While the BAA’s logistics have evolved since 2013, this advice for first time Boston Marathon runners still holds true.
I’m not a certified running coach, but I have run The Boston Marathon nine times as of 2019.
Each race has a special place in my heart and I have many memories. Your first Boston will be an experience you will cherish for the rest of your life.
You’ve trained hard for this race, you’ve maintained the commitment and determination for a long time to get here. You should be proud to have that bib number in your hands right now.
Here are a few tips from my pre-race routine and Boston Marathon experiences which may be helpful for you. Allow me to offer,
Some Advice for First Time Boston Marathon Runners
The BAA has changed some policies for 2014. The Marathon has always had security, but after 2013 the BAA had to make some changes. In addition to my experience-based advice I have included information on the changes you need to know about.
Some advice on Food and Beverage
By now you know what your body needs for food and what it will tolerate. Don’t change anything. Race day is not the day to try something new. Eat what you know works. Hopefully you have used your long runs to try out different gels, beverages and other items.
Note for 2014 – Check the BAA’s web site for your boarding time. You cannot get on the first available bus. You will be boarded according to your bib color which corresponds to your corral. See my post from April 1st – “2014 Boston Marathon Essentials” for additional details. It looks like you will only be hanging around in Hopkinton for an hour or so.
Update for 2022 – Usually you can board before your scheduled time. I have never been turned away. But you could be asked to wait.
If you do get on an earlier bus you may spend time in the cold in Hopkinton waiting for your wave to be called to the start.
Don’t Over hydrate. There will been all kinds of water, Gatorade and coffee in Hopkinton. You will be nervous and you may be bored. Keep this in mind before you drink too much.
I always stop drinking anything about an hour before the race. This gives my body time to process the fluids and helps me avoid making a pit stop. You may be surprised to see dozens of people in the woods in Ashland a few miles into the race. I guarantee that you will see them, male and female. When you get to your corral and it is 5 minutes to your start, take a few sips of what ever you like to drink.
Update for 2022 – Even following my own advice, I’ve still made a porta potty stop each of my past three Boston Marathons. So you may want to control your pre-race hydration even more.
The other side of hydration is the porta-potty line. The BAA will have hundreds of port-potties behind the high school in Hopkinton. Each one will have a line with hundreds of people in it. It could easily take you an hour to get through the line. People apply body glide, Band-Aids, etc. in the privacy of the blue box. Even guys can be in there for ever.
Note:As soon as you get out of the porta-potty, get back in line. It will take 30-60 minutes to get back to the front of the line. By then you will need to go again.
Also, have your stuff ready before you go into the porta potty. It’s cramped in there and usually a mess. Leave your bag outside, have your shorts untied and your Band-Aids or lube in hand. No one is going to judge you. Unless you take 10 minutes to do your business.
You may not feel like you have any business to take care of, but when the announcer tells your corral to move up and that you will be starting in a few minutes you will have business! Most of that feeling will be nerves. Make sure you have taken care of business so it will only be nerves.
There are a few porta-potties near the corrals but they will be busy and difficult to get to. The neighbors do not take kindly to you watering their bushes and will let you know their displeasure. Have you ever tried to take a leak with some lady yelling at you? The BAA and Authorities also frown on this type of behavior.
Drink smart and always be in line for the porta-potty. This is my golden rule. It will serve you well.
Some advice on Marathon Clothing
I used to put on my running socks and running shirt after I got to Hopkinton.I always wore a jacket to keep warm also.
Note for 2014:You cannot bring a bag with you to Hopkinton. Any clothes that you bring with you will have to be discarded or you will have to carry them with you to Boston.
Before the race, you will be cold. That is good. That is how it should be. After the first mile to Boston, you will be warmed up. To stay warm in Hopkinton, you can either wear a trash bag or bring an old shirt that you are okay peeling off and tossing to the side of the road. Discarded clothes will be collected and donated to local youth groups.
Since you cannot bring a bag of any kind to Hopkinton, make sure your running belt can hold everything that you need. If you are bringing a trash bag to keep warm or dry, it needs to be ready to wear. They may even make you put it on. I would recommend a clear bag so nothing is concealed.
Update for 2022 – Starting in 2014, The BAA has issued a small clear bag that you can bring with you to Hopkinton. It is big enough for small items like sunscreen and food items. It’s not big enough for clothing and it does not get transported back to Boston for you.
