Saturday, 2:15 PM
Marathon 101: Getting you from Hopkinton to Copley Square
By Scott Helman, Globe Staff
So, you're running the Boston Marathon for the first time. You have
trained, studied the course, hopefully sought the counsel of those who have
run before. But how familiar are you with the grueling, 26.2-mile trek from
Hopkinton to Copley Square? We asked two marathon veterans -- Jack Fultz,
winner of the 1976 race, and Michael McGrane, an eight-time competitor,
to offer some keys to a successful race.
1) Resist the temptation to start fast. It is easy to do -- your adrenaline
is flowing, and the first several miles are downhill. But hold back. If you
don't, you will almost inevitably fail later. "It's the single biggest
mistake runners of the Boston Marathon make," Fultz says. "If you don't
feel like you're going too slow, you're going too fast."
2) Yes, it will be immensely frustrating to watch scores of runners pass
you early in the course, especially the ones who look drunk, obese, asleep,
or otherwise ill-suited for rigorous cardiovascular activity. But let them
pass you, veteran runners say. If you conserve your energy, you will be the
one cruising later on while your compatriots are passed out by the Gatorade
station. "You should run your own race," McGrane says. "You should not get
caught up with anyone around you, especially if you think you should be
beating them based on the way they look."
3) Do not let any person or any map tell you that Wellesley is the half-way
point. Forget the mileage -- it is nowhere near the mid-point physically or
mentally, veterans say. This can be especially hard to remember as you bask
in the screams from the Wellesley College students. Enjoy the lively
atmosphere and maybe even high-five a few spectators, veterans say, but do
not pick up your pace. Do not run like you are almost there. "Energy-wise,
it's only about a third of the way to the finish line," Fultz says.
4) Everyone knows that Heartbreak Hill in Newton is a killer, but fixating
on it alone misses the larger picture. First of all, Heartbreak is one of
several hills in Newton; some runners say the hills preceding it are where
you will know how well you have trained. Second, you may find that the
hardest thing about Heartbreak isn't the uphill portion but the downhill
afterwards. Just when you think you're home free, don't be surprised if
your quad muscles feel like they're being stabbed with sharp pencils. "Once
you make it on top of Heartbreak Hill, a lot of people think, 'OK, I've
made it. I've really made it,'" Fultz says. "That's not necessarily so."
5) Just as you are dying for any indication of the finish line, the Citgo
sign in Kenmore Square -- the one-mile-to-go marker -- appears like a
beacon. But veteran runners say not to pray to this false god too soon,
because it is visible for several miles as you run toward downtown on
Beacon Street. "You can see it for a little too long," McGrane says. Fultz
adds, "It's like running on a treadmill. You're running, but it feels like
you're not getting anywhere."