Some Advice for First Time Boston Marathon Runners

Originally posted April 11th, 2013

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.

boston marathon policies, running advice



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.

boston marathon,1 mileThere 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.


I’m happy to answer any questions you may have.

© anagelin 2013-2022

Long Run Wisdom

During our Sunday Long Run season, we get weekly words of wisdom from Jim.

Jim has been organizing our Sunday Long Runs for 10 years and does a great job. He creates the routes, organizes the volunteers and makes sure we have enough supplies for the water stops.

Today I am posting Jim’s words of wisdom for our 20-miler. Good advice for all runners who are training for a marathon or doing a very long training run.

marathon training, running, sunday long run wisdom

Continue reading “Long Run Wisdom”

Food Pantry Donations

The Half at The Hamptons race organizers have asked all runners to bring a food donation to help support local food pantries.

Food Pantries supported: The First Baptist Church, The First Congregational Church, The Methodist Church, St. Vincent De Paul at Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Church, the Salvation Army and the Town of Hampton Pantry

In exchange for your generosity –

FREE RUNNING SOCKS: LOCO will be donating running socks to everyone that brings in a contribution and commit to contributing whatever is needed to fill the pantries!

hungry, families, need, help
Needed food items

All of us probably have a few of these items sitting in cupboards in our kitchens or in a pantry closet. Take a few minutes and dig to the back of your cupboards or pantry. You may find items that your family no longer likes or the kid who ate this food is now off at college.

Grab a bag, you may find quite a few items that you can donate.

I went through our pantry closet and found a number of items. My oldest daughter is a vegetarian so we had several cans of vegetarian #B&M Baked Beans. She is off to college so these are not going to be eaten anytime soon. When she comes home the weather will be warm and she wont want to eat them.

A few of the cans were past or close to their expiration dates. I was going to toss them because I don’t feel right giving away expired food. Before I tossed them I did a quick Google search to find out what the expiration dates really mean and is the food any good after that date.

Still Tasty after all these years

I quickly found This fascinating site allows you to look up foods by category and find out “How long will your favorite food or beverage stay safe and tasty?”. The search tool allows you to search for a food name or select from one of the categories they have lower on the page.

I tried to search for B&M Baked Beans but I could only find “baked beans”. Have you ever wondered how long that open bottle of pasta sauce will stay good in your refrigerator? Search for “pasta sauce” and #stilltasty will tell you how long a properly stored open or sealed jar will last, even past the expiration date.

Here are their results for “baked beans” unopened –

B&M, food safety, high GI, fiber
Shelf life of unopened beans

So if you are looking through your shelves for food to donate, don’t toss an item just because the date on the package has past. Check it before you chuck it, and help feed a family.

Food waste in America

I have heard the number “40%” quoted often as the amount of food that is wasted in America. A report on says it could be as high as 50%! This includes food left in the fields to rot for a variety of reasons, food tossed by supermarkets, bakeries, restaurants etc because it is not perfect looking or has hit the expiration date.

On average, American households toss 14% of the food they buy every year. We drive around town looking to save a few pennies on a gallon of gas and then go home and throw away $10 worth of left over meat that we failed to cook before it spoiled. Crazy.

We could feed our families better if we paid more attention to what was in the fridge. We could afford to buy better cuts of meat if we stopped tossing 14% of the meat that we buy in the trash. We could afford to give 5% of our grocery purchases to charity if we did not waste 14% of what we brought home every week.

My rant

I’m just “Joe Pair of Sneakers” here, but this is my soap box. If we were able to harvest more of the food that goes to waste in the fields and the orchards we could provide free breakfast and lunch in all of our schools in America.

Farmers would get some revenue from what is now going to waste. If families knew that their children were going to be fed two nutritious meals five days a week, I bet that school attendance would go up. Relieving poor families of the burden of 10 meals per week per child would help them provide better and more food for dinner and on weekends.

Incentivizing parents to get their kids to school every day could have huge social impact. Well fed children get sick less and perform better in school. Better educated children will be more successful in life and make a greater contribution to our society.

Middle Class and wealthy families do not need this incentive, but knowing that breakfast was waiting at school would relieve part of the morning stress of getting their kids out the door in the morning. Imagine not having to make breakfast and lunch before 6:30AM every week day? We could all use a little less stress in our lives.

For poor families a program like this would also alleviate that part of their morning stress. Maybe instead of making breakfast and lunch, they would have 10 minutes to sit down and read a book to their child. Children from poor families would get 10 healthy meals per week and they would be more likely to attend school knowing that a good breakfast was waiting for them.

There is free food rotting in the field as you read this. It could be feeding our kids.

There is food on your shelf that you are going to toss some day also. Go dig it out and take it to the race or drop it off at your local food pantry.

Run well my friends!