It is the only bag they allow on the bus.
And you should know this by now, don’t wear anything new on Marathon Monday. I wouldn’t even change my sunscreen.
Some advice for Running The Boston Marathon
The race will start fast. It is mostly down hill for the first few miles and you will get caught up in the excitement. The crowd is amazing and your adrenaline will surge. Try to hold back. Don’t be surprised, there are some hills in the first few miles, it’s not straight down hill.
The roads will be lined with people many layers deep in places. You will see all kinds of people with their hands out for you to slap as you go by. I love this and always indulge. You will feel like a rock star! But don’t let this make you run faster than you should. You’ve still got 26 miles to run!
You will never be alone during this race but after the first six miles you will have more room. Often runners have a conversation for a few miles. And usually with another runner! Though late in the race you may be having a stern talk with yourself.
If it is sunny and hot, seek the shaded side of the street. It will make a big difference, it did in 2012.
There are hills everywhere. When you go over Rt. 95 there is a hill on the other side. There are hills in Wellesley. The map can be deceiving, but be sure to look at it.
There are crowds almost the entire way. You will hear the girls at Wellesley College before you see them. They are like a shot of adrenaline! At Cleveland Circle you will start to come into the city after having just passed the BC campus. The crowd gets bigger, louder and drunker. They can be a lot of fun.
You’ve trained hard and endured much. You know what your target finish time and pace are. You have a plan, now run it. Don’t run anyone else’s race. Run your race and have a great time.
Here are some guidelines and resources for parents to help decide what distance your child can run safely.
Updated January 30th, 2022
Most parents have no idea how far should a 7 year old run, or how fast can a 4 year old run.
As parents we want to encourage our children to be active, and running can be a great way to do that.
But we also want to make the best decisions for our kids, and that can be difficult without some good information.
For this article, I gathered recommendations from the experts and created these guidelines to help you make the best decisions for your child.
In full disclosure, I am not one of these experts. What I offer here is based on what the experts advise. By bringing together reliable information from several well-known sources, I hope to make your decisions a little easier to make.
I do encourage you to consult with your pediatrician before you begin doing more than running around the yard.
What distance can your child run safely?
Children are born to run and love it. Just look at kids on a playground or at the park.
However, running for play and running for exercise or to train for a race are completely different.
At play, kids start and stop and make up their own rules as they play. The only goal is to have fun.
When you introduce formal exercise or training for a race, there are goals and a few rules. Your child may feel obligated to follow those rules and reach for those goals before they are ready.
This article can help inform your decisions when you are setting goals and making the rules.
Goals and Rules
When I talk about goals and rules we’re not talking boot camp or anything close to that!
The rules could simply be that you will go for a run twice or three times a week. Or that homework needs to be done before the evening run. Things like that.
Goals could be that you will run 2-3 times each week. Time and distance don’t matter. Or a goal could be to run one block or one telephone pole further each week.
You and your child can make the rules and set the goals. The biggest goal and most important rule is that it should be fun.
So how far can your child run?
The two things to keep in mind when considering how far your child can and should run are:
Your child’s health and fitness level
Your child’s age
Your child’s health and fitness level
While pediatricians disagree on how much children should run, all agree that children need exercise.
Some is better than none but you can have too much of a good thing.
At your child’s next physical let the pediatrician know that your child is interested in running.
This is a good way to start a conversation between your pediatrician and your child.
If there are limits or cautions, your child is more likely to be receptive if the pediatrician makes suggestions. The doctor’s enthusiasm may also help motivate your child and keep them going when running turns into work.
If you do not have an appointment coming up, a quick call is advised.
I suggest involving your pediatrician as a best practice.
Fitness and Activity Levels
Fitness and activity tend to go hand in hand.
Active play and sports help keep children’s cardio-vascular systems in good shape. Active kids tend to be fit kids.
If your child comes in the house after playing and they are a hot sweaty mess, it’s safe to say they got some exercise.
For younger children, the vigor of their play time is a good indicator of their fitness. You shouldn’t expect a child under 10 to train for a 5K and other than direct observation it’s difficult to gauge their fitness level.
If your child is older and participates in sports, they probably have a healthy level of activity. Drop by practice some time and ask the coach how they are doing.
Your Child’s Age
If your child is healthy, age is the biggest factor in deciding what distance your child should run.
