There is no more famous marathon in the world than the Boston Marathon. There are more challenging courses, there are more picturesque venues and there are more exotic locales. But there is no other place that 26,400 runners from around the world would rather be on April 19 than toeing the line in Hopkinton for the 114th running of Boston.
There is no more famous marathon in the world than the Boston Marathon. There are more challenging courses, there are more picturesque venues and there are more exotic locales.
But there is no other place that 26,400 runners from around the world would rather be on April 19 than toeing the line in Hopkinton for the 114th running of Boston.
If you are not running it, it is likely that you know someone who is. Those who are preparing to run have already committed significant time, energy and emotion, and their loved ones have been hearing nothing but talk of the event for months, bless their hearts.
If you are a veteran of past Bostons, you know what the upcoming weeks will bring. If you are a coached newbie, your coaches will help you cope. Those who could really use some advice are the marathon supporters.
Wanda is married to first-time Boston Marathon entrant, Ralph. Here’s what she will be facing in the next six weeks.
Up to now, Ralph’s training has been a gradual increase in mileage with the emphasis on the weekly long runs that have grown into double digits. Though gradual, the cumulative effects on Ralph are signs of fatigue, and he sometimes gets a little “edgy.”
Wanda will smile, remind him how terrific he is, and hide in the laundry room. It’s only going to get tougher, but she knows it will be over in April.
As the weekly mileage commitment grows, Wanda will have to deal with behavior that other marathoners would classify as normal, non-runners would classify as obsessively compulsive and she will tolerate it because she loves him and supports him. She will need to remind herself of that from time to time.
Weekends used to be the time that Wanda could rely on Ralph to relax, help with household chores, spend some time with the kids and socialize with friends. Now, it’s all about the long run — getting ready for it, doing it, recovering from it.
Because Ralph does his long run on Sundays, dining out with friends on Saturday means the early bird special, pasta, no Pinot Grigio, obsessing over proper hydration and a 9 p.m. curfew.
As the training intensity increases, the potential for injury grows exponentially. Paying attention to getting enough sleep, staying away from junk food and moderating alcohol are important precautions for Ralph to remember.
It’s also good advice for Wanda, though she may find having that extra glass of Pinot Grigio helpful in dealing with the stress of being a “marathon widow.”
Becoming a “high performance racing machine” (Ralph is hoping to break four hours) requires meticulous maintenance.
One of the most neglected practices of marathoners is adequate stretching. Ralph swears he stretches, but Wanda knows that it may be as exaggerated as his claim to the dental hygienist that he flosses after every meal.
Undeterred, she gently reminds him how important it is to care for his tired muscles.
Wanda knows that his running program is taking up a lot of time, and squeaking in an extra 10 to 20 minutes for stretching can be tough. Sometimes alternative measures need to supplement stretching, and there are a couple of great options.
Take a page out of the training program of all the top marathoners — massage therapy is a standard practice.
Wanda got a referral to a sports massage therapist from a running friend, and will schedule bi-monthly and then weekly appointments for Ralph as the stresses of training increase. Wanda has wisely booked a few appointments for herself, as well.
Another great option is Bikram yoga, also known as hot yoga. This technique incorporates a full body-stretching program in a room heated to 105 degrees. It is amazing how well it works, and the bonus is a feeling of calm contentment at the end of the session. Wanda likes the contentment aspect, and has booked classes for both of them.
At the peak of training, Ralph will do his longest training run that will approximate the amount of time he plans to run. Done at a slower than race pace, Ralph will run 19-22 miles. If he makes it through this, the toughest part of the physical training, he needs to get through the toughest mental phase; and this is the time Wanda will be his greatest ally — The Taper.
With 10-14 days to go before the big day, Ralph will need to dramatically cut back on his training. The stresses of training have reached a critical high point, and now is the time for the body to recover. Though it may sound illogical, this could be very difficult for him.
His concern that maybe he hasn’t done enough could lead him to make the costly mistake of overdoing it. The result could be a race-ending injury, or being very strong but too pooped to race.
Then, there is the dreaded Pre-Marathon Syndrome. The last week for Ralph will likely be filled with mysterious aches, concern that he’s catching the flu, worry that he hasn’t trained enough and, of course, the weather.
There will be constant monitoring of The Weather Channel for reports on race day conditions. This is the week that Wanda will really earn her stripes. She will wear a smile, reassure Ralph about his training and remind him how proud she is of him. Patriots Day can’t come too soon for either of them.
Finally, the weekend of the Marathon Expo will arrive. Wanda will try to keep Ralph from buying every item embroidered with the marathon logo, get him home before he spends too much time on his feet and have him relax. All that’s left is the pre-race meal, and getting Ralph to have a good sleep before the race.
Next month, I’ll write about race day — the sights, the sounds, the emotions, the starting line in Hopkinton, the racecourse and the final push to the finish line. Oh, and then we’ll talk about Post-Marathon Syndrome.
Tom Licciardello is a founding member of the Merrimack Valley Striders. Licciardello has participated in 86 marathons, including the last 33 Boston Marathons. He has also completed the Hawaii Ironman triathlon. Professionally, he is a Certified Financial Planner, and resides in North Andover, Mass., with his wife, Lyn. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.