet this time at the least.
If you have run a race in the past month you can use The McMillan Running Calculator to calculate your estimated finish time. This calculator is fairly accurate.
As a first time marathoner I would use the finish time provided as my goal.
If you have yet to run even a 5K, I highly encourage you to run one soon. Then use your finish time in the McMillan Running Calculator.
Running a race is different than training. Almost everyone starts a race too fast sometimes. It is best to have this experience at a local 5K and not a few miles into The Boston Marathon.
It takes a lot of experience to avoid a fast start. After all these years, even I go out too fast sometimes. A 5K melt down will give you a taste of what going out too fast feels like and what The Wall feels like. You wont soon forget that burning feeling in your legs!
Get a plan. Follow the plan. Run the plan. It’s simple.
Welcome to Boston now meet The Wall
As a first timer, your body has never experienced the fatigue and pain of a 26.2 mile long run.
All training plans will take you from short runs up to a long run in the 20 mile range. This is why training over many months is required. It takes that long to build yourself up to running those long runs.
Long runs teach your body how to run for a long time. Long runs teach you how to fuel and hydrate properly so you can avoid The Wall or Bonk.
Def. Bonk: To hit the wall, to run out of juice. The point beyond which your body does not want to move.
Basically your body will have run out of energy producing glycogen. Once this happens you cannot replenish your stores. It will take your body hours to replenish the spent glycogen and by that time the street lights will be on!
It is a very unpleasant experience both physically and mentally. For some people it has been fatal.
Replacing glycogen while you run is vital to avoiding The Wall. You may have seen World Class marathoners grabbing sport bottles during a marathon. These bottles have sports drink and possibly a custom mix just for that athlete. They are fine tuned machines.
An Elite Marathoner is conditioned to run 26.2 miles and they are on the course for about half the time that you will be. They can get away with a few swigs of sport beverage.
You will need much more and you need to learn what works for you and when to take it.
Long runs are when you want to learn which food and beverage works for you. This is a process of trial and error. I’ve been doing this over 15 years and I’m still tweaking and trying new things.
When you discover a food that works for you, stick with it. For your first marathon you just need to find one sport drink and one gel that you can tolerate.
Most people use gels for convenient, quick energy. For some people gels bother their stomach. That’s runner speak for throwing up and/or diarrhea.
There are many brands of gels to try. Each has their own formula and some will work for you and some wont. Figure this out during your long runs.
You can also eat common food items for energy. During a marathon, I’ve used Fig Newtons several times and Snickers bars twice. These are cheaper than gels and they will probably agree with your system. I still eat Snickers bars during Sunday Long Runs.
I’ve been eating Fig Newtons and Snickers bars my entire life. They may have added some pounds and cavities, but they never made me sick. Try some of your favorites if you like.
One draw back to common food items is that they probably do not have the electrolytes your body needs during a marathon. So if you go with Snickers, make sure you drink sports beverage during the race.
Don’t wait until you feel tired to fuel. Once your body becomes depleted you cannot get ahead of it. It’s the beginning of the downward spiral towards The Bonk.
You need to start consuming calories early in the marathon. I advise taking your first gel at 5K or 5 miles at the latest. If you consume something every 5K you should be alright.
A well conditioned athlete’s muscles and liver can hold up to about 2,400 calories in the form of glycogen. As you run, your body turns glycogen into glucose and burns about 125 calories a mile. As a new runner you will not have 2,400 calories stored at the beginning of the race.
Your calorie burn depends on several factors such as conditioning and effort.
As an example: Assuming you consume no calories during a race, have 2,400 calories stored and burn 125 calories per mile you will bonk around mile 20.
You will have way less than 2,400 calories on board, but you will consume some. You just need to pay attention and make sure you consume enough.
Managing energy has to be part of your race plan. You have to be on top of this.
Heartbreak Hill meet The Wall
One of the beautiful things (irony) about The Boston Marathon is that mile 20 is just before Heartbreak Hill.
Just when a poorly fueled body will bonk. You don’t want this to happen to you and it doesn’t have to.
When you make the right hand turn just after Mile 17 and the Newton Fire Station, you hit a series of hills that continue until Cleveland Circle at the Chestnut Hill Reservoir. You’ll know why it’s called the Chestnut HILL Reservoir as you run up the hill to the turn at Cleveland Circle.
Heartbreak Hill is the last hill. I always see people walking on these hills. Some are just tired or in pain. Others have hit the wall and have that far away look in their eye.
