Some Advice for First Time Boston Marathon Runners

Originally posted April 11th, 2013

While the BAA’s logistics have evolved since 2013, this advice for first time Boston Marathon runners still holds true.

I’m not a certified running coach, but I have run The Boston Marathon nine times as of 2019.

Each race has a special place in my heart and I have many memories. Your first Boston will be an experience you will cherish for the rest of your life.

You’ve trained hard for this race, you’ve maintained the commitment and determination for a long time to get here. You should be proud to have that bib number in your hands right now.

Here are a few tips from my pre-race routine and Boston Marathon experiences which may be helpful for you. Allow me to offer,

Some Advice for First Time Boston Marathon Runners

The BAA has changed some policies for 2014. The Marathon has always had security, but after 2013 the BAA had to make some changes. In addition to my experience-based advice I have included information on the changes you need to know about.

boston marathon policies, running advice



Some advice on Food and Beverage

By now you know what your body needs for food and what it will tolerate. Don’t change anything. Race day is not the day to try something new. Eat what you know works. Hopefully you have used your long runs to try out different gels, beverages and other items.

Note for 2014 – Check the BAA’s web site for your boarding time. You cannot get on the first available bus. You will be boarded according to your bib color which corresponds to your corral. See my post from April 1st – “2014 Boston Marathon Essentials” for additional details. It looks like you will only be hanging around in Hopkinton for an hour or so.

Update for 2022 – Usually you can board before your scheduled time. I have never been turned away. But you could be asked to wait.

If you do get on an earlier bus you may spend time in the cold in Hopkinton waiting for your wave to be called to the start.

Don’t Over hydrate. There will been all kinds of water, Gatorade and coffee in Hopkinton. You will be nervous and you may be bored. Keep this in mind before you drink too much.

I always stop drinking anything about an hour before the race. This gives my body time to process the fluids and helps me avoid making a pit stop. You may be surprised to see dozens of people in the woods in Ashland a few miles into the race. I guarantee that you will see them, male and female. When you get to your corral and it is 5 minutes to your start, take a few sips of what ever you like to drink.

Update for 2022 – Even following my own advice, I’ve still made a porta potty stop each of my past three Boston Marathons. So you may want to control your pre-race hydration even more.

The other side of hydration is the porta-potty line. The BAA will have hundreds of port-potties behind the high school in Hopkinton. Each one will have a line with hundreds of people in it. It could easily take you an hour to get through the line. People apply body glide, Band-Aids, etc. in the privacy of the blue box. Even guys can be in there for ever.

Note: As soon as you get out of the porta-potty, get back in line. It will take 30-60 minutes to get back to the front of the line. By then you will need to go again.

Also, have your stuff ready before you go into the porta potty. It’s cramped in there and usually a mess. Leave your bag outside, have your shorts untied and your Band-Aids or lube in hand. No one is going to judge you. Unless you take 10 minutes to do your business.

You may not feel like you have any business to take care of, but when the announcer tells your corral to move up and that you will be starting in a few minutes you will have business! Most of that feeling will be nerves. Make sure you have taken care of business so it will only be nerves.

There are a few porta-potties near the corrals but they will be busy and difficult to get to. The neighbors do not take kindly to you watering their bushes and will let you know their displeasure. Have you ever tried to take a leak with some lady yelling at you? The BAA and Authorities also frown on this type of behavior.

Drink smart and always be in line for the porta-potty. This is my golden rule. It will serve you well.

Some advice on Marathon Clothing

I used to put on my running socks and running shirt after I got to Hopkinton. I always wore a jacket to keep warm also.

Note for 2014: You cannot bring a bag with you to Hopkinton. Any clothes that you bring with you will have to be discarded or you will have to carry them with you to Boston.

Before the race, you will be cold. That is good. That is how it should be. After the first mile to Boston, you will be warmed up. To stay warm in Hopkinton, you can either wear a trash bag or bring an old shirt that you are okay peeling off and tossing to the side of the road. Discarded clothes will be collected and donated to local youth groups.

Since you cannot bring a bag of any kind to Hopkinton, make sure your running belt can hold everything that you need. If you are bringing a trash bag to keep warm or dry, it needs to be ready to wear. They may even make you put it on. I would recommend a clear bag so nothing is concealed.

Update for 2022 – Starting in 2014, The BAA has issued a small clear bag that you can bring with you to Hopkinton. It is big enough for small items like sunscreen and food items. It’s not big enough for clothing and it does not get transported back to Boston for you.

