Race Day Tips for First-Time Boston Marathoners

Training week: 19 of 18
Money raised: $7,999 of $8,000
Today’s run: Hobbling between the couch and the fridge
Cumulative training miles: 480.2

Yesterday, I ran my first-ever marathon and my first-ever BOSTON Marathon.  I did it!! It was a day I’ll never forget, and I’m SO glad that I chose to take it slow and soak up every minute of this 5-hour experience. I poured my blood, sweat, and tears into the training and fundraising, which earned me a spot in this incredible race. I’m so grateful for this experience, for my supporters and donors, and for the opportunity to raise money for the Trinity Boston Foundation!

Since this may be my only Boston Marathon (the running was awesome, but the fundraising was a grind!), now I’m turning my attention to helping other runners accomplish this same feat. I’ve got some great tips and logistics so you can be as prepared as possible for the greatest race day of your life!

Final Weeks of Training

  • Practice running a 16+ miler in your expected race day outfit, with all your gear. This may be tough in Boston because the weather in mid-April can be drastically different than on training runs. But you want to check for chafing when running in shorts, wearing a belt or fanny pack, or wearing an armband.
  • Finalize your nutrition routine and get ready to stick to it, so you won’t be tempted by last-minute experiments. Nothing new on race day.
  • Practice running the course, especially the Newton hills, as much as possible. I never ran all the way to Boylston, though — I wanted to save that for Marathon Monday!

Race Weekend 

  • In the few days before the race, aim to “pee lemonade.” This helps you assess the right hydration level. Clear pee means you’re over-drinking. Apple juice means not enough.
  • Make a plan with your friends and family about exactly where they will be cheering for you on the course. If you pick a mile or kilometer marker, ask them to stand right after the banner, pick a side of the road, and bring a sign with your name. The crowds are massive and runners are streaming by, so it’s not hard for fans to miss you. It is much easier for a runner to spot their friends than vice versa. Avoid popular spots like the turn by the firehouse or the last 2 miles. If your friends just say “I’ll be at Coolidge Corner!” there is no way you will see each other.
  • Write your name clearly across your shirt so spectators will cheer for you. It’s amazing to have strangers calling your name! You can write it across a strip of tape or buy stick-on letters.
  • Cut your toenails. Or you will lose them.
  • Plan how you will be getting home. 

Packing your Race Day Bag

  • Bring throw-away clothes to wear at the starting area, since you could be waiting there in the morning cold for over an hour. If you wear cinched-ankle sweatpants, cut the bottoms so you can take them off over your shoes at the last minute.
  • Pack warm, dry clothes and a pair of flip flops for after the race. There’s a changing tent by the gear-check, but you might only have the energy to throw something on over your sweaty clothes.
  • Bring a tennis ball for your post-race bag. It’s the poor man’s foam roller. (Or find the massage tent at the finish!)
  • Think of your skin! Bring sunscreen, and let it soak in before applying BodyGlide to prevent chafing.
  • Bring your own food and water for the starting line. You have a long morning of bus riding and waiting around. Yes, there is food at the starting area, but it is a HUGE complex and you don’t want to waste your legs walking around trying to find a banana.
  • Buy an external battery case for your phone. You want that charge to last to Boylston Street.
  • Make sure your official marathon jacket is in your post-race bag so you can throw that puppy on right away! Or, wait to take a shower. Marathoners are stanky.

Race Morning

  • Nothing new on race day! This is not the time to try out Gatorade’s latest products or bust out new clothes or gear.
  • Make friends at the waiting area. It’s almost impossible to meet up with someone specific, but it’s easy to share your excitement with new runners and swap advice.
  • Rehearse your plan for eating and drinking. I planned to drink at every other water stop, but it was warm so I hit 2 out of 3. I ate Shot Blocks every 5 miles, and an extra around mile 22.

On the Course

  • I cannot emphasize this enough: START SLOW. Like, run those first 3 miles slower than you have ever run before. The net downhill through Hopkinton and early Ashland is a mind trick that will come back to bite you in Newton. Don’t be one of those silly runners wasting energy weaving and jostling through the throng.
  •  If it’s hot out and spectators are giving out ice, stuff some in your sportsbra. Ahhhhh. Just don’t accidentally dump Gatorade on your head. And if you run through a hose or sprinkler, don’t get your shoes soaking wet.
  • Smile a LOT! Make sure those gums are as sore as your quads. ENJOY the day. The hard work is in the training — treat the race like a party!
  • When you see your friends, stop for a hug and say hello. They’ve been waiting hours to see you, and a quick chat will give you a huge boost. Take pictures!
  • Watch out for the surprise hill between mile 16 and 17, which is before the turn by the firehouse and the famous Newton hills.
  • They say the Boston Marathon has two halves: the first 20 miles and the last 6. Luckily, those final miles are packed with a cheering squad like you could never imagine!

Finish Line

  • SMILE! Strike a pose for the official photographers, and remember to take a selfie. Try to remember every second of that last sprint down Boylston!

Above all else, HAVE FUN. You worked so hard to earn the right to run this course. There’s a reason why it’s so competitive to get into: it’s truly the greatest marathon event in the world. Enjoy every minute of it!

This is how you’ll feel at the finish!!

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