Boston Marathon Pacing Strategy

Last year, as I prepared to run the Boston Marathon, I was disheartened to hear the conventional wisdom that your first Boston time is fifteen minutes slower than your qualifying time. While anecdotal evidence from my friends bore this out, I really didn’t want to prove it true myself. Five minutes, I thought, was plenty of time to add to my qualifier, and that would keep me under my requalifying time. It worked out well, as my race report explains. (I usually err on the side of starting too slowly, as my last mile split often shows, and this is no different. Happily, that’s a good approach to this course.)

One of my athletes is preparing to run Boston (she just posted an almost-four-minute PR at the half marathon!), and we’ve been discussing pacing. I’m giving her the same advice my editors at Runner’s World gave me: be measured and careful across the entire first half of the course. Don’t blow up on the hills. Once you finish the hills (there’s a you-gotta-be-kidding-me little rise just past the official crown of Heartbreak), if you have some juice left, you are rewarded with a descent for the last six miles, so be sure you have something to give there.
Here’s a very clever chart that takes the course’s topography into account. It gives you some leeway to be faster on the downhills, but here’s one of the two areas (parenting is the other) in which I’m conservative. Less is more here. You’ll get time to run fast downhill after mile 21.
If you’re running, congratulations and good luck! Veterans, do you have anything to add?

One Response to “Boston Marathon Pacing Strategy”

  1. Steve Thompson says:

    Passing along 2 tips I was given by Boston Vets that made my 2nd Boston 100% better than my first: 1) Walk while you hydrade through the water stops the first 4 miles. 2) If you pass ANYONE the first 4 miles, you are starting too fast.

    The first 4 miles of Boston are surprisingly downhill. Let the acid clear in your legs by walking 15 seconds or so through those water stops. You will be climbing over the bodies by Hearbreak Hill.