It is the only bag they allow on the bus.

And you should know this by now, don’t wear anything new on Marathon Monday. I wouldn’t even change my sunscreen.

Some advice for Running The Boston Marathon

The race will start fast. It is mostly down hill for the first few miles and you will get caught up in the excitement. The crowd is amazing and your adrenaline will surge. Try to hold back. Don’t be surprised, there are some hills in the first few miles, it’s not straight down hill.

The roads will be lined with people many layers deep in places. You will see all kinds of people with their hands out for you to slap as you go by. I love this and always indulge. You will feel like a rock star! But don’t let this make you run faster than you should. You’ve still got 26 miles to run!

You will never be alone during this race but after the first six miles you will have more room. Often runners have a conversation for a few miles. And usually with another runner! Though late in the race you may be having a stern talk with yourself.

If it is sunny and hot, seek the shaded side of the street. It will make a big difference, it did in 2012.

There are hills everywhere. When you go over Rt. 95 there is a hill on the other side. There are hills in Wellesley. The map can be deceiving, but be sure to look at it.

boston marathon,1 mileThere are crowds almost the entire way. You will hear the girls at Wellesley College before you see them. They are like a shot of adrenaline! At Cleveland Circle you will start to come into the city after having just passed the BC campus. The crowd gets bigger, louder and drunker. They can be a lot of fun.

You’ve trained hard and endured much. You know what your target finish time and pace are. You have a plan, now run it. Don’t run anyone else’s race. Run your race and have a great time.


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

© anagelin 2013-2022

What’s The Best Racing Strategy?

What’s The Best Racing Strategy?

Whether you want to beat your own records or win a race, you will have to establish a racing strategy in order to perform well. There are three main racing strategies in long-distance running, and each one can work.


  • Negative Split – The first half of your race is slower than the second half
  • Even Split – You run a consistent pace for the entire race
  • Positive Split – The first half of your race is faster then the second half

Regardless of the distance of the race, I see people go out too fast all the time. Weather it’s a 5K or a marathon.

At a 5K, people will bolt across the start line and then slow down or walk before they hit the first mile. I always say that anyone can run a fast mile. It’s mile two and three that count in a 5K.

At a marathon it’s easy for anyone to get carried away by their nerves and the crowd. Even if you are not fit to run a full marathon, you can feel great for the first few miles.

I’m a big fan of negative or even splits. If you go out too fast or push too hard during the first half of a half or full marathon you may be forced to run (or walk!) the second half of the race.

I’ve run positive split races but never intentionally. I’ve started races feeling in shape and prepared and gone out too fast. What may seem like a good pace can turn into a disaster for several reasons.

You may not have hydrated or fueled properly before a race. This can happen if you do not have a pre-race routine to manage this, or you did not have time to go through your routine.

If you did not look at the course map, there may be hills early in the race you do not know about.

Sometimes the conditions turn against you. If you didn’t dress properly or something unexpected happens during the race, you may have to run positive splits.

This Nation of Running article suggests that positive splits may be good for new runners. For positive splits you run faster than your goal pace, “bank” the time you get from running faster than your goal pace and then use it up in the second half of your race.

You just have to hope you have planned and trained well enough to have enough juice left for the second half of the race.

I’ve done this for several marathons but over the years have changed my mind. There is nothing worse than having to walk during the last five miles of a marathon. Between 15 and 20 miles is when the wheels come off the bus for most runners who flame out. It sucks.

With age and experience I’ve come to the conclusion that even or negative splits are the best running strategy.

Long distance running requires you to manage your energy. Maintaining control of my pace and fueling during the race have proven to work best for me.

Some of my best races have been half marathons where I ran negative splits. They may not have been my fastest races but I finished running hard and feeling great.

Talk about a runner’s high!

2019 Boston Marathon, Comm Ave onto Hereford Street

These running strategies apply mainly to marathons and half marathons. 10Ks require some energy management but 5Ks are best run flat out. If you don’t feel like you are about to die for most of a 5K, you’re not running hard enough.

I am certainly not a professional runner and I’ve only won one 5K in my life. A total shocker!

You can train and run races casually and have a good time. There’s nothing wrong with that.

But if you want to run your best you need to train and you need a running strategy for each distance that you run.

One of the true joys in my life is running a well run race.

What’s your running strategy?