How far a 12 year old can run and how far a 6 year old can run will be quite different.
Older children are more physically developed, stronger and have better coordination.
Older children also tend to have higher levels of motivation, self control and understand goals.
The Road Runners Club of America (RRCA) is the largest running organization in the US and provides educational materials for running clubs who host youth running programs.
Established in 1958, they have extensive experience and expertise.
Their guidelines address appropriate race distances for children starting at Pre-K and give you some guidance on training and encouraging your child.
The RRCA guidelinesrecommend that children under 5 participate in kid’s fun runs which are usually under 400 yards.
These “races” do not require training and everyone gets a ribbon and lots of encouragement.
They are a great way for your child to try out running and have a good time. And that’s what it’s all about for this age group.
Not all 5k races have a children’s fun run, so you will have to look around and keep your eyes open.
Mother’s day, Father’s day and some holiday races are your best bet.
RRCA FUNdamentals of Youth Running
These age bracket guidelines from the RRCA should be helpful to you.
Children 5 and under should focus on “dash” events that range from a few yards to 400 meters.
Children 5 and over, kids fun runs that are a ½ to 1 mile long may be considered, but allow for a combination of running and walking.
Children ages 12 and over may want to participate in a 5K run.
Children ages 15 and older may want to participate in a 10K to half marathon event.
Children 18 and older may want to participate in a marathon or further distance.
While every child is different, you should feel comfortable using these guidelines to decide what distance your child should run.
Running should be fun
Children should not be pressured into running longer distances than they want to. As any parent knows, it’s not unusual for a child to change their mind in the middle of something.
As adults we know about challenging our limitations and pushing through to the next level. Children often do not have these motivations and just know that “this isn’t fun anymore.”
If your child wants to stop or walk while training or racing you have the difficult task of knowing when to let them have their way.
For pre-teens, the emphasis should be on fun, participation and enjoying the event. The emphasis should not be on competition and attaining goals.
If a young child has a genuine enthusiasm for running, let it grow naturally. They will move up to longer distances as they mature and grow stronger.
As the parent your role should be to guide and encourage your young runner and help them make wise choices about running.
Here are the distances that the Hartford Marathon Foundation (HMF) uses for their youth events.
The HMF organizes dozens of races each year that include youth running events. They have a lot of experience in this area.
Most Fun Runs award a ribbon and sometimes provide a drink and a snack. They usually do not provide a medal or shirt as these are free events.
Some races allow you to register your child ahead of time for the Fun Run, but some only have “day of” registration.
The Healthy Kids Running Series was created by Jeff Long, Founder and President of Pattison Sports Group, to provide kids with a positive, educational, and fun experience in the world of running.
They help parents set up youth running programs in their own towns and provide these youth running distance recommendations.
The program emphasizes fun and encourages weekly organized runs for children. You can find out if there is a program in your town at their website. You can also find out how to set up a program in your town.
Your child wants to run a 5K with you. What should you do?
Do not put any pressure on them to achieve a certain goal
Forget about your own time. You need to run their pace
Be prepared to walk and always be positive and encouraging
You are mom or dad, not their coach, so always be supportive
If your child has a positive experience with you at their first 5K, you may have a new running buddy. What could be better than that?
Make sure to emphasize the fun race environment. Make them feel like one of the other runners by introducing them to your friends and including them in conversations. Everyone loves a new runner, and your child will thrive on the positive energy at a race.
Some 5K races are adult events with loud music and drinking. If you run one of these 5Ks with your child it may be a good idea to only stay for a while after the race.
Competitive Running for your Child
Around the age of 12, the RRCA says children may participate in 5K races. Moving from fun runs to a 5K race should be your child’s decision. The emphasis should still be on fun and participation.
When a child starts running 5K races on a regular basis, they may become competition. A child may compete with themselves, friends or you.
Competition is good and running competitively teaches many life lessons. As the parent it is up to you to guide expectations and be supportive.
It is important for children to understand that few of us ever come in first place. Most of us have friends who finish ahead of us. As adults we understand this and our self worth and image are not dependent on how we do at a race.
For a pre-teen or teenager, winning and loosing can become the focus of running. As a parent, it is your role to focus more on the fun and participation in the event and running community, and focus less on competition.
As your child runs more races and improves their running, competition can become more important.
