5 Ways to Cut 5 Minutes off Your Marathon

Even the best runner in the world can loose time by making simple mistakes. You don’t have to!

Updated November 20th, 2022

Are there really 5 ways to cut 5 minutes off your marathon?

There are many ways to cut 5 minutes off your marathon time.

All runners focus on training to get faster and stronger.

But genetics and age put a limit on our peak performance. And most of us don’t have the time to reach our peak fitness level.

Even if you are at peak fitness and an old pro at this, these tips can still help you.

The easiest way to improve your finish time is to avoid adding time by making these mistakes.

Use the Porta Potty

Something about race morning seems to get the innards all worked up and ready to explode.

Most races have plenty of porta potties but you need to use them.

No matter how many porta potties a race has, the hour before a race the porta potties will be more crowded than the registration tent!

During a race, stopping to use the facilities can easily add a minute to your time. If you can’t wait and there is a line, you could loose much more time than that.

Shalane Flanagan may have the course record for using a porta potty during the 2018 Boston Marathon, at 14 seconds. But watch this video and see how that stop effected her run.

Des Linden won that year.

Des Linden 2018 Boston Marathon Winner
BAA Photo

During every Boston Marathon that I’ve run, I’ve seen lines at most of the on-course porta potties also.

Usually the first water/porta potty stop is at mile two or even mile five. For Boston it’s at mile two, and I’ve seen men and women “in the woods” side by side well before that first stop.

If you can avoid the first water stop you may find a porta potty without a line. But when you really gotta go, you may have to wait in line.

Tip #1 – use the facilities before you cross the start line.

Stop eating and drinking 1 hour before you start

Most people have nerves before a race and will eat or drink as a way to deal with their anxiety. Many of us do this unconsciously.

If you use the porta potty and then keep drinking, your system will not have time to process that fluid, or food, before the race starts.

Then you will have to make that porta potty stop.

Sometimes eating too much before a race can upset your stomach. Often there are samples of power bars and sport drinks available before a race.

Boston Marathon 2019, Hopkinton, MA
BAA Photo

While these items may be tempting, you should avoid eating anything new or over eating on race morning.

Even if you give your system an hour to digest everything, something new could upset your stomach. This could force you to make a pit stop or even drop out of the race.

Tip #2 – stop eating and drinking 1 hour before your race starts.

Double tie your shoes

double tied laces, 5 ways to cut 5 minutes off your marathon, Newtons

I see people running with loose laces all the time.

If you double tie your laces you can avoid this problem.

Un-tied laces may cause you to trip and fall and at some point you will have to stop and tie them.

Just like a porta potty stop, you have to fight the crowd and move to the side of the road and get out of the way. Then you need to bend over and tie your laces and possibly undue some nasty knot that tied it self as you ran.

Double tieing your laces can cut 5 minutes off your marathon time by avoiding the stop.

If you have to stop later in the race, your muscles may tighten up when you stop and bend to tie your laces.

All of this can be avoided by double tieing your laces, even if the second knot is fairly lose.

Tip #3 – Tie your shoes properly!

Carry a Water Bottle

Some people always carry a water bottle and some people never carry a water bottle.

For a Marathon or a Half, you will want to take a water bottle of some kind.

Even if you just use a Poland Spring 500ml bottle, you will save yourself a ton of time.

Here’s why.

Everyone who has planned poorly will be at the first few water stops and probably in line for the porta potty!

5 ways to cut 5 minutes off your marathon finish time, run with sports drinkAt most big marathons, including Boston, those water stops will be a crowded mess.

To get to one of these water stops you will have to make your way through a crowd of runners to the side of the road.

Then try to grab a cup, drink it and get back up to speed all without tripping over someone else.

Even if you don’t fall over someone or drown yourself with a cup of water, you will have to slow down and break your stride.

If you can skip the first five or more water stops, the rest of them are usually pretty easy to get to.

I like to run through the stop, grab a cup, pinch it and chug the cup in one or two gulps.

Tip #4 – carry a water bottle and avoid the crowds!

Bring some Food

I know that some people like to run as light as possible while some people look like they are packed for expedition.

I would suggest something in the middle.

Hopefully by now you know what your stomach will tolerate. There are many brands of gel to choose from and you should have tested a few while you were training.

fig newtons, glycemic index, glucose, marathon foodI’ve run a few races with Snickers bars or fig bars. Both are loaded with sugar and I’ve been eating them as long as I can remember.