2014 Boston Marathon Essentials

Essentials of the BAA Baggage Policy

boston marathon, baggage policy, runner
Heatsheet Cape at the finish line

At the Marathon Expo, the BAA will provide a clear 18”x18”x4” bag for gear check. This is the only bag that can be used to check gear on Marathon Monday. This bag must be checked on the Boston Common before boarding a bus for Hopkinton.

This year you have to pick up your number in person. NO ONE ELSE CAN PICK UP YOUR NUMBER FOR YOU. Also, you MUST have your ID with you to pick up your number. NO EXCEPTIONS.

At the finish line the BAA will give you a Heatsheet® Warmth Retention Cape for warmth. Often it is cool and breezy on Boylston Street after the race. You can get cold quickly and this hooded cape will keep you warmer than the space blanket they gave out in past years.

Between Hopkinton and Boylston Street

Continue reading “2014 Boston Marathon Essentials”

BAA announcement

The BAA held the first of three “Runners Clinics” Monday night in Boston.

boston marathon,security
Boston Marathon 2014

This was the first time I’ve attended a BAA clinic. Getting into and navigating Boston is too much of a hassle. With my knee injury I hoped to get some expert advice. In the back of my mind I’m still thinking bad things.

As I stepped onto Boylston Street the icy cold wind hit me in the face. I pulled the stylish hood on my parka over my head and closed it around my neck. My frozen hands fumbled for directions on my phone.

On a side street I found the hotel and went in. A set of stairs curved to the second floor lobby area outside of the meeting room. PowerBar, Gatorade, Poland Spring and Stoneyfield Yogurt had free stuff. Not samples, full sized bottles, bars and cups. If I had a bag I could have loaded up.

I went in and took my seat amongst about 100 other Boston Marathon runners. The room eventually held 150 or so runners. The theme of the evening was “Flexibility”.

The BAA’s big announcement

BAA Executive Director, Thomas Grilk made the introductory presentation. He said that while the BAA and The Marathon appreciates and will pay respect to the suffering from last year’s events, the 2014 Boston Marathon will be about the 2014 Boston Marathon. This will not be a memorial. Please don’t send Tom nasty grams if you disagree. I am not quoting him exactly here, but this is basically what he said.

The big announcement from him was that the BAA will NOT be transporting runner’s bags back to Boston. All bags will be collected on the Boston Common and will be retrieved on The Common. There was no reaction from the room. I was a little shocked and instantly started running scenarios and solving problems. No one said a word.

Running kit, running shoes
Packed fours times, probably one more will do!

I thought that the BAA would give us clear bags and maybe make them smaller. I think Hartford gave out clear bags this year. For a runner, the logistics of sitting in Hopkinton for hours without all of my pre-race stuff is challenging.

I’ll bring a throw away shirt and wear a trash bag, but I wont be wearing a nice running jacket. What if it rains and I want to change into my race shoes and socks at the last minute?


It turned out that 75% of the people in the room had never run Boston before and 25% had never run a marathon. Newbies, as they were referred to several times. I don’t think these people grasped what a logistical hassle the BAA had just handed them.

A marathon is a major logistical operation for organizers and runners. I often refer to marathons as the Normandy Invasion. It takes a lot of planning and flexibility and a lot can go “not according to plan”. You need that bag full of stuff in order to be prepared for the unexpected.

Am I the only one who thinks this is a major issue? How will you manage your race day logistics in Boston?

The Training Clinic

After Tom’s presentation they played a short video of the 2013 lead pack. I thought the audio had to many sounds that sounded like a blast or explosion. It was meant to be dramatic but each crescendo shot right through me.

I was anticipating the worse. I sat there with clenched jaw and a tear in my eye hoping they would end the video with the lead pack crossing the line when all was still well in our world. Mercifully, they did.

They discussed being flexible with your schedule. It’s inevitable that you are going to get sick, possibly sustain an injury. Then there is life in general that always gets in the way of a great training plan. They basically said roll with it. It happens to everyone, it’s no big deal.

In the case of illness or injury they said you may have to adjust your goal. That spoke directly to my situation. I’m just hoping to get to the starting line and somehow make it to Boylston Street. A Boston PR is not likely at this point.

Then they discussed physical flexibility and demonstrated simple stretches that will hit most runners problem spots. I found this information to be very helpful.

I’m still coming to terms with the BAA announcement. They must have been shocked that there was no uproar from the crowd. I think we were either stunned or did not realize how this was going to impact us on race day.

What do you think of their announcement?

Run well my friends!