Setting goals and training to achieve them are important life lessons. If a child sticks with running and maintains a healthy enthusiasm for the sport, your guidance can help them set healthy goals and expectations of themselves.
When your child moves from the 1-mile fun run to the 5K, let them guide you. You can see when they may be pushing too hard and you can see when they should push for the next goal. As the more experienced runner, you can guide them.
Moving to longer distances
As always, the age and the health of your child are your main considerations. Around age 15 it should be okay for your child to run a 10K or half-marathon.
Many marathons will not allow anyone under age 18 to run. Some will allow teens to run with a parent’s permission.
If your child has run a few 5Ks and enjoyed themselves, then it should be okay to try a 10K. While a child may not need to train for a fun run or a 5K, they should do training for a 10K and definitely for a half-marathon.
In your child’s mid-teens, running 5Ks and 10Ks should be sufficient. In the later teens an occasional half-marathon and perhaps a marathon should be okay.
As your child moves up to longer distances, you child should train with you or a coach at school. Fitness and conditioning become more important at longer distances in order to avoid injury and to run successfully.
If your child does not get an annual athletic physical as a requirement to participate in school sports, make sure you are making those appointments.
I hope this information is helpful. I want to emphasis again that this information should be used as a guide only.
If your child is running their first 5K race and you would like to get them a medal to remember the race, check out the My First 5K medal. Most 5K races do not give finisher’s medals. Usually only the top male and female finisher and top age group finishers.
Run well my friends and happy running with your child!
Even the best runner in the world can loose time by making simple mistakes. You don’t have to!
How can you cut 5 minutes off of your marathon?
The easiest way is to avoid making simple mistakes that can add 5 to 10 minutes to your marathon.
At this point, the training is over and nothing you do will make you run any faster.
Here are 5 ways to cut at least 5 minutes off of your marathon finish time.
Use the Porta Potty
Something about race morning seems to get the innards all worked up and ready to explode.
The 2021 Boston Marathon will have a rolling start. That means as soon as you get off the bus in Hopkinton, they will be looking for you to head to the starting line.
They will give you time to use the facilities but you will need to get in line as soon as you get off the bus. It is your #1 priority, trust me!
It’s important to use the facilities before you start running as you don’t want to stop during the race.
Shalane Flanagan may have the course record for using a porta potty during the 2018 Boston Marathon, at 14 seconds. But watch this video and see how that stop effected her run.
Des Linden won that year.
During every Boston Marathon that I’ve run, I’ve seen lines at the porta potties.
The first water stop is at mile two and I’ve seen men and women “in the woods” side by side well before that first stop.
After mile 5 you can sometimes find a stop without a line. But if you really gotta go, you may have to wait in line.
Tip #1 – use the facilities before you cross the start line.
Stop eating and drinking 1 hour before you start
Most people have nerves before a race and will eat or drink as a way to deal with their anxiety. Many of us do this unconsciously.
If you use the porta potty and then keep drinking, your system will not have time to process that fluid, or food, before the race starts.
Then you will have to make that porta potty stop.
Sometimes eating too much before a race can upset your stomach. Often there are samples of power bars and sport drinks at the Athletes Village.
While you will have less time to be tempted this year, you should avoid eating anything new moments before you start heading to Boston.
The hour before you start the 2021 Boston Marathon you will probably be on the bus and then standing in line to pee.
Try not to eat or drink anything. Wait until you are on the course.
By now you should know when you need to hydrate and start taking gels.
Stick to that plan. Stick to what you know.
Tip #2 – stop eating and drinking 1 hour before your race starts.
Double tie your shoes
I see people running with loose laces all the time.
If you double tie your laces you can avoid this problem.
Un-tied laces may cause you to trip and fall and at some point you will have to stop and tie them.
Just like a porta potty stop, you have to fight the crowd and move to the side of the road and get out of the way. Then you need to bend over and tie your laces and possibly undue some nasty knot that tied it self as you ran.
This can easily cost you 2-5 minutes depending on when in the race you have to make the stop.
If you have to stop later in the race, your muscles may tighten up when you stop and bend to tie your shoes.
All of this can be avoided by double tieing your laces, even if the second knot is fairly lose.
Tip #3 – Tie your shoes properly!
Carry a Water Bottle
Some people always carry a water bottle and some people never carry a water bottle.