I know these foods wont upset my stomach.

Even the elite runners take on fuel while they run. It may be sports drink in their water bottle, a gel or both.

They know what they need and during your training you should have figured out what you need and what you body will tolerate.

If your stomach can only tolerate certain sports drinks you really need to bring your own. Even the elites cannot finish a marathon without some hydration. And you know the mix in their bottle is what they have trained on.

It is similar with food or gels. Some people hate gels so they need something like fig bars.

Some races hand out gels late in the race. But you should not wait to fuel during a marathon. Over the years, I’ve learned to start fueling at 5K.

Your timing may be different, but you will need to replenish your energy stores during a marathon or half.

Tip #5 – bring food that you have run with before

It’s all about control

There are things you can control and things you cannot.

You can’t control the weather and often you can’t control your sleep or how your body will react to the last proper meal you eat before the big race.

My post, My 2018 Boston Marathon Experience, is an example of how I prepared to run in horrible conditions. If you’ve never run Boston before, this blog post will also give you a few insights about the course.

Boston Marathon 2018, 5 ways to cut 5 minutes off your marathon
BAA Photo

All of the tips I have provided here are things that you can control. Any one of them could save you five minutes. Together they could save you much more time than that.

You’ve put in the miles and the time to get here. You are as ready as you can be.

I hope that these tips that I have learned from running 18 marathons and 9 Boston Marathons will help you have the best marathon of your life.

Looking for a fall marathon? Check out New England Marathons Fall 2023 for some ideas.

Run well my Friends!


This Is How I Roll

Every runner has habits and preferences. We find our what works for us and keep it or continue to experiment. Here are a few of mine.

This Is How I Roll is an idea from Meditations in Motion who borrowed it from Donna at RunningToTravel and Tracy at The Writing Runner. They got the idea from the back page of Runners’ World magazines. Every month, Runners’ World interviews a runner and asks them to sum up their running preferences.

This is how I Roll

  1. Wave Nod
  2. Heart Rate Feel
  3. Lead Follow
  4. PR Finish – Most PRs are behind me
  5. Stride Glide
  6. Athleisure Sweats – not into either, but given the choice
  7. Gel Chews
  8. Hat Gloves – Easy ways to adjust if you get hot.
  9. Morning Night – Not a morning person. It’s coffee time!!
  10. Swift Strong – I enjoy hills more than most people
  11. Struggle Slay – You have to embrace the struggle
  12. Hot Cold – I have run some of my best races in the heat
  13. Low Socks Tall Socks
  14. Shoe Store Online
  15. Uphill Downhill – my competitive advantage
  16. 5k Half Marathon
  17. GPS Naked – I wear my Garmin 610 24×7
  18. Stop Go – not sure what this means. I just keep running
  19. Start Finish – The finish always feels better
  20. Heel Toe
  21. Calves Quads – people actually comment on my calves. Embarrassing!
  22. Headphones Inner Voices – I like to hear what’s going on around me
  23. Bagel Banana – a plain bagel before a marathon seems to work
  24. Treadmill Frostbite – Will run outside as low as -20
  25. Medal T-shirt – I really have enough of both
  26. Warm Up Cool Down
  27. Distance Time – Need to get my miles in
  28. 400s Hills – Not that I love them but…1. I wave to most people I see while running. With this lock down it’s the most socializing I get in all day!

2. My watch has a chest strap to monitor heart rate but it broke and I never replaced it. Now I run based on feel.

Some days I feel great and full of energy and can really push it. Other days it’s all I can do to get in 5K.

3. When I’m following someone I feel more in control. On a training run the person in front of me can only run so fast before they are running by them selves.

Andy Nagelin and Bobby Taylor Main Street in WakefieldDuring a race when everyone is running as fast as they can, running behind someone allows me to control the pace.

If I push up a hill, they have to run faster or I’ll pass them. If I want to back off, I’m still behind them. During a race I often set my sights on someone, catch up and follow them and then pass when I can.

4 and 5 – I think my PR days are behind me. And while some people say I have an efficient stride, I feel like a bag of bricks.

8. My ears ache in the cold and my hands freeze in the winter when I start a run. If it stays cold I leave them on. If I warm up, hats and gloves are easy to take off.

