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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


Road to Boston 2023 1st Taper Run

In the last few weeks before the Boston Marathon, Taper Time begins!

Now that the longest runs are over, this week we ran the 1st Road to Boston 2023 taper run.

Twenty-two miles for week thirteen was a challenging run. Even though I was not happy with my 10:43 pace, it was faster than the previous three long runs including my solo twenty-miler on March 3rd which I ran at 11:10.

Now that it is taper time, I have run out of time to increase my fitness. Nothing I do now will significantly contribute to my speed or endurance. Taper time is all about maintenance and dialing in your gear and nutrition.

This taper run was the week 14 SLR, a 14.8 mile run that is one of my favorites.

Some of these course maps have been pretty big, so this week I decided to use two maps to provide a bit more detail. For those of you not familiar with the area, this should make it easier for you to follow my narrative also.

Road to Boston SLR 14, Boston Marathon 2023 training, taper time running

We started from our usual spot in Melrose where the green arrow is.

From there we ran across Main Street, up East Foster Street and took a right after the Melrose Commons. A lot of people took off, but for me the 104 feet of elevation going up East Foster held me back. There was no need to push up a hill on a taper run.

From the turn through mile two we were running mostly downhill and my knee began to shake out and feel normal. I began to catch up with the gang but didn’t really catch them until our first water stop at the Citizens Bank on Main Street in Melrose.

One of the people I caught up to was Renee who is also running The Boston Marathon. We took off together and headed towards the Oak Grove T station and then up Greenwood Street towards The Fellsway East.

As soon as we turned right onto The Fellsway, the climb began. Mile five had 131 feet of ascent and slowed us to a 11:47 pace. I think I kept talking the entire time!

Mile six was mostly down hill and mile seven had some rolling hills that dropped us at the next water stop across from Melrose High.

Road to Boston 2023 SLR 14, Boston Marathon Training

From the high school we headed east on The Fellsway towards Main Street in Saugus.

We didn’t have to deal with traffic as we were turning left onto Main Street and headed for Wakefield High School for our next water stop.

While the hills up Main Street are gentle and rolling, they go on for over a mile and a half! The road is so long it turns into Farm Street in Wakefield. You are ready for a water stop by the time you hit the High School.

I hit mile eleven at the High School and was thrilled that I had less than four miles to go! I didn’t stay long as I was trying to keep training as close to the race as possible.

So I headed across Main Street to Nahant and ran those rolling hills to Main Street in Wakefield and took a left on the way home.

Finishing the Road to Boston 2023 1st Taper Run

Right after the turn onto Main Street the first hill begins and goes on for about a mile. It’s not the worse hill I’ve ever run, but this bit of road is always on the way home.

My legs were tired but felt much better than they did on similar distance runs when we began the 2023 Sunday Long Runs.

My knee held up quite well and only bothered me the first mile or so. This seems to be my new pattern. My back continues to bother me.

One thing that was new on this run and that I have not experienced much of lately was hip pain.

I say pain but it was more like discomfort. It was level one or two pain but it was pain.

Anytime you start to notice a body part during a long run, it’s usually a bad sign.

But I knew exactly what I needed to do. Many years ago I had severe hip flexor pain late in my marathons. Like hammers in my hip sockets.

But someone showed me a few yoga hip stretches and they really helped. Now other parts of my body act up before the hips. I’ll take it!

I resolved to do more hip stretches over the next two weeks. Do my hamstring and back rolling and try to take it easy.

I ran the last few miles by my self back to the parking lot and my car.

It definitely felt like a run. But it definitely felt like I was ready for Boston!

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 2023 – SLR 13

The training is getting real with our longest run of the season, a 22 mile run through Malden, Saugus, Wakefield and Melrose.

Week 13 of The Road to Boston 2023 was our 22 mile SLR 13 run. This is our longest run of the program and one that we both look forward to and loathe.

Usually we literally run the Road to Boston from Hopkinton to Boston College for the SLR 13. There’s no better test run than on the actual course.

But since COVID, the BAA has told or asked clubs and other organizations not to have large group runs on the course. Three weeks before the marathon it can be like a mini marathon out there.

The towns along the way provide police officers to manage traffic, and occasionally medical assistance. It’s become too much of a strain on their resources.

Many people still train on the course and I’m sure that some organizations still have their group long run on the weekend three weeks before the marathon. But I think a lot of the energy and excitement has dissipated as the crowds have decreased. It was fun while it lasted.