For the Boston Marathon you will want to take a water bottle of some kind.
Even if you just use a Poland Spring 500ml bottle, you will save yourself a ton of time.
Water stops begin at mile two. Everyone who has planned poorly will be at that water stop and probably the next five water stops.
At most big marathons, including Boston, those water stops will be a crowded mess.
To get to one of these water stops you will have to make your way through a crowd of runners to the side of the road.
Then try to grab a cup, drink it and get back up to speed all without tripping over someone else.
Even if you don’t fall over someone or drown yourself with a cup of water, you will have to slow down and break your stride.
If you can skip the first five or more water stops, the rest of them are usually pretty easy to get to.
I like to run through the stop, grab a cup, pinch it and chug the cup in one or two gulps.
The Boston Marathon uses paper cups so it’s easy to pinch the cup and never break your stride.
Tip #4 – carry a water bottle and avoid the crowds!
Bring some Food
I know that some people like to run as light as possible. Some people look like they are packed for expedition.
I would suggest something in the middle.
Hopefully by now you know what your stomach will tolerate. There are many brands of gel to choose from and you should have tested a few while you were training.
I’ve run a few races with Snickers bars or fig bars. Both are loaded with sugar and I’ve been eating them as long as I can remember.
Even the elite runners take on fuel while they run. It may be a sports drink in their water bottle or they may take a gel.
But remember, they are running for less than two and a half hours and they are fine tuned running machines.
If you are going to be on the course for more than three hours, a few cups of Gatorade and a gel or two provided by the BAA wont cut it.
Some people don’t like green Gatorade and the gel the BAA hands out may not be your brand.
Tip #5 – bring food that you have run with before
It’s all about control
There are things you can control and things you cannot.
You can’t control the weather and often you can’t control your sleep or how your body will react to the last proper meal you eat before the big race.
My post, My 2018 Boston Marathon Experience, is an example of how I prepared to run in horrible conditions. If you’ve never run Boston before, this blog post will also give you a few insights about the course.
All of the tips I have provided here are things that you can control. Any one of them could save you five minutes. Together they could save you much more time than that.
You’ve put in the miles and the time to get here. You are as ready as you can be.
I hope that these tips that I have learned from running 17 marathons and 9 Boston Marathons will help you have the best marathon of your life.
Summer running season is also tick and mosquito season. Here is what you need to know to protect yourself.
Tick and Mosquito Season – Why worry?
Tick and mosquito season is generally considered to be the warm months of the year.
However, you may be surprised to learn that ticks and mosquitoes can be around all year.
Mosquitoes and ticks have been a menace to humans throughout history. But the CDC reports that the number of diseases carried by these pests 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. These include Zika, West Nile, Lyme, and chikungunya. 1
The areas of the country where these insects can be found has grown considerably over the past 15-20 years also.
As runners, we often find ourselves on trails, in the woods or fields or near bodies of water where these insects thrive.
With reasonable precautions we can protect ourselves and reduce the chance of contracting a disease from one of these insects.
Tick and Mosquito Season
Ticks and Tick Season
Tick season used to be considered April through the first hard frost and peaked from May to August in Massachusetts.
Scientists have discovered that ticks do not die in the winter. They take cover in leaf litter under the snow and in debris or compost piles possibly in your own yard. To survive sub-zero temperatures they make their own form of anti-freeze.
When it is above freezing ticks can be active and hungry! On warm winter days, you should take the same precautions that you would take in peak season.
This graph from the UMass Extension Service shows reported cases in 2014. While cases peak from May to August, there are reports of infection every month.
Last November I was in Maine for Thanksgiving. On a mild day we went for a walk in the woods behinds my sister’s home.
My brother-in-law looked at me and said I had a tick on my pants leg. I looked down and saw a tick on my right leg just below the knee.
I had never seen a tick before and was surprised as I had been trying to be careful where I walked.
I knew that ticks are hard to kill, but I picked it off of my pants with my gloved hand and pinched it. I waited for a cracking noise, but through my gloves I could not apply enough pressure. I tossed it into the grass away from us.
Tick Born Diseases
The most common tick-borne disease in New England 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 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. As of 2021 there are reports of ticks with Lyme disease in California.
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 of mice genetically modified to be immune to the disease. A team from MIT lead by Kevin Esvelt wants to use CRISPR and Gene Drive to make the mice immune to Lyme Disease. 4
White-footed mice carry the disease and ticks transmit 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.
