Training for the Boston Marathon on Heartbreak Hill
I’m such a rookie. In my diligent training for the Boston Marathon, I am bound and determined to do everything there is to do to get ready for the big day on April 16. I have the shoes (Asics GT 2160). I have the gels (I swear by Gu Espresso Love). I have the clothing (moisture-wicking spandex and tank by Under Armour). I have the FuelBelt (filled with exactly thirty-two ounces of Gatorade). Body Glide? Check.
I even know what I’ll be eating the night before (big pasta dinner in Boston) and morning of (oatmeal with peanut butter, exactly two hours before gun time). But there was one part I was missing.
On a recent weekend, I decided I wanted to try running the route from the starting line in Hopkinton. I had heard that it was all downhill for quite a few miles at the start of the race, before hitting the uphill battle after mile seventeen. While I had experienced the hilliest Wellesley and Newton stretch of the route, I hadn’t really experienced too many straight downhill plunges in my training. I filled the car up with gas and I drove to Hopkinton.
It took me an hour to get there from where I live in Swansea, Mass. I parked the car in one of the many free parking spots, and got out of the car, and there it was: The bright blue-and-yellow-painted starting line. It was beautiful…and quiet. Somehow, I expected hundreds of runners to be right there with me training from this sacred spot, one month before the race. But I was the only one.
I set my Nike + GPS on my iPhone, and got my tunes ready for my longest training run, which would be twenty miles long. Then I began running. Cars sped by me on this busy section of Route 135. Cars came so close, I felt in danger. There were no sidewalks. It looked like there wouldn’t be any sidewalks for miles. I turned around and headed back to the car.
I should have figured that the road will be shut down to traffic on race day, but that it’s inhospitable for everyday running. Being prepared isn’t worth getting hit by a car.
So I got back in my own vehicle and drove the route to Newton, where I was able to practice the deadly Newton Hills and Heartbreak Hill again, instead. A series of four hills hit marathoners at mile seventeen through twenty/twenty-one in the race, so I made sure to hit them after my seventeenth mile, so that I’ll know what it will feel like on the actual day. Many people told me how painful it is to hit these hills at that point in the race. But after running them myself, I realized they weren’t so bad. The downhill strides offer much-needed recovery. They’re more like the bunny slope. I battled them and survived, and I filmed this video to prove it.