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What makes Boston so challenging?

Posted by Ty Velde  March 10, 2009 06:33 PM

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Over the last eight-plus years, Iíve run 15 marathons at six different venues, including New York, Chicago, Marine Corps in Washington, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and of course, Boston. One question I consistently get asked by people is this: Which marathon is the most challenging?

While each race I have run has its own set of unique challenges, I have always consistently answered ďBoston." However, my reasoning behind this answer is not always what people expect, as it extends beyond race day and The Hills of Newton. (Donít get me wrong, they are a killer.)

It's actually tied to training.

As anyone whoís ever ran a marathon knows, while Race Day is what you are working toward, itís only part of the equation. What makes running a marathon so challenging is the training and time commitment associated with making sure you are ready for race day and the 26.2-mile grind. And because the race falls in April, those of us here in New England are forced to train in the darkest depths of winter.

Running in 10-degree weather is tough. So is running in snow or sleet. How about those days when it rains during the day and then freezes overnight? I love a fresh snowfall as much as the next guy, but running through 12-18 inches of powder . . . not too much fun. But for those of use here in New England itís something weíre forced to deal with.

But when it's race day and Iím staring down Heartbreak Hill, when I think of what Iíve endured to get to this point, suddenly it does not seem so intimidating. For New Englanders, Boston is true test of will and commitment in so many different ways. To me that is what makes the race so rewarding.

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5 comments so far...
  1. I am 61 and this will be my first Boston Marathon. I came late to running, and I have run Detroit and the Marine Corps each once. I qualified for Boston by 26 seconds in the Marine Corps marathon last October. (If you are old enough the qualifying times come down to an achievable level)
    I live in a suburb of detroit and the training for Boston throughout the late fall and winter has been brutal. I have gone down on the ice several times with no serious injuries, just scarpes and minor strains. With 6 weeks left, and the snow melted I feel that I can now concentrate on running rather than on the ice, cold and darkness.

    Posted by Lonny Zimmerman March 11, 09 04:12 PM
  1. I'm a 73 year old male. I ran my first marathon in New York in 1996 when I was 60. I've run one a year since then. Each one has been a different adventure. I finished all in reasonably good time.But in 2007 I ran Boston for the first time. It was incredible! A Northeaster! Big temperature swings! The course is tough but the people along the way are great! It was my worse time but what an experience! It taught me a lot about managing the course. Train the brain and run through the tough Winter weather. Don't make excuses because it will pay off on race day. Happy St. Patricks Day to all.

    Posted by Jack Hanley March 17, 09 09:47 PM
  1. Boston will be my second marathon. I did the Cape Cod marathon in October. The great thing about running in October was that I had all summer and fall to train. You couldn't beat the weather. Running this winter has been a drag. I live in Massachusetts and I have been running on ice all winter. The training has caused some nagging injuries that I completely attribute to the cold (it couldn't be that I'm a poor runner). I wish you all the best for Marathon Monday - I'm dreading the hills!!!

    Posted by Matt Conway March 19, 09 09:55 PM
  1. I am totally with you on the weather issue. However, I tend to train better in the cold weather than the warm weather. Last year I sustained a stress fracture in the middle of summer training for the Baltimore marathon which was in October. But afer so rest and because I live in more temperate New York (But a Red Sox fan), I endure only a few days of snow and ice. But when it did snow, it provided an awesome cushioning that felt more like running in water rather than on pavement. Saved my joints and tibia in the process. I qualified for Boston running a 3:06:27 in the Vermont City Marathon of 2008 - another Spring Marathon - I look forward to Boston and all of its charm while I eat its hills for Breakfast.. Bib #3971

    Posted by Evan B. Brandes April 7, 09 12:54 AM
  1. I also LOVE running in snow, nothing better than a soft snow cushion to run on, as well as the fresh clean crisp air. I train much better in the winter months than I do in the summer months. Good luck to all!

    Posted by happy2b April 15, 09 07:13 AM
 
Look for updates, news, analysis and commentary from the following.
  • Steve Silva, Boston.com senior producer, two-time Boston Marathon sub-four hour runner.
  • Ty Velde is a 16-time Boston qualifier who's completed 12 consecutive Boston Marathons and 25 marathons overall. Ty is now training for his 13th Boston run and will provide training tips for those who train solo and outside, no matter what temperature it is.
  • Rich 'Shifter' Horgan is a 19-time Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge team member who runs in honor of his father, who died of colon cancer. He will provide updates on local running events with a focus on the charitable organizations that provide Boston Marathon entries for their organization's fund raising purposes

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