The Boston Marathon is just over a week away, which means many runners are worried about these latest climbs, especially the popular Heartbreak Hill at the 20th mile.
The dirty secret in Boston, though, is that the course also requires a skill that many of its 30,000 participants probably spent little time thinking about or preparing: running downhill.
The uphill sections generally get all the attention, but the marathon route, which runs northeast from Hopkinton (Mass.) To Copley Square in Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood, is known as the “downhill” race. It loses nearly 450 feet in height over its 26.2 miles, and is unable to set a world record.
A large part of this elevation loss occurs in the first five miles. The starting line is 490 meters above sea level, and the first mile descends about 130 meters. The route descends another 180 feet or more as the runners reach Framingham, Mass., To reach the third of the eight counties on the route, after crossing the five-mile mark. There are a few small ascents in the next 10 miles, but it is relatively flat and downhill as the elevation drops to 60 feet above sea level before the Newton Hills start at the 16 mile mark.
But don’t be fooled: downhill is not joy.
“Quadriceps muscles need to work harder downhill to help maintain balance and control gravitational forces,” said Bill Pierce, an emeritus professor of health sciences at Furman University in Greenville and author of the well-known training guide, “Run Less. Run Faster.” .
Many Boston veterans know the panic that comes when quads start to tighten before the end of the race.
Amanda Watters, who has landed in Boston 17 times and coached the Boston Athletic Association charity team, said the downhill sections are forcing runners to lean back, albeit slightly, so as not to flip over. This adjustment causes the foot to land closer to the heel, which results in a different and sometimes higher tension that would result in flat ground or uphill in quads, calves, and senders.
“It’s a different kind of race because in the first part you work out a lot of quads and in the second part you work out pairs, so you have to really prepare those muscles to deal with the work,” said sports medicine doctor Jordan Metzl. and author of “Running Strong: The Sports Doctor’s Complete Guide to Staying Free for Healthy and Injury-Free Life.”
If you’re running the Boston Marathon for the first time on April 18th and haven’t received any downhill training notes, we may have waited up to 10 days before the race to write about this. (However, we have some tips for your next mountain race. Subscribe to our weekly newsletter here.) In fact, it’s too late for training to do anything that will really help you on race day, in addition to running back miles and avoiding injuries. But there is still a way to manage the race and the first part of the descent, to reduce the pain and drama that can often lead to pain.
Jess Movold, Runner’s World + staff coach, said that if strength and mountain training aren’t part of your training, then focus on what you can control. Run smart. Be light and fast on your feet. Take it with you. Control your arms with effective circular motions. “Be smart while you evaluate how you feel in that first mile,” Movold said. “Minimize blows. Keep up the good work. ”
In the name of Paul Revere, don’t get me wrong, we repeat, don’t get out fast. Probably a factor as to why they’re doing so poorly. Ignore it.
Race director Dave McGillivray said patience is the key, “going back a little bit in the first half to both avoid bumps and leaving something in the tank for the second half.” He would know. McGillivray’s 50th consecutive is the Boston Marathon. He will be performing at night after completing his job as race director.
But it can be difficult to get back on a route that is tempting to get out fast, with all the gravity forces in the lower parts and all the excitement of the race day. Boston has the fastest pitch in a long-running race. Almost all runners must meet the standard classification. The McGillivray race plan is worth considering, though.
“I’m shortening my pace a bit downhill, as I’m getting more confused than running, to get rid of all that bump, and it works,” McGillivray said. “I would go a little slower than if it were flat. That’s okay, and it’s better for me to fall uphill and make a mix of what’s survived the last 10 miles.