Is Boston really a fast course? (Read 1288 times)

    Nonsense. One cannot *train* for the Monkey. Didn't I prove that the best way to prepare is to run a 100 miler the prior weekend?



    In general, the plan is: negative split. Run the first half easy, pick it up a bit at the half, but save energy for the hills (M16-21). At M21, let 'er rip. The advantage of this approach is that you are very unlikely to blow up. If you don't have enough left to pick it up at M21, then be thankful you didn't go out even faster. If you do... you'll be flying past everyone else, which is a blast. I'm also convinced you give up little if anything vs. running even to slightly positive splits: my Boston results are in line with or slightly faster than most pace calculators predict based on tune-up races.


    More specifically, what I did is this.


    1. Go to one of the many sites that generate Boston-specific pace bands, and generate some mile splits. E.g., this one. I don't remember the one I originally used. Goal time doesn't matter. Put these splits in a spreadsheet. Now you basically have elevation-adjusted mile splits. At least, my impression is that most of these sites simply weight each mile by elevation-graded difficulty. The thing is, to run Boston well you need to take the global course profile into account. You can't just say, even effort per mile. So...


    2. Next, reweight these splits for an overall even first-/second-half split. (Almost certainly, the splits as-is will have a significant positive split.)


    3. Pick a realistic goal time, call it X. Add some small time to it, around 0:20 - 0:40 This will be your negative split. Reweight all your splits so they add up to X + your negative split. 


    4. Now manually reweight the last 5 miles to subtract off your desired negative split. You'll make it up on the big downhills here.




    This was my sub-3 paceband for 2009, generated as above. I hit all the splits within 5-10 seconds, and ran 2:59:38. Oh -- I also manually put in a slow start, because of the start congestion. YMMV depending on which corral you're in.




    "If you have the fire, run..." -John Climacus

      Personally I think that: 1. Boston is a lot faster course than a course like New York. 2. It is not the easiest course, courses like Chicago, Houston I believe are easier, 3. I believe a slight positive split will produce your optimum time in Boston. Something like +60 seconds.


      Why? Still allows you to coast the first 16 miles. Allows for some slow down 16-21, then pickup 21-26.2


      You basically want to hit the first Newton hill feeling like you were out for a fast Sunday jog of 16 miles. Do not use extra effort to get up the hills, I call it a fast coast up the hills. Between mile 18-19 is fast and downhill. No matter what, you still will feel tired at the top of HB hill, but after that it is all downhill. Your fastest 5k can be from 35k-40k.

      I have set a PR in Boston in 2009, 2010 and 2011. Hopefully that trend will continue in 2012. I've gone from 3:20, 2:58, 2:52 to 2:48. Last year was a no excuses weather day. You still had to run 26.22 miles, and it did get to about 60F towards the end of the race and was very dry. I think people who blew up last year either went out too fast because of the wind, or didn't drink enough because of the dry conditions.


      I went 1:23:30-1:25:11 (+1:41). Your fastest mile will most like always be mile 16 and your slowest will most likely be mile 21. I'm still pissed that I didn't break 20 minutes for the 35k-40k section of the race.


        It's the downhills at Boston that get ya.  I'd swear that first drop-off tanked my efforts when I was there.  OTOH, it may have been my family's need to roam all over Marblehead, Salem and everything in between the day before.


          marblehead was unsatisfying and cold.



            marblehead was unsatisfying and cold.


            not if you warm the marble first

              I went 1:23:30-1:25:11 (+1:41). Your fastest mile will most like always be mile 16 and your slowest will most likely be mile 21. I'm still pissed that I didn't break 20 minutes for the 35k-40k section of the race.


              I went 1:29:45-1:28:56 this year (-0:49), for 2:58:41, and I ran 20:05 for 35k-40k -- close to sub-20, though I was 10 minutes behind you overall. Mile 22 was my fastest.


              Did I give up a lot by running negative splits? I have a hard time seeing that: my tune-up races, on pretty fast courses, were a 1:26:03 half and a 38:55 10K. McMillan calls that 3:01:29 / 3:02:38. It's true there was a big tailwind at Boston; still, I think one would have to say I ran pretty close to my potential.