Once your body has depleted it’s store of glycogen during a marathon, it is impossible to recover. You cannot replenish glycogen faster than your body is consuming it. If you bonk, your goal finish time vaporizes before your glazed eyes. There is no way to recover. Once you bonk it’s about survival and trying to get to the finish. It’s not pretty and it never feels good.
When you bonk you probably have depleted electrolytes also. Your body will feel exhausted. This is the standard combination of misery. Your body has run out of energy to move and the electrolytes necessary to prevent cramping.
Depleted glucose and electrolytes can be dangerous. You can loose the ability to maintain your body temperature and your heart and other organs can fail. Glucose is the only energy source that your brain uses. I’ve seen people hauled off the course wrapped in blankets in a gurney!
This is not how you want your Boston Marathon Experience to end.
This is why it is so important to fuel early in the race. If Gatorade and Clif Shot Energy Gels upset your stomach, bring your own fuel. Even if you like Clif Shot Energy Gels, they don’t hand them out until mile 11.8.
I advise taking some calories at 5K,10K and around mile 10. Just one gel or fig bar at each marker should do. The BAA will have digital clocks at every 5K and mile marker, so you can’t miss your marks.
I also carry bottles in my belt and have carried a 500ml bottle of sports drink mix. It’s better to carry what you know works for you.
The BAA will provide Poland Spring Water and Lemon Lime Gatorade Endurance Formula each mile starting at mile two.
You can use these water stops as a walk break if you need it, but get off to the side and out of everyone’s way. If you do walk the water stops start early in the race before your muscle tighten up. Don’t wait until you are in trouble.
If you like Clif Shot Energy Gels you can get them at miles 11.8, 17 and 21.5.
You will need three gels for the 5k, 10K and 10 mile refueling. I would bring a 4th for late in the race, just in case. If you’re having a rough day you may need that extra gel after the mile 21.5 Clif Energy Zone.
If Clif Shots tie your guts into knots, then bring six or seven of what ever works for you. If Lemon Lime Gatorade makes you hurl, then bring your own beverage and just take water as needed.
A belt full of seven gels and a few drink bottles may seem like a lot. But if you fuel properly, by the half-marathon mark half your supplies should be gone. And if you are struggling late in the race that last gel will seem like Lembas.
Don’t Eat That!
The pasta dinner the night before Boston is a big tradition. I’ve never gone.
If you don’t like pasta or pasta sauce upsets your stomach, don’t go. Don’t go to a restaurant and have pasta just because it’s a pre-race tradition.
Don’t stuff yourself because you are carbo-loading. Eat what you normally eat just maybe a little more than usual. Your body can only carry 1,800 to 2,400 calories. Anything extra will just make you feel fat on Marathon Monday.
I also avoid alcohol. Well, too much alcohol. Alcohol accelerates dehydration and in the days before the race you want to stay well hydrated. I would stick to one or two beverages. You can party after the race.
Free Food at Hopkinton
When you get to Hopkinton there will be all kinds of food. Dunkin Donuts will have coffee and bagels. If coffee and bagels work for you, go for it. I always have coffee before a race and a plain bagel always settles well in my stomach. It’s a good way to top off your energy store just before the race.
Cliff, PowerBar and other vendors may be giving out free product. It will be tempting to take a bunch of them. But if you packed your belt properly, you don’t have room to take that stuff with you.
If you’ve never had what ever product is being given away, don’t take one. This is not the time to try anything new.
You don’t want to eat anything new the day before your race. In the hours before the start you absolutely do not want to eat anything new. Nothing.
Your bowels will be jumping around like a basket of snakes all ready. You do not want to put anything unknown into that pit of vipers!
Just because there are gallons of coffee and thousands of bagels, power bars and gels, even if you have had them all before, don’t be a glutton. If you normally eat one bagel and have one 8 oz coffee, stick with that.
What goes in…
Please read this carefully if this is your first Boston. I cannot stress this enough. When you get off the bus head strait for the porta potties. Your bowels are sure to be churning and you must pee before the race starts. Just the excitement of the race is enough to get things moving for most runners.
When you walk onto one of the two fields behind Hopkinton High School you will see more porta potties than you have ever seen in your life! Each one will have 100 people lined up laser-focused on their door. I’m not kidding and neither are they. There are no cuts in one of these lines.
It can take 30 minutes to over an hour to get through the line. Get through the line at least once and then walk around.
After you have checked things out and found your friends, get back into line. I guarantee that when you hear your corral called to the start you will instantly need to relieve yourself.
