Boston Marathon Tips you Haven't Heard

If you are like me, you have read practically everything when it comes to the Boston Marathon race tips and what to expect. If you've read any amount, there are some that we've all heard. Most notably, Boston lulls you into overconfidence by starting out downhill, wears out the quads of those who start out too fast, and you pay for it in the Newton Hills and infamous Heartbreak Hill. I promised myself not to write about that, but I just did. Hopefully, here are a few tips that I've picked up that perhaps you haven't heard of. I will admit up front that most bloggers are plagiarists (myself included,) so I must credit others for helping me put this list together.

Athlete's Village in Hopkinton
Athlete's Village

Unless you are staying near the start line, or are an elite athlete with concierge delivery you will be spending 2-3 hours in Athlete's Village in Hopkinton at the start of the race.

Taking your picture in front of the "It all starts here" sign in Hopkinton takes about 10 minutes so you're left with a lot of time on your hands. It's largely a grass field and regardless of the unpredictable weather it will likely be cold and damp and your lightly broken in lucky race shoes will get wet. You want to avoid starting a race with wet shoes so pack an old and/or cheap pair of shoes to hang out in with your race shoes in your dry check-in bag. You have a 1/2 mile walk to the corrals so you can wait until you get in your corral before you change into your pair. (tip courtesy of my buddy Tim.) One new "twist" with the 2014 marathon that's also in place again this year is NO BAG CHECK so whatever you bring on the bus needs to strap on your body for the race or be discarded in the village or corrals. This means a likely trip to Goodwill to buy layers of clothing to keep warm. Like the NFL stadium rules, you are limited to the clear bag that's provided to you at the expo. The other interesting challenge is what to do with your phone. I didn't want to carry mine in the race so that meant no pictures in the village. You'll have to think that one through.

You'll have time to kill and will want to stay warm. I've seen inflatable rafts, sleeping bags (in years past,) and lots of space blankets. Everything is outdoors and under tents, but I also stood in line for a pre-race massage one year. This not only killed some time, but I spent most of the time indoors in the school gym where it was warm vs. being outside.

Scream Tunnel Euphoria
For Men Only

For the women out there, you can skip this paragraph, but I've read about your sports bras and nipple issues (we men have nipples too) so indulge me here. I just explained that you're sitting around for two hours and you will be hydrating yourself and trying to time your last trip to the green phone booth (porto-potty,) but for as many toilets they have, they can never have enough. I got to the village early last year and there was no line at all, but by the end of the stay, long lines prevaled. You have to hydrate so make sure you have a "big mouth" Gatorade (or the like) bottle and save it once it's empty. Either in the village or in the corral you can deftly cover yourself and (ahem) slip yourself over the large target and fill 'er up. Cap it and toss and you will have a guilty yet relieved smile before start. This won't help the ladies or "number two" but could come in handy. While you think it may be your runner and God given right to pee on a bush when nothing else is available, Boston's finest will fine or arrest you. Goes without saying, avoid the discarded Gatorade bottles at the start.

Soak the Expo

Meeting Bart Yasso and Mark Remy from Runner's World
Everything you've heard about the magnificent Boston Marathon expo is true. We've all been to expos and it motivates you to see all the phenomenal athletes and products in one place. You are rubbing elbows with the sports most elite athletes, and running in the mother of all marathons, the Boston frickin' marathon so enjoy it. Load up goodies, buy the celebration jacket (even if purple is not your color) and soak it all in. Each year, there are unique handouts. I have several cowbells from my previous Boston Marathons, but they weren't handing them out last year, but you can stop by the John Hancock booth and pick up extra oval 26.2 stickers. Another one of my favorites was the
Toyota race towels with logo which has been a great gym towel for me reminding me on tough gym days of why I'm there at 5 in the morning. The biggest highlight for me is the video of the course in the John Hancock booth. If this is your first Boston, it's quite helpful to see the entire course including interviews with past runners. Far better than looking at an elevation map.  I admit I "teared up" the first time I saw it realizing I was fulfilling a dream. Plan your time there...a lot to see, but you can walk away having met Hoyt or Yasso with a souvenir picture to prove it.

Photo Opportunity

Just rounding the corner of Hereford
There's a million things to do in and around Boston and you've likely scoped all that out. One tip I picked up online was that if you want some good pictures around the finish line of you or family, Sunday is the day to show up. There's a 5K that morning in years past finished along Boylston, but was in the Boston Commons area last year ('14.) The caveat to this one is that someone spotted my finish line photo prior to the race online and pointed out that it's bad luck to touch the finish line before you race. I hadn't heard that one before, and must have broke the myth because I have had some great races and usually stop by on Sunday.

You Are a Rock Star

Last year (2014) with the emotions surrounding the first Boston Marathon since the bombing, the crowds were out in force at every step of the course. Given that, there are probably three spots where you feel like Steven Tyler from Aerosmith where the fan adulation is palpable. The first is the
infamous scream tunnel in Wellesley. If the wind is blowing the right direction, you can hear them from a mile away. More like the first arrival of the Beatles to the U.S. (or One Direction for those teens and Millennials.) It must be a quarter mile of the all-girls college lined up behind metal barriers with signs saying "kiss me." I'm married and of course would deny if I ever stopped for an innocent smooch with a coed, and I now have a daughter in college so it's a bit creepy to think about, but it's absolutely insane. Be careful, you will run too fast through here as your adrenaline is going ape-shit. The second area is after "Heartbreak Hill" around Boston College. Think drunk frat boy version of Wellesley--equally loud and again motivates you as you start heading downhill into the city. The last section is the infamous "Right on Hereford, Left on Boylston" short block near the end of the race. It's a slight yet short uphill street among dense buildings and huge throngs of fans with deafening cheers that catapult you to the finish.

As I said, the best advice is to soak it all in. This ranks up there with my wedding and birth of children on the most memorable personal events in my life. I'm sure there are more obscure Boston Marathon tips so please comment, tweet, or Facebook post them for me and others. BLOGLOVIN


  1. Good luck in Boston! Looking forward to reading your recap!

  2. One of the good comments I got on DailyMile. If the Athlete's village porto-potty line is long (or likely when it gets long,) head to your corral early and lines will be shorter there.

  3. Great advice, especially the shoes - that makes a huge difference!

  4. I hope someday to need these tips. Even the Gatorade bottle tip. The wide opening is a plus...


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