The course that Bobby Taylor put together for us was great. We ran down Main Street in Melrose to Malden Center and picked up the Northern Strand Community Trail just after mile 2.

While we crossed a lot of streets, people were very good about stopping for us and the trail is very flat.

Road to Boston SLR 13 March 26 2013, marathon training, long run training

At mile 8 we reached Lincoln Ave in Saugus. If we had crossed the street, we would have been in Lynn.

We had a water stop here and the half distance runners went their way and I went mine.

At this point in the run the few long distance runners were either way ahead of me or just behind me.

I’ve run every foot of this course at one time or another and it was nice to not worry about getting lost. Twenty-two miles is long enough without taking a long detour!

The run up Hamilton Street in Saugus gave us 72 feet of elevation and my pace was 10:39. Not too bad considering it’s pretty much in the middle of a 22-miler. My heart rate reached 157 which was the highest so far.

Mile 10 started in front of Saugus Town Hall and just before the rotary in Saugus Center. I think most people in Saugus had never seen a pedestrian at this rotary and fewer yet had seen a runner. It was just short of a cluster F.

It was funny running out Main Street in Saugus. I used to drive that street often when I lived in Saugus, but I never ran that street.

I think in all my years with the club we’ve only run this part of Saugus several times at most.

Chugging along it was fun to get a close up look at homes and buildings I’ve seen for years at a distance. It was also interesting to see which businesses had closed and to see some new ones in their place.

As I approached the Route 1 over pass I remembered the lines of cars backed up to get onto Rt 1 and how sometimes people didn’t seem to be very considerate.

Approaching the on ramp, a black BMW was coming over the bridge. They didn’t have a blinker on so I couldn’t be sure what they were doing. They noticed me, slowed down and put on their blinker. Then waited patiently as I hobbled across the road. Humanity was redeemed!

As I passed the shopping plaza my watch chimed mile 10 at 10:39.

Road to Boston 2023 SLR 13 Heading Home

Psychologically, 10 miles is kind of the half way point in a twenty-two mile run. We had run as far East as we were going to and were generally headed in the direction home.

Heacha Donnelly was running the mile 10 water stop and it was great to see her. I didn’t stay long as I didn’t want to tighten up or get cold.

Road to Boston 2023 SLR 13, 20 mile long run, MRC Group photo

My next challenge was crossing the Lynn Fells Parkway intersection with Main Street. There’s always a ton of traffic here and just like getting onto Rt. 1, people have places to go and things to do.

I timed it right and was able to cross without pissing anyone off and I didn’t have to use the cross light. People probably don’t appreciate that, but if I had pressed the button they would have waited an extra minute to get to Dunkies.

Now that I was across The Fellsway, I had the long uphill slog to Wakefield High School. Shortly after making the crossing mile twelve began.

This is a great road for running as the pavement is still intact and there are wide breakdown lanes on both sides. It’s not unusual to see other runners and cyclists on this stretch of road.

But it is a long slow hill with 79 feet of elevation gain. The most for any mile on this run. It’s also a wide open area that can be windy and cold.

At about 12.75 miles I reached Wakefield High and another water stop. I didn’t stay long as I didn’t need much and at this point in the run I really needed to be careful about taking a chill and my muscles tightening up.

Now we truly were on the way back home with less than 10 miles to run.

Road to Boston 2023 SLR 13 Round The Lake

While we, or I, was on the back end of a twenty-two miler I still had to run through Wakefield Center and around Lake Quannapowitt.

After I left Wakefield High I took a left onto Rt. 129 and ran the rolling hills to Wakefield Center for 67 feet of elevation gain and a mile pace of 11:21. My slowest pace so far.

But to be fair, I did use a porta-potty on a construction site. I stopped my watch, but I had to slow down to make the stop and then had to get back up to speed. Probably adding 20-30 seconds to that mile. It was worth it!

At the end of mile 14 I was running down Main Street in Wakefield navigating traffic and pedestrians. In general, everyone was great.

Shortly after mile 15 began, I was on the eastern side of Lake Quannapowitt and getting blasted by a cold 20mph “breeze” off of the lake.

I only had a nylon running t-shirt and an Under Armor tanker on. Remarkably, I wasn’t cold. My body heat was enough to counter the cold lake wind.

Even my exposed arms and legs were okay. If I had stopped for a minute it would have been all over!

