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BAA, Boston marathon, running

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, pub-4167727599129474, DIRECT, f08c47fec0942fa0




23 responses to “Some Advice for First Time Boston Marathon Runners”

  1. Scott Hanson Avatar
    Scott Hanson

    Thank you for the great advise! I’ll be running my first Boston Marathon on Monday. Can I share your post?

    1. imarunner2012 Avatar


      I’m not sure if my previous reply got through. Sometimes the little icon just spins and spins until something times out. Please do share my post. Just leave a link back if you would.

      Have a great race and enjoy your self.


      1. Scott Hanson Avatar
        Scott Hanson

        Will do. Thanks!

        1. imarunner2012 Avatar

          Have a great race and enjoy Boston!

  2. sincerelylily Avatar

    This is excellent advice…. Im excited to run it next year but I have a lot of friends going out this year and competing. I just keep remembering the weather last year and wish and hope that the weather is amazing for everyone racing!!!

    Ive heard about the horrid porta-potty lines… hm….. lol :p

    1. imarunner2012 Avatar

      Yes. Get in early and often. Weather is looking much better this year.

  3. pwhent Avatar

    I’ve never run the Boston Marathon, but now I’d like to!!!

    1. imarunner2012 Avatar

      It should be on every runner’s bucket list!

  4. proactiveoutside1 Avatar

    Love this. Good practical advice. I do a post on Fridays called The Weekly Stoke, featuring a roundup of links I like from that week. This will fit in great.

  5. […] and the first one is rather timely. The Boston Marathon is this Monday, and this blogger has some tips for first-timers in America’s premiere marathon event. There are also good general tips for […]

  6. fromsnickerstomarathon Avatar

    Really great advice. Sounds like a similar experience to running the London Marathon – can’t wait to do it again next year.

    1. imarunner2012 Avatar

      Thank you. Some hard learned lessons there. Are you running London next week? That looks like a great race also.

      1. fromsnickerstomarathon Avatar

        Not this year – I’ll be out watching instead, giving back some of the amazing support I got last year. I live right in the middle of the route and can get to mile 14 and 21 within about 5mins from my front door. It’s such a fantastic day and the atmosphere is amazing. I’d definitely recommend running it – but getting a place is pretty hard!

        1. imarunner2012 Avatar

          Enjoy the race. Thans for your comments.

  7. Boston Marathon Training – The Final Week | Marathon Memoir

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  8. Y Avatar

    Reading this just gets my adrenaline pumping. Last year was my first, and what a rush that was. I actually had a runners worst nightmare come true. Realized I forgot my racing flats at the hotel about 10 mins after getting off the bus. Luckily we stayed in Hopkinton, and the hotel allowed my gf on the next shuttle to deliver them to me. Scary. And then it was 90 degrees and we all died. Great post!

    1. imarunner2012 Avatar

      Must have been moments ot terror when you realized you might not be able to run. I’ve been there. Are you running tomorrow?
      I’m in Orlando waiting for my daughter to get ready so that we can go to the parks.I’m shooting for next year.
      Thanks for your comment.

  9. masters runner Avatar

    I’m at least several years away from running Boston, but it is great to come across some practical advice that really rings true. I have a tendency to start out way too fast in small local races; good to keep this in mind for when I do run Boston.

    1. imarunner2012 Avatar

      Thank you for your comment. I try to provide advice and tips that new runners can use. When I first started running I had no idea what to expect during my first marathon, and didn’t really know how to train for it either.
      There’s a lot more info out there now than there was 10 years ago!

  10. […] Some Advice for First Time Boston Marathon Runners […]

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  12. Catrina Avatar

    I will need to bookmark this post for future reference, Andy. So many great tips!
    I hope I will manage to qualify for Boston next year!

    1. OmniRunner Avatar

      Thanks Catrina!
      And good luck training to qualify for Boston.
      I met several first time runners at the Expo this year and some of them were very excited.