Boston Marathon 2018 Hydration
Proper hydration is essential for you to finish the race. As I mentioned earlier, even the elite runners have something to drink during the race. They are only out there for about two hours, so they don’t need as much as you and I do.
Much like training, hydration is a balancing act. You want to get enough hydration but not too much. During your training runs you should be able to figure out what you need.
At The Runners Village you may be bored and you will be nervous. This often causes people to drink more than they should. Weather it is coffee, Gatorade or water it all has to come back out eventually. This is why I advise standing in the porta potty line: it gives you something to do and you can talk to people and ease your nerves. Oh, and you’ll need to pee.
Hydration during the race is different for everyone. It’s important to get to the start line hydrated but not over hydrated. I usually stop drinking anything the hour before my start time, then I get in line for the porta potty. This hour gives my body time to process what I have consumed and helps me avoid a porta potty or woods stop during the race.
During the race I normally take sips from one of my bottles of sports mix. Just enough to keep my mouth and throat wet.
My rule of thumb is that if I’m sweating than I’m properly hydrated. If I start to notice that my face is dry then it’s time to get more water or Gatorade. Usually by the half-marathon mark I start grabbing a cup of something at the water stops.
You have to pay attention to your body. Most of the fluid you consume during the race will be sweat out and you won’t have to make a stop. If you feel dizzy or your mouth is dry, take some fluid.
Dehydration is as big of an issue as bonking. If you run out of water or energy, your race is done. There will be race officials and medical assistance all along the course. If you start hallucinating or feel like you are about to die, ask for help.
You also don’t want to over hydrate. This starts at the Runners Village, as mentioned above. Early in the race only drink what you feel you need. It may be half a cup of water or it may be a cup of Gatorade and water.
If you drink too much you will need to make a stop. Over-hydration can also cause exercise-induced hyponatremia. This is when you have consumed so much water that the sodium levels in your blood fall below safe levels. This is a very serious condition.
The best way to avoid this is don’t drink more than you need and drink some of that Gatorade since it contains sodium.
If this is your first marathon, or one of your first, you probably have few aches and pains. You probably feel great and energized after a run. This is normal. But it doesn’t last.
Talk to anyone who’s been running for a while and they will tell you about their latest injury. It happens to everyone, but you don’t want it to happen to you.
There are so many ways to get hurt running. It seems like a safe sport, no one is trying to tackle you or slam you into the boards. But you are your own worse enemy.
Many runners dive into training before they are prepared. Or they miss a day and add the miles to their next run. Or they don’t get enough rest or don’t eat right. They don’t stretch or do cross training.
It can all seem to be too much. But when you get an injury, that few minutes of stretching after a run or time in the gym doesn’t sound so boring anymore. It’s no fun recalling that run when you got that injury.
I feel that getting to the start line healthy but under trained is better than getting to the start line in great shape but with an injury. You just don’t want to do that.
How to avoid injury?
Pay attention to your body. Some runs just don’t feel right. This happens a lot but often goes away after a few miles. With experience you learn when you are just feeling lazy and when you really should cut your run short or stop.
Training is a balance between pushing your self and knowing when you need to take a break.
Running is about adapting. Sometimes you need to adapt your plans based on the situation.
Pay attention to your weekly miles
If you follow a professionally designed plan you should be okay. Otherwise, the general rule of thumb is to increase your miles by no more than 10% per week.
Running all of your miles in one day does not count! Increase mileage gradually over time and perhaps add days to your running week. Having at least one rest day is a very good idea.
If this is your first marathon you should use a professionally designed plan.
When I ramp up for a marathon I start by adding a day or two to my regular running schedule. Then I gradually add distance to each run. I find it easier on my body to run four or five shorter runs than running two short and one long run.
You do need long runs in your training plan, but they should come only after you have trained for a few months. Most training plans will ease you into longer runs.
Running a half-marathon a month or so before Boston is a good idea for any runner.
As a first-timer I think this is a very important part of your training. You need a long race to see how your body will feel and to gauge where you are with your training. It can be quite humbling!
Keep track of the miles on your shoes
This may seem silly to you, especially when your running shoes still look brand new. While the uppers may still be clean and bright, the sole of your shoe degrades significantly by 500 miles.
The cushion and support you had for the first few hundred miles begins to dissipate. It happens so slowly that you won’t even notice it. Then one day your knee or hip will get a twinge. You’ll know it when you feel it. You may start to get blisters all of a sudden.