I made my way around the north end of the lake to the parking lot where Bobby Taylor was manning what turned out to be my last water stop.

The parking lot wasn’t windy and actually felt comfortable. As I talked to Bobby I bent over and stretched my hamstrings and glutes. At just short of mile 16, things were beginning to tighten up. The cold along the lake probably didn’t help.

As we spoke I mentioned how I always get hungry late in a marathon. My stomach actually growls and aches a bit. Those gels and Gatorade just don’t stick to your ribs.

Bobby mentioned that he had some muffins and asked if I wanted one. Turns out that they were from the Gingerbread Construction Company – some of the best muffins you will ever have.

He broke off a piece of a chocolate chip muffin and handed it to me. It totally hit the spot! I knew right then that I had found what I wanted to eat at the MRC Mile 21 stop.

While a twenty-two mile run is a win on the road to Boston 2023, finding something to eat that would meet all of my needs was probably the biggest win.

I left with a happy belly and started mile seventeen.

The west side of the lake was much more comfortable even with the long slow incline. I finished mile eighteen just after the Main St./Rt. 129 intersection in Wakefield and started the last long slog back to my car. Mile pace was 10:59.

After I crossed Nahant Street in Wakefield, again without using a walk light, I came to the next Dunkin Donuts. I wasn’t paying attention to traffic until I heard the crunch of coliding plastic.

I looked up to see that two drivers could not decide who was going first into the Dunkin Donuts parking lot. It wasn’t a bad accident but I’m sure both cars had hundreds of dollars in damage. Is a cup of coffee that important I thought to my self.

While they had the entrance blocked, I easily made my way past the coffee shop and started up my next hill.

The thought of walking crossed my mind. I mean, really? WTF?

I had already stopped more than I would plan to do during the marathon. Even at the MRC tent I only hang out for a minute or two.

But, I was exhausted. 18 miles is the third longest distance I’d run for this series and I had four more miles to go.

I told my self that this was a training run, I’d already spent more time standing around than I would during the race, so you have to keep running.

This is what training is all about. How much can you push your self and endure? If you can’t hack the training, what the hell is going to happen during the race?

I had missed Bobby at Nick’s Pizza for the last water stop. And I really needed the refueling. Usually missing a water stop is a bit of a let down, especially late in the run. Sometimes you hang your resolve on a bit to eat and a spot to drink.

But I was loaded for bear and had something in my water bottles and a piece of Snickers bar in my belt. Hoo-a! Damn the torpedoes, I was doing this!

Mile 19 was tough at 11:32 pace and only 50 feet of incline. But I managed to eat some candy bar between desperate breathes and avoided inhaling a peanut!

Bobby drove by somewhere during mile 20 and asked if I needed anything. I said I was okay. My legs felt like they were going to explode, but hey, I was okay.

Mile twenty came in at 11:03 and mile twenty-one came in at 11:01. So I was getting my mojo back.

As I approached the finish area I realized that I wasn’t going to get twenty-two miles if I stopped at my car.

So I had to loop around the block and parking lot. For good measure I made it 20.02 miles and mile twenty-two came in at 11:59. Yikes! But there were lots of turns that my tired legs found challenging.

My longest run since the 2019 Boston Marathon was now complete.

My total time was 3:56 at a pace of 10:43. Not great.

This could easily translate into a five-hour marathon. This is not my goal.

I still had two more taper time long runs and at least four more shorter runs.

There is no way that this time could stand.

Run well my Friends


Road to Boston 2023 – Mixing it Up

Much like life, marathon training doesn’t always go as planned.
Sometimes you just have to do the best you can.

Sunday Long Run 12 was supposed to be a 17.8 mile run around Swains Pond and through Breakheart Reservation. I had to catch a flight Sunday afternoon so I ended up mixing it up with two short runs on the Road to Boston for 2023.

My knee was acting up this week so I skipped the Tuesday night club run. Thursday night I went out for my usual run with hopes of making up for the missed miles. But very early in the run my knee started to hurt and I had to return home with only 1.1 miles at a dismal pace.

But, you gotta do what you gotta do. No one else is going to run those miles for you.

I really hated to run just over a mile after the previous two weekends of great running. But to make it to the starting line, you have to know when to push just a bit more and when it’s just not your day, or night.

