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My 2023 Boston Marathon Experience

It took twenty years to run my tenth Boston marathon, and it took all of my experience to do it!

My 2023 Boston Marathon Experience was a celebration of twenty years of running. In 2003, my very first marathon was the Boston Marathon.

Back twenty years ago, I was excited to run my first marathon. The oldest and most famous marathon in the world. I was totally naïve and totally unprepared for that race!

You can read how my journey began and what My First Boston Marathon Experience was like.

Over the past twenty years, I’ve learned a lot. Mostly through making all the mistakes you can think of. All of those mistakes could fill a book or two!

Setting my sites on the 2023 Boston Marathon

In addition to learning a lot about running over the past twenty years, I’ve also become familiar with the challenges of getting a bib for The Boston Marathon.

2023 would be a special year for me, so I had to be intentional about getting a bib and couldn’t leave anything to chance. I analyzed the three ways that I know of to get a bib.

Qualifying had never been an option over the past twenty years, and it certainly was not an option this year. Even runners who qualify are not guaranteed a bib. Since CIVID-19 it has become easier as fewer qualified runners seem to be applying. But I know plenty of people who have qualified by a few minutes and still could not get a bib. Again, this was not an option for me!

My best marathon time of 3:47 ten years ago would not be a Boston Qualifying time even at my current age!

Andy Nagelin Boston Marathon 2019, running for MGH

2019 Boston Marathon

I could join a charity team and commit to raising as much as $10,000. I’ve run for MGH, now Mass General Brigham, and FamilyAid Boston before.

Running for charity is a great way to support an organization that you feel strongly about. But between training and fundraising, it’s about all you do for four months. And they take your credit card number when you sign up.

My best option seemed to be getting a bib through my running club.

The BAA donates invitational bibs to local running clubs. The Melrose Running Club usually gets two or three bibs and awards them based on volunteer activity.

Getting a bib can be very competitive, and you never know how many people will apply and how many points they may have. Celebrating twenty years of running was very important to me, so I had to be intentional and go after it.

I volunteered for everything that I could, including water stops during our summer and winter Sunday Long Run Series. I was in physical therapy all this time and many times I could not run far, or at all. So I made the best of a difficult situation.

I’m also a club board member and volunteered at all of our race events. All of my volunteering worked and I had more points than anyone else when it came time to select bib recipients.

Even with all of my points, it was still a relief to hear from The Board that I had been awarded one of the coveted bibs!

Training for My 2023 Boston Marathon

The other challenge I had to over-come was the fact that I’d been in physical therapy for over a year when I started thinking about doing this. At the time I couldn’t run even a 5K.

What started as Achilles tendonitis evolved into knee issues. We then threw in some back and shoulder issues for fun. Then I got into a minor car accident in November 2022 which effected my back and how far I could run.

Knowing that the best approach for a comeback was an intentional and methodical training process, I began in August of 2022.

As the 2023 Boston Marathon date drew closer, I read some of my recaps of previous Boston Marathons. I wanted to remember how those races and training went for me. I was surprised to read how often I have been injured. Less surprising was how challenging the training had been for each previous marathon.

I started my training nine months before Boston, in August. I ran 31 miles in August, up from twelve running miles in July. More than the 10% increase usually recommended, but I was careful and receiving guidance from my PT.

The chart below shows my nice progress through January. The first Sunday Long Run was on December 30th, 2022, a comfortable 10.32 miles at a 10:05 pace. I felt pretty good going into January.

January was a strong month with 91 running miles, of which almost 50 miles were Sunday Long Runs. But I was feeling too good and too confident and had a bit of a set-back in February.

My left knee started acting up again and I had to cut back. I didn’t even finish the first long run in February. I ran 13.6 miles that became increasingly painful. I skipped the next week’s run and cut the third February long run from 18.1 to 12.9 miles. The last February run on the 26th was 13.1 miles.

Even with knee pain at 5 out of 10, I was able to run a half marathon distance. Not how you want to run a marathon.

2023 Boston Marathon Training Miles
2023 Boston Marathon Training Miles

The first weekend in March I was on vacation, so I had to do the scheduled 20 mile run on my own. Twenty miles by your self is challenging enough, but my knee was the biggest challenge.

My PT, Dr. Sarah Marchionne, suggested a knee brace and showed me a few options. I picked up a “Shock Doctor” Level 3 knee brace at Dick’s Sporting Goods.

Shock Doctor Knee Brace, Level 3

It looked and felt heavy duty, but I was able to run twenty miles with very little pain. I was both surprised and pleased with the result.