9. Like just about everyone, I’ve done plenty of running in the morning. The Honolulu Marathon begins at 5:00 AM!

But, outside of a race, I prefer to run in the afternoon or evening. I’m just not that motivated in the morning!

10. I’m not a particularly strong runner, but I don’t give up and I always go 110% in for a race.

11. Running is about embracing the struggle. If you’re not willing to be uncomfortable or in pain you’ll never reach your potential.

12. I hate to bundle up and run in the cold, but I will do it. I’ve run some of my best race times when it’s 80° F out. As long as I have plenty to drink, I’m okay. I also know to run in the shade and pay attention to my body.

Heat stroke can be very serious.

14. You may pay a bit more at a shoe store but you know the shoes will fit. People who work at shoe stores are also fonts of knowledge and some of the nicest people you will ever meet. They are runners after all!

15. I’m a bit of a hill runner. I’m not great but I’m probably above average.

When I run a race with out any hills, I feel like I’m at a disadvantage.

16. I think most runners prefer the half marathon. 5Ks are fun but they’re over before you get started. 10Ks are great and you feel like you’ve run a race by the time you cross the finish line.

The half marathon is a challenge but it’s not the major under-taking that is a marathon. I can run several halfs per month, but I can only run two to three marathons a year.

17. GPS Watch – if you didn’t track the run, did it really happen? Does it count? I use my watch to track my pace. During a race keeping track of my pace is essential to my race strategy.

21. I’ve received more comments on my calves than even my formerly red Scott Procopio Gold Star Honor Run 10K 2018, Andy Nagelinhair. Sometimes people will see my legs at a race and say something. And sometimes it’s a little embarrassing.

I’ve had conversations with colleagues about my legs. And I’m no body builder. It’s kind of odd.

I guess it’s nice to have some redeeming physical attribute!

24. When I’m training for a marathon I’ll do what I have to to get in my miles. I’ve run a half marathon training run on a treadmill before, but I didn’t enjoy it.

I prefer to take my chances with the elements. I’ve run in – 20° weather before and will run in shorts down to about 32°.

There’s nothing like the great outdoors.

25. Medals and t-shirts. I wish more races would eliminate both. I have running medals, marathon medalsenough of both items and often medals are more like trinkets just to say you got something. I say save the money for fundraising .

26. I’m not really good at warming up or cooling down. I do minimal stretching before a race and will do a warm up jog before a 5K sometimes.

I hardly ever stretch much after a race and I need to fix that!

I could write a paragraph or even a blog on most of these items. But this was supposed to be a brief post, just for fun.

How about it? How do you roll?

Run well my Friends!


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?

What to do One Week to Boston

We are now down to one week to Boston.

If this isn’t your first rodeo, you know what to do. If you are giving it a go for the first time, here are a few last minutes tips.

One Week to Boston

This is the last week of your taper. If you ran more than you should have last week, cut it out! You should have run your last long run over the weekend. You just need to run a few short easy runs this week.

This week is about resting your legs. Do a few easy runs at or below your marathon goal pace. At this point in the game you can’t improve your fitness, but you can certainly hurt your self.

The two weeks of taper give your body time to recover from what you have put it through over the past few months.

With all of this time on your hands you will feel lazy. Expect to feel lazy.

Watch some of those movies or shows on your DVR or binge watch something on Netflix. You’ve earned some lazy time.

You’re about to kick your own ass, so you absolutely deserve some ass in chair time!

What to do One Week to Boston

Boston Marathon 2016, one week to BostonYou should have all of your clothes picked out by now. If something is too tight or loose, fix it. Some of us have actually lost weight during our training. Not me, but maybe you. So if those shorts are falling off of your now skinny ass, you need to choose a different pair.

If you buy any new clothes, god forbid!, wash and wear them two or three times. You don’t want to get to Framingham and realize there is a seam or tag ripping a hole in your skin. Framingham starts at Mile Five. So that would be 21.2 more miles of skin ripping agony if you make a mistake here.

Clip your toe nails. Super important. You don’t want to run with long nails which may tear your socks or rub against your shoe toe box. If you happen to cut a nail too closely, you have a few days for that mistake to heal up. Get those clippers out!

Pack your drop bag and go bag. The BAA will give you a drop bag and a go bag at the Expo. The drop bag is an 18″ x 19″ clear plastic bag for all of the clothes and stuff you will want after the race.