              A Saucy Wench

                What can I say, I'm a geek. It works for me.



                I did the exact same thing for portland.  Except of course using the portland terrain and adjusting for the slow start and the fact that I am personally slower on hills than other people my speed and faster on down hills than other people my speed.  Oh and that I am a REALLY slow starter.  I could go out at recovery pace the first mile and it would feel too fast.

                I have become Death, the destroyer of electronic gadgets


                "When I got too tired to run anymore I just pretended I wasnt tired and kept running anyway" - dd, age 7

                No Talent Drips

                   Dei Gratia


                    Newton (up)Hills are can feel like a welcome change if you've run the course right. 


                    Agree. I can't say I ran the course right but Boston is the only race I've run where the uphills were a welcome change of pace. Going down the hill to Cleveland Circle was murder and (thankfully) I've got no memory of running through Brookline at all. Perhaps I took the T or got a ride? Dunno? I was somewhere around Kenmore Square when I woke up and realized what was going on around me.


                    You've got a lot to look forward to.


                      So...maybe a dumb question...but I keep hearing that Boston can be a fast course (weather permitting and all that), is this true? I have one friend who has set all her best times there by a large margin, that and the fact that Mutai's run didn't count as a record supports this. I was thinking of going for a PR there and am looking (with some trepidation) at a tough training program. 


                      Wouldn't that make your PB feel hollow? 



                      Feeling the growl again

                        Wouldn't that make your PB feel hollow? 




                        Well, if you want to hold yourself to WR criteria go ahead, but personally I'm not that stringent on myself.  Do you think that for the oh, month at Paula Radcliffe's 2:15 was invalidated that she thought her PR was hollow?  Wink


                        #1, running a downhill marathon is much different than a downhill mile or downhill 10K.  In those shorter races, the inavoidable muscle pounding will not reach a level that it slows you down.  The benefit is simply positive.  In a marathon, the abuse you will take WILL get to you by the end....results from races like St. George or Steamtown are not dramatically faster for a given individual than on flatter courses (I've actually spent a bit of time running the comparisons).  Personally, choosing Steamtown to run a fast time was one of my worst ideas ever.  My quads were shot in 9 miles and even a couple 2:15 guys who ran there with me told me afterwards that their experience was similar (they did NOT run a 2:15 on that course!).  Perhaps with the correct gradual slope downhill courses would be unbelievable advantageous, but it's hard to find such a uniform course and I'm not personally aware of one.  Most of Steamtown's drop is in the first third of the race, for example.  In the case of Boston and many others, while they may be net downhill there is significant climbing and we all know you don't get as much back going downhill as you gave up climbing the hill...and Boston's hills are all stacked up at a particularly bad point in the race.  So is there an advantage?  Maybe?  Kind of?  Depends on specifics of course and how you run it?  All of the above?  I think it also depends on the speed you run.  Slower runners absorb less pounding on downhills than faster runners.  I was pounding the crap out of myself even as I tried to hold back at Steamtown and I think I still dropped a 5:09 mile in there while hoping to average 5:30.  I don't think someone running 8-9min mile pace is going to experience the same sort of trauma and perhaps it really IS a fast course for mid-packers?


                        #2, remember that while Boston has not been WR eligible in a long time it was not the drop that caused people to seriously question Mutai's time, it was the constant and significant tailwind.  IMHO this was much more significant than the contour of the course.  He hit the lottery with absolutely perfect conditions for that course.  What do you think would happen in Chicago if a weird front blew through and shifted the wind to blow from behind the lead pack at every turn?  There is this stretch in Michigan's UP between Munising and Seney I drove through on the way to college we called the "Seney Stretch".  It's about 27 miles that is virtually straight and flat running east/west.  I always thought it would be great to run a marathon there called "The Seney PR Marathon" and set up the course so you could run it either direction, depending on whether the prevailing westerlies were blowing or there was a freak easterly component to the wind.