During my twenty-mile run I also tested my planned fuel for Boston: Snicker’s Bars. I ran The Portland Maine Marathon with two of them and it really worked well.

They worked well on my twenty-miler and on Marathon Monday.

I got back on track in March, didn’t cut any runs short and only missed one long run. I was also able to extend my Tuesday night club runs back to 6 miles and do five-mile runs on Thursdays.

When we did our 22-mile run on March 26th I ran a 10:43 pace, tested all of my race day items and felt pretty good. It was a real confidence booster.

According to the BAA, my pace during the 2023 Boston Marathon was 10:48. That 22-mile run was an accurate gauge of my fitness level.

Part of physical therapy was strength training. Dr. Sarah created a routine for me and eventually, I did the routine at home. During office visits, Dr. Sarah worked on my knee and back. Which was plenty!

Over twenty years, I had never incorporated strength training into my training. I think that it made a big difference and I considered it my “ace in the hole” to get me through the marathon.

Starting the 2023 Boston Marathon

By the time Marathon Weekend came around, I was ready to go. My training went pretty well, and Dr. Sarah’s “Marchionne Method” allowed my knee to improve, even as the miles increased.

A few days before The Marathon a buddy of mine who runs the BAA VIP program signed me up to join the VIPs. It’s mostly runners who work for the major BAA sponsors and not a bunch of sport and rock stars. I was really hoping to get some cool pictures.

BAA VIP Tent. Copley Square 2023

They had a huge tent in Copley Square about 100 yards from the finish line. It was heated, had food and drink and a place to stash our drop bags. They even had medical staff and supplies to treat about anything.

When it was time to go, we filed out of the tent and boarded two coach buses out to Hopkinton. The last time I took a coach to Hopkinton I was still working for HP. It was great!

In Hopkinton we pulled into the High School but parked out back near the Hopkinton Center for the Arts. A large building with plenty of art and seating! They had some food but no water bottles or Gatorade. After a bit it dawned on us that they were trying to avoid plastic waste.

Boston Marathon 2023, Hopkinton Center for the Arts

They also had real bathrooms and about a dozen porta potties just for us. At a marathon, that is a true luxury!

The only way to get water was to use their “bubbler” that used a filtering system and took several minutes to fill an 80z bottle. After waiting in line for 10 minutes behind just a few people, I went into the men’s room and filled my 2 water bottles from the sink.

On race day, unfiltered city water is the least of my worries!

On the big screen in the auditorium, they had WBZ’s broadcast of the race showing. It was great to see the elite runners and para-athletes. We could also see the weather conditions.

There were more than 150 of us in the BAA VIP group. Some people were in the first waves and most of us were in the last waves. Plenty of people were running their first marathon.

As I was leaving for the start line one of the volunteers asked if I wanted a trash bag. I knew that morning the weather was likely to be cool and wet, but I thought I had dressed appropriately.

But as we waited our turn to start, bands of rain came through and I knew I needed that bag! We tore holes for my head and arms, and I slipped on a super heavy duty trash bag for my run to Boston.

A clear mind and a calm heart

During taper time I never had the taper tantrums. Many runners get the blues when they basically suffer endorphin withdrawal when the long runs get too short to produce them.

Being in a blue mood, having lots of extra time to think and not being around that group of runners as much can be a tough few weeks.

I’ve experienced these runner’s blues and would find it hard to sit still. I coined the phrase “taper tantrums” a few years ago. It seemed an apt description of my restlessness and blue mood. But my mood never dipped this year.

Often I get a bit nervous before any race. Sometimes I wont get nervous until they call us to line up. Sometimes I’m a bit nervous for days before a race.

The way I run there are never any medals or prizes on the line. I think it’s just the pressure I put on my self. The desire to do a little better than last time, even as I’m getting older. Maybe place in my age group?

As I waited in the Center for the Arts, and even during the 0.7 mile walk to the start, I didn’t get nervous. It’s the strangest thing.

At the time I didn’t really think about it. It’s not like I was missing the feeling of butterflies in my belly or the need to pee every ten minutes.

I really had things dialed in. My PT and training went as well as I could have hoped for. I had trained and raced using the same food and hydration many times. Most of my clothing had been through many races and hundreds of training runs. I had run this race nine times before and ran 22 miles of it during training at least three other times. I knew each hill and turn as well as anyone could.

My 2018 Boston Marathon Experience, Boylston Street, Rain

Boylston Street – 2018

In 2018 I ran in much worse conditions. I literally have been there, done that and have the t-shirt.