You won’t get these bags until the Expo, but start getting your gear together. Don’t leave anything for the last minute.

Don’t put anything valuable in your drop bag. Nothing ever happens, but it can. I’d keep my car key or hotel key card in my running belt or a pocket. You don’t need your wallet, but you should tuck your ID and some cash in your running belt or pocket.

I always include some food in my drop bag and a long sleeved shirt. You will get cold after the race and you only get so much food at the end of the race.

Your “go bag” is a one-gallon clear plastic bag that the BAA will let you bring on the bus out to Hopkinton. The last time I ran they didn’t provide this bag, so I’m really happy that they provide these now.

The BAA web site says this bag is only for food and drinks, so don’t stuff it full of other items. If you want to bring sun screen or anything else, try to get it into your running belt or a pocket.

Anything that you bring to Hopkinton will either be carried back to Boston by you, tossed in the trash or donated to charity. The BAA no longer returns bags to Boston.

If you don’t like bagels and coffee, your go bag should have whatever you like to eat before you run 26.2 miles.

Yes, you will need sun screen. Even if the skies are overcast our tender winter skin is going to get fried over four plus hours of running.

I also like chap stick with an SPF built in. It always wears off after a few miles, but I hate dry lips just a mile or two into the race. That’s just me, but you might want to consider it. I bet you can pick up half-a-dozen chap sticks at the Expo.

Don’t walk in the dark

With one week to Boston you don’t have time to recover from stupid mistakes.

Don’t walk around your house in the dark. If you step on a Lego or ram your foot into a chair leg or doorway you could be screwed.

You should be wearing slippers or a pair of clean shoes that your spouse will let you wear around the house.

The other night I came home from my Tuesday night club run and made this mistake. I dutifully took off my running shoes and shut off the front hall light. I was in total darkness! I’m pretty good with walking around my house in the dark.

But I knew I was taking a stupid risk. One that I should know better than. Except for that one time, I always wear slippers or shoes in the house. You should too.

Boston Marathon 2018

One Week to Boston Check List

  • Get all of your clothes together
  • Get all of your race food and beverage together
  • Confirm travel plans, parking etc.
  • Confirm where you will meet family and friends after the race
  • Make sure your ID is in your wallet or the BAA wont give you your bib
  • Make sure you have your Bib Number Pick-up card, or the BAA wont give you your bib
  • Check the BAA web site for all and any additional details.


If you are looking for a frame for your Boston Marathon finisher’s medal, I can help you with that. click HERE

You’ve done the hard work, now it’s time to relax a bit and make the final preperations for the race.

Run well my Friends and see you in Boston!


ChafeX Product Review

I discovered ChafeX a few months ago and used it while training for the Boston Marathon.

ChafeX, chafing

Running involves repetitive motion and every runner deals with chafing eventually. Some runners chafe in certain areas, others chafe when they are wet.

I discovered chafing in 2003 during my third race, the Providence marathon. It was sprinkling that day and my loose singlet eventually wore away the skin on my nipples.

Somewhere after the half-way mark the person I was running with mentioned that I was bleeding. I hadn’t noticed until he said something and then each step caused unbelievable stinging.

Somehow I managed to get through the rest of the race and crossed the finish line with my jacket zipped up. My wife was horrified. I managed to bleed through my soaked jacket!

Women chafe at the sport bra line, guys chafe under the belt. I’ve even heard of butt cheek chafing. Thighs and under the arms are two other common chafe areas.If you run enough races eventually you will chafe in areas you could never imagine.

Feeling the burn

Over time, I discovered that I could run up to 10K and not chafe in most conditions. If it was wet I would chafe sooner. If I wore a tight shirt or Under Armor I could run further, even in the rain. I can actually run a marathon wearing Under Armor and not chafe.

Before I discovered tight shirts and Under Armor I used band-aids. These were literally a pain when it came time to take them off. I tend to wear Under Armor later into the spring than most people to avoid chafing on long runs.

Eventually I discovered a silicon roll on that worked really well. Slick silicon protects your skin from abrasive fabric. If I run with a loose shirt in the rain I might have some chaffing, but no bleeding.

Often runners feel the burn when they hop into the shower. You may have forgotten your glide, it may chafing,chafex,running injuryhave been wet or a tag on a new shirt or shorts rubbed you the wrong way.

You think you are okay and then the hot water hits that irritated skin. Yeeoow! You swear you’ll never forget protection again.