Mosquitoes and Mosquito 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 mosquitoes after the first hard frost, but some may be hiding in your home.
Mosquito Born Diseases
Mosquito borne disease outbreaks happen frequently. While Lyme disease is with us every year, the diseases referenced below tend to have occasional outbreaks.
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.
West Nile Virus
The majority of people who are infected with WNV (approximately 80%) will have no symptoms.
Approximately 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 determine the actual rate of infection.
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
Eastern Equine Encephalitis
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. Fortunately, the number of cases is very small.
People who survive this disease will often be permanently disabled. Few people recover completely.
EEE is a very rare disease. Since the virus was first identified in Massachusetts in 1938, just over 115 cases have occurred. The majority of cases typically have been from Bristol, Plymouth, and Norfolk counties. However, in an active year human cases can occur throughout the state.
Outbreaks of EEE usually occur in Massachusetts every 10-20 years. These outbreaks will typically last two to three years. The most recent outbreak of EEE in Massachusetts began in 2019 and included twelve cases with six fatalities. The outbreak continued in 2020 with five cases including one fatality. 7
Zika is a relatively new disease to North America. Much like WNV, 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 infections were reported in Texas and Florida in 2016-2017 and there was a great deal of concern in The US. However, no new cases were reported in 2019 and each subsequent year. 15
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 kills ticks, not just repel them.
Just like DEET, you can buy permethrin in a spray bottle. Though it is not widely available.
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, spray your shoes and socks with 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 repellent 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. But mosquitoes can lay their eggs in a table spoon of water, so you could have mosquito habitat on your deck or in your back yard.
It’s important to tip water out of flower pots or anything else that can hold water.
Most mosquitoes do not fly far from where they hatch. Eliminating breeding spots near your home is an important way to protect your family.
Simply pouring water out of buckets or planters in your yard after a rain could significantly decrease the number of mosquitoes in your yard.
Dusk to dawn are peak hours for mosquito activity and 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.
They also provide instructions on how to apply repellents which may be difficult to read on a can. If you have children this is particularly important.
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.
In the summer 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!
You cannot spray permethrin onto your skin, but you can spray DEET based product onto your skin.
Another idea is to have a change of clothes for after the race. While long pants and a long-sleeved shirt may not feel comfortable in the summer heat, they will help protect you from all insect bites.
Those neck gaiters that many of us wore during COVID are also a great way to protect your neck. If you spray permethrin on one you should not pull it up over you month and nose. Permethrin is nothing to fool with.
I hope you have a great summer running season and stay healthy.
This post was originally posted May 29th, 2018 and has been updated June19th, 2021.
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 are a few snowshoe races and sites to learn more:
The Goose Adventure Racing Snowshoe Series consists of five races in 2020. At each event, racers will compete for points based on their placement (not time) in each race. 100 points will be awarded to the first finisher in both genders, 2nd place will receive 99 points, third will receive 98, etc. Cast a Shadow presents an opportunity to rake in a lot of points! Every lap completed will earn 10 points up to a maximum of 100 points (relay team members only collect points on their own laps). The Little Rodent 4ish Mile race the morning of Cast a Shadow will also award points starting at 50 points for 1st place. However, a maximum of 100 points can be earned from combined points from both events. Competitors must race in a minimum of TWO Goose Series Races to be eligible for prizes. At the finale of the Series, awards will be presented to the top three male and female points leaders as well as first place in the Masters (40+) age group (with no double dipping).
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!
Some conditions are better than others, but I can find a reason that I like to run in most any condition.
I Like to run in the cold
While I’m not a big fan of being cold, there are some things I really like about running in the cold.
There are a lot fewer people around
With the COVID-19 lockdown there are a few rules we have to follow.
If you are within six feet of another person both of you are supposed to wear a mask. Even if you are outside.
During the summer our parks were very busy when they weren’t closed.
And neighborhood sidewalks were busy with dog walkers and people out with their kids.
Everyone was tired of being cooped up and wanted to get outside.
For most of the Summer and into Fall I had to wear a mask almost the entire time I was out for a run.
People seemed to be everywhere!
As the temperatures cooled I saw fewer people in the parks and on the sidewalks.
With fewer people out and about I didn’t have to wear my mask for the entire run.