A little rain, a light breeze and cool weather wasn’t going to phase me a bit.

Just like tap water, I had bigger issues on my mind.

The First Half of the 2023 Boston Marathon

As we walked up the hill to the start line, it was nice to see enthusiastic spectators. The course marshals directed us to a corral, and we kept walking and had a rolling start just like 2018 and 2019. I was ready.

As we ran down the hill from the start, I looked at the people there and and let out a few whoops of my own. It was time to have some fun!

While I had double tied my shoelaces, apparently, I hadn’t tied my shorts tight enough after the last porta potty stop.

As I ran along, I noticed that my running belt was pushing my shorts down! I had a trash bag on, but I couldn’t let me shorts slide down my legs. And while running to Boston dressed in just a trash bag may have been novel, I did have things I needed in my short’s pockets.

So, at 0.43 miles I went to the side of the road, hiked up my trash bag and re-tied my shorts. What a foolish, rookie mistake! It’s not like I was going to make up for that lost time. It was just lost.

I got back up to speed and before I knew it I was at 5K and it was time for my first bite of Snickers bar. While holding a Gatorade bottle, I had to take off a glove to tare the wrapper. Then I had to stuff the remainder into my pocket, not drop it, get my glove back on, and try not to inhale a peanut or piece of chocolate!

At 5K the BAA clocked me at 32:04 for a 10:20 pace. This was about where I wanted to be and wasn’t too fast for the beginning of the race.

At the 4-mile mark I was thinking that I still had my longest long run in front of me: 22.2 miles! And these would be hilly miles including the infamous Newton Hills. I resigned my self to the fact that I had a long, wet slog in front of me.

At the 10K and 15K mark my pace was 10:12 and 10:14 respectively. I hadn’t planned to speed up, but nothing hurt. At each 5K increment I kept up with my fueling and hydration.

Around Mile 12 the run began to feel like work. At some point in a marathon, it always begins to feel like work, you just never know how soon. I was happy it didn’t begin to feel like work before Mile 12, but I had 14.2 miles of work in front of me.

The half-way mark, 13.1 miles, always seems anti-climactic. Running half a marathon is just half of a marathon so we can’t expect a grand reception. But it’s still 13.1 miles.

2023 Boston Marathon at the half-way mark of 13.1 miles

The BAA clocked me at 2:15:19 at the half for a pace of 10:28. Still below my pace goal of 10:30, but slower than the even two-hours flat I would have preferred.

Finishing the 2023 Boston Marathon

Right after the half-way mark we approached Wellesley College. In the past I felt that the crowd wasn’t as big as the hype.

But this year, the hype was real. There were hundreds of enthusiastic girls up against the barricades. I have to say that there were some really cute girls, but I’m more than old enough to be their father. While I was temped to stop for a quick kiss, it just didn’t seem right.

After the pick-me-up at Wellesley it was back to business. At mile twelve it had begun to feel like work and at mile fourteen it was time to get down to business.

I still had over twelve miles to run and the “easy” miles were behind me. I could actually feel that my legs were pumped up like a speed skaters. They also felt rather tired.

My knee was still in good and my hydration and fueling were right on track. The pain that I felt in my legs was from fatigue and not from injury. There is a big difference.

Overcoming fatigue is a matter of will power. Running through an injury can screw you up for good. I wasn’t injured.

Running into The Abyss

At this point in the race I decided to dig in and run through the fatigue. To do this I needed to tune out the crowd and the runners around me as much as possible.

I had to narrow my focus to one foot and then to the other. I had to pay attention to the water stops and what I had in the bottles on my belt. I had to remember to eat. It was time to use everything that I’d learned over the past twenty years.

There were seven more miles to the Melrose Running Club tent and my big pit stop. I felt like I was running into the abyss and it was just me and the road. The black road.

In my mind, I visualized myself running into the darkness. Total darkness. Like a door had opened into a dark room. It wasn’t a scary darkness, but the absence of everything. It was me against me in a battle of wills.

At 25K, between miles 15 and 16, the BAA clocked me at a 10:42 pace.

Three miles after opening the door, I can recall running past Newton-Wellesley hospital and seeing the MGH logo. Another part of the empire I thought. There were lots of people cheering but I barely paid any attention.

Then there was the big turn at mile seventeen and a half, at the Newton Fire station. The road is so wide there and the crowd is huge on both sides of the street. It’s not unusual for someone to say they saw me there or looked for me there. So I scanned the crowd.