If you are tracking your weekly miles, pay attention when you get around 500 miles. This is the time to get a new pair of running shoes.
Often I keep the older pair for shorter runs or walking around. Even though running shoes can look good for years, I generally get rid of any shoe that is more than three years old. Even for walking, your feet are not getting proper support from old shoes.
Your a runner, you need to take care of your feet.
Don’t over due the stretching
Runners need to stretch and strength train as part of their marathon training.
If you get to Hopkinton early, you may have a long wait for your start time. You may get bored sitting around. Looking around you will see runners stretching everywhere you look. It may look like people are stretching for hours. You are actually seeing people doing there normal routine and it isn’t an hour long.
My advice is to only stretch as much as you normally do. Don’t try a cool stretch you see someone else doing. Hopkinton is not the place to learn yoga either!
You are going to be bored and nervous. The best thing to do is to stand in line for the porta potties and talk to other runners. Sit when you can to rest your legs and feet.
When you are ready, do your normal stretching routine. You may want to do it when you get to the field or you may want to do it just before you head for your corral. Just don’t over do it.
Don’t go out too fast
This happens to almost everyone at their first Boston. Your adrenaline will be surging and the crowds will make you feel like a rock star.
When you have that BAA bib pinned to your shirt, you are a VIP for the day. It is your show and all of the volunteers, staff and security are there to make sure things go as smoothly and safely for you as possible. Be sure to thank everyone in sight!
All of this VIP treatment contributes to your excitement. These folks are just doing their job. You need to do yours and keep your shit together.
If you have arrived at the start line uninjured and totally pumped up by the environment, you are likely to run one of your fastest miles.
The first five miles are mostly down hill or flat. The first time I ran Boston in 2003, I didn’t notice a hill until just after Mile 5 at the Framingham border. Looking at the elevation map, you can see that there are bigger hills before that. But I was so pumped up I didn’t even notice them.
Because you are so pumped up and there is so much going on around you, it is easy to go out too fast. It is very important to focus on your pace as quickly as you can.
If you run the first mile 30 seconds or a minute below your goal pace, that’s okay. Not great but it shouldn’t hurt you. If you run the first five miles way under your goal pace it can come back to bite you in the ass.
And if you are so unfocused those first five miles you will probably also forget to fuel at 5K. That’s two strikes against you right there.
On many long runs I use the first mile or two as my warm up. The idea is to take it easy and see how my body feels. If something hurts I can stop and stretch.
The first mile or two is when you need to enjoy the euphoria of the start of the race, take in the sights and sounds of the crowd and relax.
This is the time to do a systems check and see what is bothering you today. It’s time to make sure you double tied your laces and that your running belt isn’t digging into your side, that your watch is started. Things like that.
So follow your training plan, don’t over do it. On race day run your plan. Hit the port potties often and don’t eat or drink anything new.
Run well my friends and I’ll be looking for you in Hopkinton!
When old man winter blows in hard and furious, creating icy roads and huge snowbanks narrowing roadways, what can you do (besides treadmill running)? Running on roads with less traffic still has risks. Seeking out well plowed streets offers limited choices. Well, there’s another choice which is safer, more fun, and gives you a more forgiving surface than running on the roads: snowshoeing!
If you want to get into snowshoeing, you’ll first need to decide which type and model of snowshoe to buy. The majority of snowshoes on the market are designed for either mountain hiking or trail walking. Running in the former is possible but challenging. The latter is fine for starting out. These will cost $100-$200.
However, if you want snowshoes primarily for running training and possibly snowshoe racing, you are better off getting running or racing snowshoes. These will cost $200-$300 for better models.
The good news is that companies are starting to offer more choices every year as this sport catches on. The bad news is that most outdoors specialty retail stores do not carry this type of snowshoe, so you will most likely have to buy online and read up on different options, vs. having an in-store salesperson help you.
Try before you buy
If you have never been snowshoeing before, you will probably want to try it before buying snowshoes. REI rents snowshoes, or you may find a small local retailer that does. Rentals typically will run $10-$20/day. Many XC ski touring centers will also rent snowshoes. A great opportunity to try out different models of snowshoes for free every winter is “Winter Trails Day”, held in several states on different dates in January. Go to www.wintertrails.org for more info. There you can try 3-4 different models in an hour or two and get questions answered.
You are not likely to find racing snowshoe models at these stores or events. However, many races will provide an opportunity to use a racing model provided by a sponsor for an extra $5 – $10. The numbers are often limited so you may need to register early.