Now that it is winter I like to run in the cold because I have the streets to myself for the most part.
I like to run in a mask
Most runners who run year-round have used a mask at one time or another.
It’s how we persevere in tough conditions.
Here in New England it’s hard to avoid running at least a few sub-zero days.
Before COVID, most of us only wore a mask when it was really cold. And most of us never really figured it out. Especially those of us who wear glasses.
Now that I have been running in a mask for almost a year, I know how to make them work. For the most part.
And once you figure out how to deal with your glasses fogging up it’s not so bad.
In fact, wearing a mask all the time helps eliminate the “It’s too cold to run” excuse.
My nose and face don’t freeze and the air going into my lungs doesn’t seem as cold either.
So running in a mask actually makes winter running more comfortable.
I like to run with pockets
Most runners need to carry a few things with them.
This usually includes a house or car key and usually a phone.
Many runners use their phone to track their run and for music or podcasts.
For longer runs, most runners will carry a gel and something to drink.
I always run with a key and usually my phone and some cash. You never know when you might need a bottle of water or even a bite to eat.
In the summer time I often use a running belt since most running shorts have only one tiny pocket.
But when it’s cold out I often wear a running vest or a jacket.
In addition to keeping me warm all those pockets are a great place to stash a phone, keys and anything else I want!
I like to run in the dark
It’s cool to run in the dark
In the summer when you run after dark you avoid the intense summer sun and the heat.
Even when it’s cloudy, UV rays can still damage your skin. Runners spend a lot of time outside, so it’s important that we pay attention to our exposure.
If it’s really hot or you are on a long run you could also experience heat stroke. Heat stroke is nothing to fool with and it can kill you.
In July and August I often wait until after dinner to go for a run. In the middle of the summer sometimes even the setting sun cannot break the heat.
Of course, people need to be aware of their surroundings and possibly not run in the same areas they might during the day.
I like to run in the dark to avoid the summer heat and experience the peace and quiet of the evening.
There is something about the warm summer air in the evening.
I like to avoid the crowds
Avoiding crowds seems to be the best way to avoid contracting COVID. Mask or not.
All businesses are required to keep the number of people in the office or dining room to 25% of capacity.
All mass gathering events such as concerts and ball games have been cancelled or played without anyone in the stands.
I like to run after dark to avoid close encounters.
Only in a park in the summer time would I see a crowd. But I have close encounters on the sidewalk all the time.
Some people are good with their mask but some people don’t even have one.
So to avoid the all to frequent encounters, I like to run at night and avoid the crowds.
I like to run in the morning
Running at night is great, especially in the summer.
But running in the morning has it’s own advantages.
Just like evening running, morning running let’s you avoid the mid-day summer heat.
And the crisp air lets you know you’re alive.
Run towards the light
One advantage of morning versus evening running is light.
It seems that it’s easier for cars to see you in the light than it is in the dark with flashing lights and reflectors.
I’ve had more close encounters at night even when I’m lit up like a Christmas tree.
Maybe drivers don’t expect to see people out at night?
Down for the count
I’ve seen plenty of people fall during a run. I’ve done it a few times my self.
Most of these falls have been in the evening or at night.
And many of these falls have been on familiar roads or sidewalks.
As the shadows get longer, dips and heaves in the pavement become harder to see.
Also, the light from approaching cars can turn a sidewalk into a black abyss. In these situations you have to be very careful.
It’s very easy to step into a hole and wrench your back or twist your knee. And the sidewalk just has a way of reaching up out of the dark and taking you down.
When you go out for a morning run the light continues to improve. And this improving light makes it less likely that you will go down for the count.
We get more done before 9AM
Years ago The Marines used to run an add. The tag line was “We get more done before 9AM than most people get done all day”. I may not have the quote exact and it may have been The Army.
But when you go for a run in the morning all day you have the feeling that you got something really big done. It’s just this nice feeling of accomplishment that lingers and sometimes I forget why I feel so accomplished.
It’s easy to forget that you ran when you do it all the time. But that nice feeling can last all day.
When I don’t like to run
I guess I can find a good reason to run just about any time of day and in any conditions.
The only conditions I don’t like are in the cold and wet.
I can run in the snow and manage to stay comfortable. I can run in the heat and avoid dehydration.
When it’s cold and raining eventually you become miserable.