It was mental over load to try and actually look at all of those faces. I had to stop scanning the crowd after a few seconds because it was exhausting!

Running The Newton Hills

I was so in the zone that I don’t recall the descent of over 100 feet into Newton Lower Falls, which is before the Route 128/95 overpass. It’s usually a nice down hill run with a huge enthusiastic crowd. The area has a village feel with lots of shops and restaurants and we cross The Charles River.

Just after mile 16 we climbed out of Newton Lower Falls and summited the Route 128/95 bridge. It’s about 89 feet of elevation gain over 3/4 of a mile and really is the first Newton hill.

Around the fire station there are some small rolling hills so you can kind of enjoy the crowds. Then at about 17.5 miles the first of the Newton Hills begin.

Mile 18 had 80 feet of gain in less than half a mile. My pace for mile 18 dropped to 11:26. This was really a lot of work! Mile 19 is mostly down hill and my pace was 10:56.

Mile 20 had 62 feet of gain in about of a quarter mile. There were lots of spectators and running club pop-up tents in this area. I had it in my mind that my club would be at mile 21. So I dug in deep and kept on going.

Then all of a sudden I heard people calling my name. I looked up and saw familiar faces and the club pop-up tent. My watch said 20.3 miles. They were early. I wasn’t expecting them. Turns out, we’re at this spot every year!

Thuy Dang had a cold, flat Coca-Cola for me and it really hit the spot. Cold and full of sugar and caffeine! It had to be cold to be refreshing and flat so I could chug it like a college freshman!

  • Melrose Running Club water stop at the 2023 Boston Marathon. At 20.3 miles with a cold flat Coke
  • Jeff Rushton and AJ Drummond on Heartbreakhill
  • 2023 Boston Marathon, muffin and a coke to go

Then I saw Mary O’Connor holding a bakery bag with a muffin in it. Chocolate chip, just as I requested.

She moved the bag towards me, being careful not to touch the muffin. I reached in with my gloved hand and grabbed the muffin with delight.

She had been so careful not to touch it and here I was grabbing it with the filthiest glove you could imagine. I had wiped my nose and sweat with it and did a few hand slaps along the way as well.

I stayed for a few photos and words of thanks, about one and a half minutes. Then I headed out with a Coke in one hand and a muffin in the other. I know a lot of people got a kick out of seeing me with my snacks!

I jogged a bit and then walked another minute and a half to eat and drink.

Then Heartbreak Hill began. 100 feet or so of elevation over about 3/4 of a mile.

My legs were tired and my mind was in the zone. But I had just consumed a lot of sugar and was well hydrated. I was ready to run the hill!

My pit stop and Heartbreak Hill were both in mile 21 and my pace was 13:21. The BAA clocked mile 21 at 13:24. But if you take out the time I took to stop, my pace was around twelve minutes.

As I ran the hill, I still had my coke and muffin. I was breathing as deeply as I could to make it up the hill, so I couldn’t really eat.

At the crest of the hill they had a large banner strung across the road informing us that we had just run Heartbreak Hill. It felt great. A significant section of the race had been run.

Running into Boston

Not that the hard work was over, but all of the big hills were behind us. After reaching mile 21 and conquering The Newton Hills, we still had 5.2 miles to run.

Most runners will tell you mile twenty is where the race really begins. Even on a flat course, twenty miles takes a lot out of your legs. And my legs felt like a speed skaters – huge and tired!

Earlier in the race I asked my self, “how much do you want this?” That got me to mile 20 and over Heartbreak Hill.

Now with about five miles to go I answered that question again. I wasn’t going to PR or BQ, but I sure as hell didn’t want to run for five hours, or more.

As I ran past Boston College, the mile 22 marker is kind of in the middle, I thought the crowd was louder than Wellesley. And I felt encouraged that I was still running while in previous years I had walked this stretch of road.

At mile 22 I thought, well I just ran my longest long run. Only 4.2 miles to go!

I got a bit of a lift running down hill into Cleveland Circle and the crowd was great.

Then from behind I heard a colleague from the office call me name. It was Larry Bradley and he had recognized me even though I was wearing a trash bag!

I don’t recall what we said other than “how’r you doin” and agreeing to see if we could run this in together. But at some point I lost contact with Larry.

Just before mile 23 I decided it was time to ditch my trash bag. It had served me well but the end of the race was only 3.2 miles away. It was impossible to run and take it off, so I walked for about a minute at the end of mile 23.

I tried to hand it to someone in the crowd, but no one was going to touch that! So I had to stuff it into a barricade so it wouldn’t blow back into the street.

