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Boston-Bound: One Month To Go Until Race Day!

The Boston Marathon is fast approaching! Greg McMillan outlines key training principles for the final 4 weeks of training.

There’s one month to go till the Boston Marathon! Just reading that sentence probably causes a shot of adrenaline. I know it does for me and I’m very much looking forward to getting to Boston and cheering for you.

This article outlines the last two big weeks of the training cycle before you begin the peaking phase for the big day. At this point, you should have your race nutrition dialed in. You should know what you will eat the night before, morning of and during the race. You should also have tried and tested your race day equipment—even planning for different weather conditions. And, you’ll want to have your race morning timeline sketched out. Know every detail from the time you’ll wake up until the race starts. The goal on race day is to be on auto-pilot and keep stress levels low.

Week 9

Similar to Week 7, what you do early in Week 9 depends on how you recovered from last weekend’s fast finish long run (or race). If you recovered quickly and are used to a higher training load (i.e., two challenging workouts per week plus a long run), then do a longer run early in the week. If you are a lower training load athlete (i.e., one challenging workout per week plus a long run) or are still tired from the fast finish long run or race, then run shorter. No one ever got injured from an extra day of recovery but many do from pushing too hard, too soon.

Workout No. 1 (recovered runners, early in week): Medium Long Run. Run 1:30-1:45 over a hilly route.

Workout No. 1 (unrecovered runners, early in week): Easy Run. Run 40-60 minutes on a flatter route.

Workout No. 2 (later in week): Tempo Run. Warm up with 10-20 minutes of easy jogging, then run 35-50 minutes at your tempo run pace. Ideally, you’d find a course that mimics the Boston course (i.e., mostly downhill, a hill or two later in the run then a downhill finish). Cool down with 10-20 minutes of easy jogging. A good sign on this run is if you feel very smooth and fluid. As mentioned in Week 6, the tempo run is designed to push your lactate threshold faster and help you run smoothly at a medium-hard effort.

Long Run: 2:30-3:30 for sub 3-hour marathoners (22-26 miles); 3:14-3:45 for 3+ hour marathoners (18-22 miles). Note: Run this over a hilly course and surge slightly on the downhills to practice your downhill running.

Week 10

For the bulk of the training plan, you’ve been building fitness. In Week 10, you begin to refine race fitness. You’ll do two key workouts that are less about running faster and faster but are more about hitting goal race pace as relaxed as possible. You’ll do a goal pace run in the middle of the week, then your last fast finish long run on the weekend. Both put the finishing touches on your fitness and I want you to focus on running these as relaxed as possible.

Workout No. 1 (mid-week): Marathon-pace Run. Warm up with 10-20 minutes of easy jogging, then run 7-10 miles at goal marathon pace. Again, find a course that mimics the Boston course. Cool down with 10-20 minutes of easy jogging. This is a great workout to practice using your equipment and dial in your nutrition plan (night before, pre-run and during run).

Workout No. 2 (advanced runners): Progression Run (early in week). Run easy for 80-90 minutes with the last 10-20 minutes at a slightly faster pace (around tempo effort).

Long Run: Fast Finish Long Run. 12-16 miles (intermediate runners) or 14-18 miles (advanced runners) with the middle 6-8 miles at goal marathon pace and the last 1-2 miles slightly faster. Cool down with 5-10 minutes of easy jogging.


Assignment 1: Weather Watch

New England weather is very unpredictable but it’s a good time to start checking in on the weather forecast. As you get to within 10-14 days of race day, you’ll know more—but it’s good to be aware of the forecast.

Assignment 2: Recon Work

Before arriving to any out-of-town race, you should scout the area ahead of time for three essentials: a grocery store, a pharmacy and a pre-race restaurant. Your first stop after you get settled into your hotel should be the grocery store. Stock up so you are never hungry or thirsty in the days leading up to the race. You’ll also want to know where the nearest pharmacy is just in case you start to feel ill, forgot any medicines at home, need band-aids, etc. Lastly, you want to pre-plan your pre-race meal. Lots of runners will flood the city on race weekend. Plan ahead and have your reservation made well in advance so you can avoid any stress in meal planning the night before the race.

Assignment 3: “Go Me” List

It’s about this time in the training cycle that runners begin to doubt themselves. As the race fast approaches, many start to freak out. Combat this with what I call your “Go Me!” list. Think back across your training and write down each of the great runs, workouts, training weeks and races you’ve had. This list shows that despite being in heavy training, you ran well. Read this list often, especially when doubt starts to creep in. Staying positive always pays more dividends than negativity. You’ve got this.

Assignment 4: Boston Meet-up!

I’m coming to Boston to cheer you on and we’re planning several activities across race weekend that you can take advantage of while you’re in town. Get signed up here and I look forward to seeing you in Beantown!

Final Thoughts

In each article throughout this series, I’ve closed with some factors that I have found important in achieving your marathon goal. As you get closer to Boston, two more factors that are important are your quad durability and your fueling plan.

So, how are your quads? Tough as nails? I hope so. You’ve done a lot of downhill training and it would be great if runs that caused soreness early in the plan no longer do. As Boston approaches, it’s ideal if you feel smoother and you experience less “pounding” when running fast downhill. These are good signs for Boston-proof legs.

Also, how’s your fueling plan? Tried, tested and true? I find that athletes that have a plan that isn’t just adequate but is one that gives them plenty of power over the last few miles of fast-finish long runs have a great chance at marathon success. The bottom line is that if you can pace yourself properly (don’t go out too fast) and fuel yourself properly, you have a great chance at success.

Enjoy these final two big weeks of training. We’re almost there and soon enough we’ll all be heading to Boston to reap the rewards of all the hard work.