Road to Boston 2023 – Mixing it up Saturday

This week I had to catch a flight to Orlando for work. A 17.8 mile run can take three to four hours, so I decided to split my run over two days. Running full on Sunday may have worked, but if my run went poorly or took more time than planned the situation would have been stressful.

After my ill-fated Thursday night run I was a little apprehensive about doing a 17+ mile run on Saturday. It took me most of the morning and lots of coffee to build up a head of steam and lace up my shoes.

It was a bit chilly as one would expect in the GBA in March. I made sure I was layered appropriately should this actually turn into a real run.

I did a little stretching, tucked my key into my pocket and headed out.

So I went out for what could have been a 13 or even 17.8 mile run with nothing but a car key in my pocket. No water, no food and no cash.

With all of the distractions, the run was the last thing on my mind. It was just one of many tasks I needed to complete.

Running the Saturday Long Run?

To start my run I wound around the local cul-du-sacs to warm up and see if my leg was going to fall off. But after about 3/4 of a mile I had to leave the hood or keep running in circles.

I managed to cross Spring Street without getting hit and headed down Magoun Ave. Just after mile one I had to stop and stretch my leg. Here we go, I thought.

I grabbed ahold of a sign post and stretched my left leg with the mondo brace on it. The brace is pretty bulky which makes it hard to do a good quad/knee stretch. But I managed.

Shock Doctor Knee Brace, Level 3

And after the stretch I could feel the difference. I didn’t break into a sprint, but I felt pretty confident that I would be able to run just about as much as I wanted to.

The only problem was that I had no water and no food. I had hydrated before I left the house but that would only take me so far.

Generally, for any run over 10K I take something with me. And if I had actually planned to run 10 to 17 miles I would have brought something with me. But I didn’t plan.

Road to Boston 2023, SLR 12, Saturday Long Run, Medford Run

I used all of the usual side streets in an effort to build up some miles. My legs felt pretty good and my energy level was pretty good also.

But I knew that without supplies, it made little sense to run out three or four more miles and come back. I’d get dehydrated and possibly injured.

I felt like I had missed an opportunity to get in the real SLR run of 17.8 miles and be done with it.

My Saturday Long Run wasn’t so long at only 5.24 miles. But I was able to over come the pain in my knee with some brief stretching, and that’s a lesson I can take to Boston.

Road to Boston 2023 – Mixing it Up Sunday

Sunday morning I got up, did my morning yoga and stretching and started a busy day.

Before I could go for a run, I had to make sure I had everything packed for my trip. It was only a three day trip and I was just taking a carry on, so I had to pack carefully.

By the time I finished packing and got changed up it was after 9:30am. Time to get moving.

I did the same loops in the neighborhood as I did on Saturday and covered many of the same streets. I think my neighbors from a few blocks over are beginning to recognize me!

Even with all the turns in my neighborhood, the first mile was 9:45. A bit faster than I needed, but the rest of my miles were all between 10:11 and 10:40. All good for a training run.

At this stage in the game it’s all about time on my feet and building up my cardio. There are no junk miles.

So I looped-e-loo around the neighborhood and ran 7.37 miles at a 10:22 pace.

I was happy with that. If I didn’t have a plane to catch I could have run 12 miles and hit my weekend goal. On this run everything clicked: my knee didn’t bother me and I had plenty of energy.

Instead of 17.8 hilly miles, I ran 12.61 mostly flat miles over two days.

I’m happy that I was able to do that many miles in spite of all of my distractions. It can be challenging to get in all of the long runs while training for a marathon.

It’s easy to get distracted, bored or complacent. It’s easy to say that this run doesn’t matter, won’t make a difference on race day.

The truth is that most of us will get to a point in the race where we wish we had done more. More of anything. More running, more strength training, more stretching, more sleeping, had more sense.

The vicious conversation that goes on in a runners head when the shit hits the fan would make a sailor blush. Even Tony Robbins would be flummoxed spinning the vortex of shit going on in your head into a happy landing.

It makes me laugh to think about it now. But so many times I’ve wondered why? WTF am I doing running another marathon? How f-ing stupid can I be?

I’ve trained for marathons many times and each time I miss a run or two. Life gets in the way and sometimes an injury screws up the schedule.

Week 12 could not be a pass weekend. I didn’t get all of the miles in but I learned a valuable lesson. One that I was not sure was true. And this is, when my knee hurts, a little walking or stretching can fix it.