If you were buying snowshoes for hiking, you would want to learn about “flotation” and get a snowshoe size based on your weight and type of snow conditions you will encounter.
For snowshoe running and racing, you will want a narrower and lighter snowshoe. The following webpage lists 35 models of racing snowshoes which are ‘legal’ per racing snowshoe regulations: http://www.snowshoeracing.com/legal_size.htm
Here in New England, Dion dominates the market, with their Model 121 being most popular.
One thing you will want to consider is how easy and comfortable it is to fasten your hiking or running shoes to the snowshoes via the bindings, which typically involve some type of leather, rubber, or plastic straps. Dion’s ‘Quick Fit’ binding comprised of flexible VELCRO®-type straps is one of the easier types available.
Other details to consider when trying snowshoes for running is how closely the snowshoe snaps back to your foot, kick back of snow, and weight.
Lastly, while most snowshoe hikers also get a pair of ski or trekking poles, for both balance and leverage, they are not needed for snowshoe running, and are not used for racing.
If just looking looking to get into snowshoeing as cross-training for hiking, hiking shoes are your best option. For running training, consider getting a GORE-TEX® running shoe, especially if you are prone to getting cold feet. See “The best way to enjoy winter running” for some suggestions. Another advantage of these shoes is that they will offer better forefoot protection against binding straps, which may otherwise provide uncomfortable pressure points.
Such shoes are also fine for racing, where you might not mind trading off some extra weight for comfort. At the other end of the spectrum, some racers looking for the lightest weight and comfort have found ways to custom mount a pair of racing flats directly to the webbing of the snowshoe, eliminating the need for bindings.
Gaiters are especially helpful for snowshoe running. This topic was also covered in the blog post mentioned earlier. For most conditions, ankle height gaiters will be your best option. Most models will attach via clips to your laces, and laces or straps under your arch to secure the gaiter. Instead of the latter, some models attach to your heel with a strip of VELCRO®.
You will quickly find out when you do snowshoe running workouts that you will generate more heat than for a corresponding road workout. Thus, an initial guide for what to wear is to dress for about 10 degrees warmer than what you would wear for running. You will quickly find what works best for you. The only other special consideration for snowshoeing is that there is just no avoiding kicking up snow behind you, which can leave a mass of ice crystals clinging to the back of your pants. Slicker materials such as running tights or rain pants will minimize this.
Where to go
If your local golf course is available for winter recreation, you can run with as little as 2” of snow if the ground is well frozen. Avoid running over the greens. A similarly good location is around playing fields at local schools. Rail trails and some woods trails will be fine with about 4-5” of snow, whereas rocky woods trails may need 8” or more before you can get out without risk of damaging your snowshoe crampons or twisting an ankle.
If you go on trails and find cross-country ski tracks present, proper trail etiquette requests snowshoers to avoid stepping in the tracks.
Racing and Race opportunities
If you are a competitive runner and get into snowshoeing, you will probably want to try snowshoe racing at some point. The quality of the snow at the time of the race will be the biggest variable that you will encounter, from very hard to very soft, very smooth to ‘choppy’, and from well packed to fluffy fresh powder.
The conditions obviously will affect how fast you can go. As a result, times are not comparable even for the same race from year-to-year. Under typical racing conditions, expect your times to be anywhere from 50% to 2x (or more) greater than your times for a road race of the same distance.
All that being said, snowshoe races offer runners a fun and interesting experience for racing, quite different from other races. You’ll generally find other runners at snowshoe races, typically those who enjoy cross-country, trail, and mountain races.
Snowshoe races frequently have ‘single-track’ sections: narrow paths in woods where the snow-packed trail is not wide enough for two people to run side-by-side. It is very difficult to pass on these sections. If you sense someone is on your heels and itching to pass you, try to quickly find a good spot to step to the side to let them pass. You will appreciate the same favor when the situation is reversed!
Here in the Northeast, your best sites to learn about race opportunities are:
Lastly, snowshoeing with others is a great way to keep active during the winter. Having someone guide you through trails, especially at night, is a lot easier than going off by yourself. Also, when there is deep fresh snow, making tracks is a lot easier with a group.
So, whether you are looking to find a safer alternative to running on the roads during the worst winter days, interested in a growing way to stay competitive during the winter, or looking for a fun way to take advantage of winter’s bounty and enjoy the company of friends out in the woods, consider taking up snowshoeing!