Even though this will be my 10th Boston, I still get just as excited and honored as when I ran my first Boston Marathon back in 1999. Remember, Y2K? We all survived that and I survived my first Boston Marathon. In retrospect though, there were a lot of things that I wish I knew ahead of time about Marathon Monday that I learned on the fly versus being fair warned by a Veteran Unicorn. I am writing this to give you first timers a heads up around what to expect at The Boston Marathon!
First off, Congrats!! It is quite an honor to toe the line at such an historic race! This year will be the 121st Running and YOU are a going to be a part of its history! Having completed over 79 marathons to date, I have to say that nothing compares to running your first marathon. Remember your first? You went in blindly having never put your body and mind through 26.2 miles until race day. You experienced every emotion throughout the race course. Then you crossed the finish line and something magical happened. Your "I don't know if I can" turned into "I DID and What else can I do?!!"and for most of us, those famous last words of "I will never run another marathon", eventually changed to, "I can't wait to do that again!"
From my experience,running Boston for the first time was right up there with running my first marathon which was back in 1994. The two marathons were very similar because, one, I didn't think I could finish my first, let alone qualify for THE Boston Marathon and two, I was beyond intimidated over hitting the infamous wall at my first marathon and at Boston, surviving Heartbreak Hill.
So, let's get down to my top 10 Tips for a RunTastic Boston Marathon!
#1 -Aim to get to the expo as early as you can race weekend so that you can load up on all things Unicornian. Personally, whenever I see someone wearing Boston Marathon gear no matter where I am in the world, I know that that person put in some extra grit to get to that start line. I am conditioned like Pavlov's dog, in that as soon as I see official Boston gear, I automatically give an internal high five to that person. Same with Ironman gear but that's another blog.
#2-If you haven't already done this already, have your name screen printed on the front of your shirt or you can go old school and just attach a couple pieces of bright colored duct tape to the front of your shirt and with a Sharpie, write your name in big letters! Hearing your name from strangers puts extra oomph in our step. VIP, make sure that you DO NOT post pictures of your race bib on social media until race morning. Bandits look for race numbers to copy.
#3-Have your support team sign up for runner updates via http://www.baa.org/races/boston-marathon/participant-information/att-athlete-alerts.aspx
#4-Sunday morning, sleep in as much as you because you more than likely won't be getting the best quality of sleep Marathon Eve.
#5-Race morning, you will likely be hanging out at Athletes Village for at least 2 hours waiting for your corral to take off. I recommend bringing donatable clothes to keep you warm/dry depending up on what mother nature throws our way. I also recommend bringing extra toilet paper and baby wipes in case the porta potties run out. If you aren't on a chartered bus and you have to hang out in the lawn, bring something to sit on like a throw away blanket or even an extra large garbage bag. I also recommend if you run with your phone to bring an extra charger because again you may use up a lot of the battery before you ever cross the start line.
#6- As with every marathon, the race doesn't really start until mile 20! This is even more important because the first 7 miles you are running downhill and you feel like a ROCKSTAR. Maybe because you are a ROCKSTAR, but my number one piece of advice for this race is to slow down and remind yourself, Coach Denise, said the race doesn't start until mile 20! From one marathoner to another, I just know how going too fast out of the gate with "gravity working in our favor miles" will come back to bite you in the latter miles. I consciously hold back because I know what's coming, hills, hills and more hills. Which brings me to #7
#7-Heartbreak Hill isn't the only hill. When I was running my first Boston, I just heard how Heartbreak hill will break you. The way my coach and running friends talked about it, it was a 20% grade. To my surprise, I got to Heartbreak Hill and the first words out of my mouth, were, "This is Heartbreak Hill, the whole marathon has been hills!!!%$#$^&%^^#!
#8-Walk It Out-For my fellow flatlanders, one of my tricks of the trade for getting through my first hill workout of the season on Patriots Day, is to walk the hills. You see, I used to run them because this is a race and that is what we do. However, I live in Chicago where our hills are parking garage ramps. What I have learned out on this course is that whether I walk the hills or I run the hills, my paces are the same. If I run the hills, however, I end up beating up my legs. So why not walk the hills and save my legs for the wall.
#9 -BE AMAZING, HAVE FUN! You can never repeat your first Boston. So why not take it all in, high five the little kids sporting Boston Strong t-shirts, thank the volunteers, stop to kiss a Wellesley girl, catch the Red Sox score from the spectator signs and remember you are part of Boston History and making your own personal history. Plus you never know who you might be inspiring out on that course.
#10-See you April 16th, 2018 and remember to pay it forward when you meet a first time Unicorn!