                        PRs are individual...personally I'd only feel they were cheap if the aid I'd received was extreme.  A downhill 10K is extreme.  A full marathon wind-aided "may" be extreme depending on other circumstances.

                        "If you want to be a bad a$s, then do what a bad a$s does.  There's your pep talk for today.  Go Run." -- Slo_Hand


                        I am spaniel - Crusher of Treadmills


                          I ran my PB at Boston 2010, but was in the shape of my life at the time. The first half of that course is a sucker's bet beginning at mile 1 but I tend to pace well. I thought the course was easily 2-3 minutes slower than my qualifier in Austin, TX. Recently ran New York and think Boston was tougher/slower by 30-60sec. I really felt my ace-in-the-hole was going to be the Newton hills because all I run is hills in training. But hills after 17miles at race pace was a lot tougher than I was prepared for. I felt that watching people blow up around you repeatedly after mile 16 was difficult to ignore. It was intimidating and mentally distracting. I also found the whole thing to be entirely more awesome than I thought it would be and can't wait to go back some day.

                            I went 1:29:45-1:28:56 this year (-0:49), for 2:58:41, and I ran 20:05 for 35k-40k -- close to sub-20, though I was 10 minutes behind you overall. Mile 22 was my fastest.


                            Did I give up a lot by running negative splits? I have a hard time seeing that: my tune-up races, on pretty fast courses, were a 1:26:03 half and a 38:55 10K. McMillan calls that 3:01:29 / 3:02:38. It's true there was a big tailwind at Boston; still, I think one would have to say I ran pretty close to my potential.


                            You probably could have run faster, how much? Probably not that much. 30-60 seconds maybe. I think the problem with Boston is people just run the first 16 miles too fast. So lets say you could have run 2:57:45 max effort. So you so 1:28:30-1:29:15 to the effect. Most people probably do 1:26 low instead and that kills them.


                            My problem is that I'm just a wuss and usually wait until I turn onto Boylston until I feel safe to kick into another gear. Don't know if I let a 2:47 slip away this year, but my goal was to just break 2:50. 


                            Also, there is no way in hell that New York is faster than Boston. I would say the difference is 90-120 seconds. Mutai proved that this year. The weather was favorable in New York this year also. New York is by far the hardest course I've run. I'm running Houston in 6 weeks. I've done Chicago and Wineglass also. Wineglass seemed to beat me up. Chicago is just flat, flat. That was my lowest negative split.


                            I'm worried about the concrete in Houston, but New York has a lot of concrete also.


                            If you know how to run Boston its a fast course.


                              Yes, Boston can be a fast course. I think everyone hears horror stories about the hills and forgets about the other aspects of the course (the net decrease in elevation including the beginning and end of the course) and the race (you've got tons of fast people around you to pace you). Plus, if you're running because you qualified (as opposed to buying a tour package), Boston won't be your first marathon - probably not your second marathon either.


                              The weather is a coin-toss. 2011 Boston was a beautiful day for a marathon.


                              For me, Boston was the first marathon I did the full blown marathon training - I followed Pfitzinger's 18-week, 70+ mile training plan. By beginning of March I was ready to run, so the next six weeks I was checking Boston weather forecasts religiously.


                              One thing I didn't realize until late was that my qualification time was much slower than my goal time for Boston, which meant that if I were to run the time I wanted, I'd have to pass a bunch of runners at the start since the starting corral is based on your qualifying time, not self-selection.


                              The Boston Marathon start is like going Black Friday shopping w/o the pepper spray. Smile

                              Wall-to-wall runners - some darting into the woods for relief.


                              I had memorized my 5K splits and after the first 5K, I knew I was way off plan unless I started getting pushy.


                              The polite Canadian in me meant I settled in and just ran with the crowd.


                              My splits were almost clockwork - around 21:00 for each 5K until near the end when the runners had spread out enough to run unfettered and then I dropped the hammer - last 2.195K at 18:27 pace.


                              Finish time was a slight positive split - I must've sped up just before the halfway mark.


                              Got a PB by a fair bit and no bonking, so not much loud complaining on my part


                              Great to hear from all the people I met after the run.