Run well my Friends


Road to Boston FLR 10

When training for a marathon, sometimes you have to do some crazy stuff. Like run 20 miles by your self!

This week was week 10 and the plan called for a 20 mile long run. Yup. Pretty serious stuff. Particularly in light of the challenges I’ve been facing. But since I was going away on vacation, I had to turn my Sunday Long Run into the Road to Boston FLR 10; a solo Friday 20-mile Long Run.

For some reason I thought we were leaving for vacation Friday afternoon. But we had booked our flight for Saturday. Either way, I was not going to get in a 20-miler over the weekend. So I spent three hours and forty-three minutes running 20 miles by my self on Friday. I had the day off.

Sunday Long Run 10, Friday Long Run, Boston Marathon Training

Running 20 miles is a challenge under any circumstances. Running twenty miles by yourself is a test of will power and endurance. I’ve run long distances like this by myself before, but not with an injury and a mondo knee brace.

I managed to loose track of time and didn’t head out until almost 11:00. There was plenty of time since I had the day off, but I had started the day planning to start my run around 9 or so.

Starting the Road to Boston FLR 10

When I headed out I wasn’t sure how the knee was going to hold up. I had my new brace on, but I wasn’t certain how that would go. Even with it, my knee has tweaked a few times on shorter runs.

My running belt was bulging with supplies for a long run and two 9-oz bottles of sports drink. I was loaded for bear and would have felt pretty foolish running back down my street after 10 minutes.

I did my warm up jogging the streets in my neighborhood, checking to make sure all systems were a go. And they were.

I headed down Spring Street and managed to cross The Fellsway, Highland Ave and Commercial Street without using a walk light. Traffic was a bit lighter around Noon that it often is on a weekend day at the same time.

I picked up The Northern Strand Community Trail in Malden just after crossing the Malden River. My watch chimed mile 2 shortly thereafter.

From previous runs I knew that the end of the trail would be mile 10. The only way to get home would be to run those same miles all the way home.

I made my way through Malden center and once again managed to avoid using a walk light. Down the street from Malden High The Northern Strand turns back into a pedestrian path. Wide and well paved.

While the Trail crosses many streets, each crossing is well marked and has signs with flashing lights that are activated when you enter the area. And drivers stopped for me at each crossing. Really awesome.

All the way out to the turn around I had a great run. My knee and back didn’t really bother me beyond what you would expect from a run.

For fuel I had two Snicker’s bars and took my first chew around mile 3 and my second around mile 6. These are great for energy as they are packed with sugar and as the ads used to say, “packed with peanuts”.

I’ve been using these candy bars for fuel because I know they wont upset my stomach and they tend to stick with me. Gels are just syrup and there’s nothing there to fill up your belly.

When ever I run Boston, by the time I get to Wellesley I’m starving. And all the way through Wellesley I can smell all the grills cooking burgers and dogs. My poor stomach just growls!

The end of The Trail

The first few times I ran The Strand it was still gravel in Saugus and until the past few years, it ended at Central Street in Saugus.

Now The Strand goes all the way to Lynn where an old rail road bridge spans Bennett Street. I didn’t spend a lot of time checking it out, but if a bridge is growing weeds and shrubs, it may not be structurally sound.

There is a path through the weeds, but I’m training for Boston. I can’t take a chance and fall through a bridge into traffic. Or even worse, twist an ankle.

I turned around with a smile and knew I was committed to 20 miles now.

At this point in the run I was beginning to feel a little tired. But nothing hurt and I had fueled and hydrated properly. Everything went to plan and I was having a well executed run.

My miles were all between 10:37 and 11:27. Nothing crazy, but I was on a 20 mile run by myself. And the longest run I’ve been on in quite a while.

As the miles clicked off I kept getting closer to home and still felt pretty good.

The rest of my miles were pretty close to eleven minutes until my last mile.

As I made the last turns to home I realized that I was going to be short of 20 miles if I just went home. After all of this, there was no way I was going to miss the mark!

I ended up running the two side streets in my neighborhood and circled around the cul-du-sac at the end of my street to get to 20.02 miles. Between the fatigue and all of the turns, that last mile was twelve minutes even.

I spent the last 0.02 miles walking and finding the button on my watch to end my run.

Completing a twenty mile run on my own without incident was a real boost in confidence. Twenty isn’t 26.2, but I’m pretty sure I can finish this thing now.

Run well my Friends