After ditching my trash bag, I ran the rest of the way.

At mile 24 we reached Coolidge Corner in Brookline. The crowds were building and the end of the race was so close!

My inner voice said “I can do this”. Everything was tired or hurt, but it was low level pain. So why walk?

Through mile 25 it was a long slog. I was wiped and there was still running to do. I came out of my abyss and started engaging with the crowd a bit. This late in the race you need the fun and distraction of engaging.

As I approached Kenmore Square, Larry came up from behind again. Not sure how I passed him. But we ran through the square together and agreed to run this in together.

It was a truly unique experience to run this part of the course with someone I know. I’ve started the race with someone I know several times. And I’ve run parts of the course in between with someone I know. But never the last section through Brookline and into Boston.

Running through Kenmore Square

Comm Ave – Leaving Kenmore Square

Kenmore is another wide section but the crowd was huge and very loud. I raised up my arms and waved them around a bit and the crowd responded. It was awesome!

As we ran under the Mass Ave. bridge I commented to Larry how much I hate the hill on the other side. He totally agreed.

I couldn’t believe that we were running down Comm. Ave and headed for one of the most famous intersections in running: Comm. Ave and Hereford Street.

Larry and I made the turn close together and I’ll never forget looking up that street. Up. It never seemed like a hill to me before, though it definitely has a rise to it. In 2018 I passed a hand-cyclist going up that hill and the poor guy was barely moving. So I knew it was a hill.

As we ran up the street I waved my arms some more and the crowd responded. How often do you get to feel like a rock star? I was working it!

Larry and I headed for that other most famous turn in running: left onto Boylston Street. The widest and longest road in America! The turn was easy and not very crowded.

As we ran down Boylston Street the crowd was loud and there were runners on the road, but we had plenty of room.

It felt great to be finishing the race with someone I know. The only other times that happened were when my oldest daughter jumped the barricades and ran the last quarter mile with me.

I saw my coral number on the right side of the super structure and headed that way. Larry stayed left and I never saw him after that.

As I crossed the finish line the announcer mention The Melrose Running Club and my buddy Paul Clark, who got me into the VIP group, reached out to shake my hand. Again, nice to see a familiar face.

2023 Boston Marathon finish line

The BAA VIP tent was within 200 feet of the finish line. I didn’t do the usual walk to get my medal, bag of food and something to drink. Or to pick up my drop bag. That was all inside the tent.

As I approached the tent a volunteer put the medal around my neck and congratulated me. It felt great.

I found the food bags, grabbed a bottle of water and found a place to sit.

Apre the 2023 Boston Marathon

As soon as I sat down my phone started going off. People had been following me and my sister started texting me. Somehow my 85% charge was down to 5% on my phone. I had a charging battery, but if I kept texting I’d kill my phone before the battery could recharge.

After a few messages I got to the business of recovering. I hydrated and ate some food, though I really wasn’t that hungry or thirsty.

I walked around a bit and chatted with a few other runners.

I was smart and paid to park my car about a block from Copley Square where the race ends. In my altered state, I asked a cop for directions to the wrong garage and walked twice as far as I needed to!

I took the elevator to my level and quickly found my car. Getting in was a bit of an effort but it felt good to be situated.

During COVID I became familiar with this part of Boston and getting out to Mass. Ave and over to Cambridge was a breeze.

My 2023 Boston Marathon Experience was complete!

Run well my Friends


Five Things Every New Boston Marathon Runner Needs to Know

What to expect at Athletes Village and while running the 2023 Boston Marathon.

There are definitely more than five things every new Boston Marathon runner needs to know to have a successful race.

I originally wrote this post in 2018 and posted it on March 19, when people still had some time to train and make adjustments. Read through to get important tips about Athletes Village and running the marathon.

2018 Boston Marathon Finish Line, Marathon Running, RainI’m not an elite runner, famous or a certified running coach. But I have run The Boston Marathon nine times and nineteen 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. So I’ve seen the extremes and everything in between.

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 crazy, but there are people who have never run a marathon or any race and decide to run Boston. I would advise against running 26.2 miles with little to no training as you may harm your self in the process.

I ran my first Boston Marathon in 2003 with only about four months of training. I advise against this!

Read My First Marathon Experience

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 whether 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 but there are no guarantees.

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.

Read Glucose and the Endurance athlete

gel, running food, glucoseLong 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 for twenty 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.

fig newtons, glycemic indexYou 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.

Gels are packaged for running. If you use cookies or candy bars you will need to package them for easy access. Candy bars do not work well in warm temperatures.

