Boston Marathon

The Boston Marathon- an experience like no other! As a long-time marathon runner, I have completed 13 marathons. When this comes up in conversation, the first question I am inevitably asked is “Have you ever run Boston?” I am always pleased that I am able to answer yes to this question. In fact, I have completed the Boston Marathon 4 times, including the 100th running in 1996.

My children ask if I am sad that I don’t win. But I am a middle-of-the-pack runner, and always feel a sense of pride and satisfaction upon completing a marathon uninjured and accomplishing personal goals. So my training advice isn’t for the veteran marathon runner, or anyone looking to achieve a record time. There are plenty of coaches and running programs that can help you achieve those lofty goals. I will simply share a few thoughts and a bit of advice to anyone considering taking on the big event.

What makes Boston so special? The Boston Marathon is the oldest consecutively run marathon. It has been held every year since 1897 when 18 competitors participated. In 1918 a military relay race was held instead, as a result of World War 1. The largest field of competitors was in 1996 with 38,708 runners celebrating the centennial of the event. The 2008 field included 25,283 competitors. Boston is the only marathon requiring a qualifying time, and runners from all over the world aspire to compete at this incredible event.

The Boston Marathon requires a qualifying time in a prior marathon. A chart of age groups and qualifying times can be found on the website at www.bostonmarathon.org The qualifying time must be from a certified marathon in the United States certified by U.S.A. Track & Field, in Canada certified by Athletics Canada, and internationally certified by the Association of International Marathons and Road Races.

If you are not able to qualify at a prior marathon, but still want to run Boston, check out the many official charitable organizations that the Boston Athletic Association has partnered with. In 2008 there were 21 official charitable organizations, and runners raised over $10 million for these groups. Each charity sets up its own programs but most of them are organized in much the same way. Runners agree to raise a specified amount of money for the charity, and in exchange, they are given official entry into the marathon. This is important, because no unregistered runners are allowed on the course.

The fundraising goals are usually pretty high due to the popularity of the marathon, but fundraising is made easier with the help of on-line tools. Many of the organizations also provide support in the form of coaches, group runs and other training events. I ran with the Leukemia Society Team in Training program several times. I ran in memory of my father who lost his life to Leukemia, and also in honor of a child battling the disease that I was matched with through the society. Many runners raise money via pledges of $1 or more per mile from friends and relatives. Others hold fundraising events such as auctions and dances.

Truth be told, I find training for Fall marathons much easier and more enjoyable because I can count on a lot of nice weather for long runs as well as hiking and bike riding for cross training. Since the Boston Marathon is held in April, if you live in New England or another cold weather place, training can be difficult if for no other reason than that most of your long runs must be done in the winter regardless of snowfall and frigid cold temperatures. Training with a running club or training partners can really help you get through these difficult runs. If you live in the Northeast, you can take advantage of a 20 mile run with others training for Boston. The Eastern States 20 Mile race starts in Kittery, Maine and finishes in Salisbury, MA. It is run in March each year, and it a perfect final long run before the big event. Details for the race can be found on their website at www.easternstates20mile.com.

The average temperature in Boston on race day is about 48 degrees Fahrenheit. However, race day has seen temps as high as 94 degrees and as low as temps in the 30s with snow on the ground. The course elevation starts at 465 feet and ends at 15 feet. A downhill race you say? Well yes, except that pesky 88-foot incline between miles 20 and 21. Best known as Heartbreak Hill, this climb comes just about when most runners have depleted their glycogen stores. But this is part of the mystique that makes Boston “Boston”. If you are determined, as most marathon runners are, you will find a way to make it happen, and I am betting that you will be glad that you did!