When I read about ChafeX I was intrigued but skeptical. With silicon you roll it on like deodorant, and go. ChafeX needs to be applied like sunscreen. It needs to be rubbed in to bond with your skin and may need another minute to dry.

I was concerned it would take too long to apply and dry. Like most people I never have enough time and I’m often in a hurry. I was also worried about following directions correctly.

running comfortSimply Better Laboratories sent me a 50g tube to try. This is my only “compensation” for this review.

It turns out that ChafeX is easy to use and even I could follow the directions!

A toe on each foot tends to take a lot of abuse when I run. I had been using 3M First Aid tape to wrap my toes and protect them from the friction. It turns that ChafeX worked as well as tape, and I didn’t have to worry about it coming un-done.

Sometimes on a long run I will get a hot spot on the soul of my fore foot. I started applying ChafeX to these areas also, and that problem was solved.

I rotate my running shoes and sometimes different shoes will rub different areas of my foot. During my Boston Marathon training I rubbed ChafeX on the area that day’s shoes rubbed the wrong way, and problem solved.

ChafeX worked well on my original problem area, the nipples. You rub it on like sun screen, let it dry and can add a second layer for extra protection.

Man or woman, no one wants to apply a roll on below the belt and then use it next time above the belt. Or use it ever again! The ability to apply protection in this area without a roll on really sold me on ChafeX.

ChafeX and the Marathon Test

The true test of any product is the marathon. Talk about repetitive motion. It took me 4:09 to run the Boston Marathon this year. ChafeX worked like a charm.

I didn’t wear tape on my toes. I applied several layers of ChafeX to my toes and under the belt. I ran for FamilyAid Boston this year and we had custom singlets. I couldn’t risk bleeding through my shirt, so I used my silicon roll on which also worked perfectly.

I had never worn this shirt for more than a 5 mile run. I didn’t want to try two new things on my chest on race day.

I have worn the 3M tape on my toes since 2005 or so. I had enough confidence in ChafeX to go without the tape, and it really worked. I have all of my toe nails! I also didn’t have any hot spots on my feet.

Check out this instructional video on how to apply ChafeX. Here is the link to their site.

I would recommend ChafeX to anyone. It really works and you can use it anywhere on your body.

Run Well my Friends!


© 2016 andrew nagelin

Active Advantage 5K Training program Update

Active Advantage Training Update

Today I am on day 35 of the 54 day Active Advantage Intermediate 5K program and it has not been going well. Between the holidays and being sick for the past two weeks, I have missed a lot of training days.

I managed to run the Jingle Bell Run 5K on December 16th but then I didn’t run again until this week. This week I managed to run a 10K on the treadmill at my gym on Christmas Eve and another treadmill 10K yesterday. If I run again on Friday or Saturday I will hit my New Year Commitment to run three days a week. I like getting new habits established!

I am so far off track on this training program it is hilarious. It’s a good thing that I’m not really training for a 5K. If I was training for my first 5K it would not be a pretty site at the finish line. I think part of the reason I have been so lackadaisical is that I signed up for the program just to see what it was like.

I’ve never used a plan before and I’ve never had a coach. I just run as much, as fast as I can, when I train. Since I usually peek at 30 miles per week when I train for a marathon I never over train. It’s kinda impossible with so few miles per week.

I do need to add intervals and speed work to my routine. I also need to spend more time on hill work as the payoff for hill work on race day can be significant. I do need to develop a training plan for 2013. I need to be more disciplined and add new aspects to my training.

Running Tip

If you are new to running I would encourage you to try a training plan like the Active Advantage Couch to 5K or the Active Advantage Beginner 5K program. At the very least it will show you what you need to do, how to do it and give you a schedule to follow. As someone who is new to running you need that guidance. Otherwise it’s a crap shoot. You will be just like me when I started.

You can find free training programs on-line or in books at your local library. As someone beginning to run, a little guidance will go a long way.

Don’t worry if you miss a day or two while training. I’ve missed a lot more than that, but I’m still going to do my best to finish this plan. The important thing is not to get discouraged and give up. Everyone misses a day but they don’t quit because of that.

So that’s my plan-to-date update as pathetic as it is. If you are thinking about beginning running now is a good time to start. Any day is a good day to start. Just start running!

Happy Holidays and thanks for reading my ramblings!

© 2012 andrew nagelin