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.

Read Fig Newtons and the Glycemic Index

Fuel Early and Often

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, Boston MarathonHeartbreak 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.

Read about one of my bonk experiences

This is why it is so important to fuel early in the race. If Gatorade and Maurten Hydrogel Gels upset your stomach, bring your own fuel. Even if you like Maurten Hydrogel 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.

The BAA will provide Maurten Hydrogel Gels 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 Maurten Hydrogel Depot.

If gels 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.

Usually a variety of vendors give out free product in The Athletes Village. 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…

Honolulu Marathon 2017, Porta PottiesPlease 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 2023 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. Whether 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.

Boston Marathon Water Stop, Andy Nagelin, HPHydration 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.

Advice from the BAA

Pay attention to your body.

Don’t get hurt

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.

And wear something on your feet around the house.

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

lacing techniques, Five Things Every New Boston Marathon Runner Needs to Know, running shoesThis 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.

stretching, yoga, clarity through pain

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.

Boston Marathon Course Map
BAA map

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!


Road to Boston SLR 8

Long runs don’t always go as expected, but sometimes you get what you need.

After running a water stop for SLR 7, I jumped back into running the Road to Boston SLR 8.

The Road to Boston goes through Injuryville

Many runners get some sort of an injury while training for a marathon.

Running a marathon is a big under-taking and if you don’t prepare properly there is usually hell to pay on Marathon day. Once committed to running 26.2 miles there isn’t much that will stop most runners. Even pain.

I can’t say that I’ve ever run a marathon that didn’t involve pain at some point. Even the elite runners will tell you that.

The idea behind training and putting in those grueling training miles is to push the pain point out as many miles as you can into the race.

Over the years I’ve solved most of the things that can go wrong during the actual marathon, but I have not found a fool-proof way to avoid injuries.

Running Road to Boston SLR 8

The pain in my knee changed recently, so I cut back all running last week and only ran the Super Sunday 5K with the running club. My knee felt fine the entire race.

But I know that long distances and down-hills will beat the shit out of my left knee. And this week’s run was both hilly and 18.1 miles! 

Since this is my twentieth rodeo, I know what to do when the bull throws me into the dirt.

So I went into today’s run with caution and low expectations.

I didn’t know if I’d make it out of the parking lot, to the first water stop or by some miracle, the entire route.

Starting the Road to Boston SLR 8

Sunday Long Run 8 with the Melrose Running Club. Road to Boston SLR 8

Kneeling for this photo was a little painful for all of us. Not too many youngsters in this group.

As we ran out of the parking lot I took it really slow, around a 12 minute pace.

Even after stretching, my knee was tight. But I was pretty sure that it would loosen up after a bit of running. And that’s what happened.

I didn’t feel like sprinting, but I was pretty sure I would make it to our first water stop.

The segment to Breakheart Reservation I ran mostly with Bobby Taylor and Joe Winslow. They were looking to run 10+ minute miles which was fine with me. But, we had to intentionally do that. We’d get talking, I’d check my watch and we would be running 9:20.

2023 SLR 8 Course Map, 2023 Boston Marathon training

Just before mile three we reached the road into Breakheart. It seemed to come up quickly and I was grateful for that.

After the water stop most people went left to get the hills over with. A bunch of us went right to run them old school.

As we went around the loop we got to see everyone else coming from the other direction.

I was able to maintain my speed pretty well going up the hills. But going down had to be controlled.

People think running down hill is easy, or easier. But it involves a lot of pounding and that usually gets your quads or knees.

On a steep decline you can kind of get out of control, go to fast and really slam your legs. It’s not good.

I found my self extending my right leg and holding my left leg back so as to minimize the impact on my left knee. It’s generally not a good idea to alter your stride like that, but I was only doing it on the downhills.

Finishing the Road to Boston SLR 8

We finished the loop in the parking lot back at Water Stop 1.

I knew that the longer I staid the tighter my knee would get. So I took a cup of Gatorade and cut the conversation short.

Joe Winslow and I made our way down the park road and turned right onto the Fellsway. He was doing okay and was nice enough to hang back and keep me company.

At the next corner, at mile seven, we took a right onto Main Street in Saugus.

This is a long, mostly uphill, slog to Wakefield High and our next water stop.

Joe and I have daughters in their twenties, so we always have plenty to talk about. It was fun.

In the parking lot of Wakefield High I decided to cut the run short. We were just short of mile nine and I knew that 18 miles was not in the cards.

Joe was going to run long so I headed out to my short cut. Dan Slattery was also going to cut it short and headed out a minute or so after I did.

All the way up Farm Road in Wakefield I expected Dan to catch up to me, but he didn’t catch me until Water Stop 4 at Nick’s Pizza.

My knee was aching at level 2-3 now and I knew that hanging around was not going to help.

Just like the previous water stop, the first 10-20 steps were painful. The promise of less pain was the only way to keep going, and we were headed for another freaking hill!

Dan and I ran in the last three miles or so pretty much together. When he picked up the pace at times, I just let him go. As he said, it was really about getting in the time on my feet.

As we got into down town Melrose he went ahead and at 12.6 miles I decided to walk. Even that hurt!

We chatted a bit in the parking lot and headed our separate ways. A run well done.

Run well my Friends,


Saturday Long Run January 14, 2023

A Saturday Long Run

This week the Melrose Running Club held their Holiday Party on Saturday night, so we had our Sunday Long Run on Saturday. Some people don’t like to stay out all night and then go for a long run.

Since this is the third week of our program, the Saturday Long run dropped down to 10.5 miles. After the hilly 12.5 miles the previous week, it was a welcome distance.

Last week, my Garmin showed that I climbed the equivalent of 77 flights of stairs on that run. And my legs certainly felt it!

This week we left our starting area behind Brueggers on Main Street in Melrose and headed north on Main Street. Somehow, we forgot to get a group photo!

This Saturday the temperature was around 33F with an occasional breeze and a constant, light drizzle. I think the precipitation kept our group small, probably 25 people?

The first mile out I ran a 10:57 pace in an effort to warm up and see what was going to hurt this time. And I did run a bit with Marty Hergert this week!

Over miles two and three the group settled into groups of runners by pace and I ended up running with Joe Winslow and Dan Slattery. We ran around 10:15 over those two miles and my left knee was bothering me.

This early in my Boston Marathon training, this had me a little worried. Knee pain has been a constant issue but I have learned a few tricks.

When I first started back to running, my PT would have me walk four minutes and then run one minute and slowly progress to running a 5K without walking over the course of about five weeks.

When I got to the point in this process where I was running more than walking, almost every time my knee would hurt. So the walking breaks were welcomed.

What I discovered by doing this progression was that often my knee pain would go away after I took the walk break. Even if I did more than the usual pre-run warm up my knee would still hurt. But walking almost always made it feel better.

So when we got to our first water stop at about 5K I took an extended walking break to the men’s room at the local McDonalds.

Sunday Long Run number 3, Boston Marathon training
Zelia Magliozzi photo

Don Cranley is the guy in the red jacket next to me in the above photo. We both have a Boston Marathon number through our club and both really needed to get this run in.

Don wasn’t really feeling it, so I told him I’d catch up and run with him after my pit stop.

Now, Don might not have been feeling it, but it took me almost four miles to catch up to him at the bottom of Lake Q. I ran all of four of those miles well under a 1o-minute pace. So he was cruising along.

Finishing the Saturday Long Run

As I ran down North Ave in Wakefield I could see Don’s red jacket way down the road. And I could see him taking walking breaks. When I caught up to him he asked me which direction to go in, so I think he had been checking the map on his phone.

This is the second week that someone has asked me for directions, which is generally not a good thing to do. Fortunately, I know these courses very well and they are some of our easiest.

But if you add in a few rotaries and intersections with five roads and poor signage, I could get you lost!

As we ran down Main Street in Wakefield almost every driver let us cross the street and were just great in general. I think both of us really appreciated that.

When we got back to the water stop Bobby Taylor was there manning the stop and the only person there. Then Zelia showed up and started snapping pics. Just like she did last week.

We were about seven and a half miles into the run at this point. I didn’t feel great but my back and left knee were manageable. And while my cardio wasn’t in marathon condition, my breathing was comfortable.

After a minute or so, Don and I headed out for the last 5K of the run.

Don was kind of struggling and he told me later that I helped push him along. He was only going to do the half distance.

Soon after we left the water stop we hit a small hill and both of us felt it, but we kept on going and talking.

It’s always a good sign when you can talk and run!

At around mile nine Don said he had to walk and that I should go on. We’ve all been there and it’s no slight to run on ahead of someone during a training run. Especially when you are almost done.

I ran in the last approximately 1.7 miles by myself around a 10 to 10:30 pace. It felt comfortable and my pain was manageable.

My total distance was 10.81 miles at an average of 10:02 which was the pace I wanted on this run. Now I want to try and run this pace at the longer distance next week.

I had to do some club business in town after the run, so I didn’t hang out for coffee afterwards. Maybe next week.

I hope your training is going well,


BAA Athletes Village

I just signed up for the BAA Athletes Village

BAA, Boston Athletic AssociationThe Boston Athletic Association has officially announced the 2021 Boston Marathon.

The In-Person race will be held on October 11th and the Virtual Boston Marathon will be held October 8-10.

The in-person race will be limited to 20,000 runners. Even with COVID-19 those numbers will go faster than Meb!

If you have any interest in registering for one of those 20,000 highly coveted bibs, you need to sign up on the BAA Athletes’ Village.

Athletes Village Brings it all Together

If you have run a BAA race or volunteered at a BAA event, you should have an email from the Boston Athletic Association in you inbox.

Registering is quick and easy. If you do not have your volunteer number you can look it up on their site.

Once you are registered you can easily register for any BAA event either as a runner or volunteer. Your volunteer history and number will be on the page.

Even better than all of that, all of your official BAA race results are listed with all of the details!

I keep track of all of my races, but I started running 18 years ago and a lot has been lost to the fog of the long run!

If you have run as many BAA events as I have, this page will be quite interesting to you. I found it fascinating.

I’ve Run Boston 10 Times!

It may be hard to believe, but I didn’t really know how many Boston Marathons I’ve run. You know.



I thought it was 9.

I ran My First Boston Marathon in 2003 and finished in 5:11:07! I was so slow that my finish place was 16384 / 0 !

I know that I wasn’t the last person that day, but that number implies that I was.

I have pictures to prove that I wasn’t last!

That day in 2003 is a real testament to the Boston Marathon crowd.

All I remember is “running” down Commonwealth Avenue and making those sacred turns onto Hereford and Boylston Streets. I felt like I was in the middle of the race and everyone was there for me!

Hereford felt like a mountain and I really thought everyone had waited for me! Endorphins can be better than, well…

My Boston Marathon PR

In 2014 I ran my 6th Boston Marathon and achieved my Boston PR of 4:04:15.

I finished 18964th out of 31925 runners. In 2014 officially there were 12,961 runners still behind me when I crossed the finish line.

That placed me firmly in the 60th percentile of all runners. With a field like Boston, I’m proud to say I finished behind 40% of Boston’s finest runners.

April Showers bring My Hypothermia

Boston Marathon 2018, marathon runningIn 2018 we had horizontal rain and the temperature was in the 30’s all day. The wind chill made it feel much cooler than that.

With the cold, rain and wind I still managed to finish in 4:46:20. On a normal Marathon Monday I wouldn’t feel too hot about that. But nothing felt hot that day.

I finished 21997th out 25831 finishers, which put me in the 15th percentile. That’s still better than 2003 when I finished in the bottom 5%, or worse!

That was the coldest I’ve ever been and it wasn’t even snowing!

Every year the Boston Marathon is a unique adventure.

Last year we ran it virtually and made up our own courses all over the world.

This year 20,000 lucky runners will get to run from Hopkinton to Boston. 70,000 other lucky runners will get to run the Virtual Boston Marathon on a course of their choosing.

If you want to get in, you have to register for the BAA Athletes Village.

Good luck and Run Well!


2019 Running Review

It’s time to review my 2019 running goals and take the lessons learned along the way. Have you had a 2019 running review to take some lessons?

It’s that time of year to look back on the past twelve months and look forward to the coming year.

I don’t like to make New Year’s Resolutions as they seem to be short lived by nature. I prefer to set out goals for the year. They are pretty much the same thing but goals tend to persist.

For 2019, my goal was to run 1,000 miles. My stretch goal was to run 3 miles per day or 1,095 miles.

I’ve never run 1,000 miles in a year and I didn’t do it this year either!

2019 Running Review

I did run 957.37 miles on 152 runs. This includes 250.2 racing miles which is an all time high by about 45 miles.

I ran 31 races in 2019 including The Boston Marathon and The Philadelphia Marathon, 9 half- marathons, 4 10Ks, 2 5 Milers and 11 5K or close to 5K races. I also ran a 1 miler and a 15K race.

Hangover Classic 10K 2019, Salisbury Beach, MAI 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

Melrose Running Club, BAA 10K 2018The 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.

Philadelphia Marathon new the finish, Andy NagelinIn 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.

The race organization left a few things to desire, but you can read about that in my Philadelphia Marathon Review.

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.

Lessons learned

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.

Run well my Friends,