The Inside Scoop: Preparing for the Boston Marathon

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

By: Jeff Burger, Charm City Run Elite Racing Team Coach

I recently received an email asking me for advice on the logistics of race morning for the Boston Marathon.  Thirty minutes later, I hit send and sent an email that was probably about a page long and I’m sure was more than the person was asking.  As a result of that email, Charm City Run asked me to write something that could be posted.  So, here it goes…

Because I don’t think Charm City Run wants an 8 page blog and because most of you wouldn’t read that much, I will separate this into two different parts – before and during.  The before is much more involved than the during. 


The entire “Boston weekend” is an experience like no other.  Try to allow yourself to enjoy it.  I only say this because as long distance runners, we tend to get so singularly focused on our race performance that we forget all the work that went into getting us to where we are.  If you can, try to get to the expo on Saturday.  By Sunday, several thousand people have been to the expo and finding your premium size can be difficult.  My other advice for the expo is – see above and really let everything sink in.  If you’re running Boston for the first time, this is your holy sh!t moment. 

Race morning – since this was the question that sparked me writing this, I will type exactly what I said in my email response.  Stalk the weather!  As a runner, I’m sure you already do this but stalk the weather before you leave for Boston and pack clothes that you plan on leaving in Boston.  Athlete’s Village is in Hopkinton, 26.2 miles from Boston.  When you get to Athlete’s Village, you are in a field with thousands of your closest friends.  They have tarps on the ground and tents, so if it’s raining, you have a chance to stay dry.  But, you are NOT inside.  Bag Check is in Boston!  Read that again – Bag Check is in Boston!  Anything you take to the start, you are either leaving at the start or carrying it with you.  So, what should you bring with you?

  1. First, the buses leave from Boston Common.  It’s pretty chaotic at Boston Common the morning of but it’s also pretty straight forward and easy to figure out.  You have to show your bib before entering the actual park, so you will have to say goodbye to loved ones well before you get on the bus.  After you say your goodbyes, stop by bag check if you plan on checking a bag and get ready for the best school bus ride of your life.  Also, do not try to drive anywhere close to Boston Common on race morning!  Walk or take the T.            
  2. Unless you are going with a group or a friend, I would take one of the last buses for your wave/corral.  You will be very anxious on race morning and I think a lot of us tend to err on the side of caution, which leads to us taking the first bus.  This just means you are sitting in Hopkinton for even longer.
  3. Take warm clothes.  Again, stalk the weather and take clothes with you that you plan to leave in Hopkinton.  If they are calling for rain (and it seems like they always are), bring a cheap poncho, a large trash bag or anything else that is water proof.  If it is going to be very cold, bringing hand warmers and/or feet warmers is a good idea.  Don’t worry about wasting your clothing, the BAA gathers up all the clothes and donates them.
  4. Take whatever you want to eat and drink.  They have the usual essentials – bananas, bagels, water, Gatorade, etc.  But, don’t leave anything to chance – take whatever you plan on eating and drinking.
  5. Take body glide or whatever your anti-chafe of choice is.  Pro advice – if somebody asks to share with you because they didn’t read this blog, make sure you use it first.
  6. Take a change of socks.  In my experience, between the possibility for bad weather or just the fact that you are on grass for a long time, your socks will probably get wet.  Take the socks you plan on wearing for the race.  And, if you have any shoes that you plan on getting rid of anyway, wear old shoes too.  Put your race shoes and socks on right before you head to the start.
  7. Other than that – just do your normal pre-race checklist – shorts, kit, bib, Garmin, gels, gloves, arm sleeves, and whatever else you would normally take to the start of any marathon.

My last tidbit for Athlete’s Village is – when you leave the area that is entitled “Athlete’s Village”, you don’t have to take off your warm clothes yet.  You have about a half mile walk to the start.  And, the good news is – don’t panic if you don’t get in one last bathroom stop – there are thousands of porta-pots right before you get to the start.  Also, there will already be people cheering for you (and drinking), which is pretty cool.


You’ve already read this 1,000 times and every single person you know who has run Boston has already told you this, but – DON’T GO OUT TOO FAST!  The Boston Marathon is an interesting creature because every single person in your corral is just as fast as you are.  Odds are, several of them have the exact same qualifying time as you.  So, there’s not as much weaving through traffic as there is in most races you’ve done.  But, it’s straight downhill.  And, by straight downhill, I mean straight downhill.  It’s downhill….until it isn’t.  I’ll let you figure that one out for yourself.

The other thing I would say about the during is – don’t listen to music!  If you’ve done every training run with music and the thought of not having music scares you, my advice is to turn it off at a few places.  First, turn it off about a half mile before you get to Wellesley.  Wellesley is at roughly mile 13 and running through Wellesley is, without a doubt, the best mile of any race I have ever run.  You can start hearing them cheer about 5 minutes before you get there, so turn off your music.  I would also turn off your music at the top of Heartbreak Hill (Boston College), and then turn your music off from about Fenway Park (mile 25) through the finish.  It really is a wonderful experience…don’t ruin it with a song you’ve probably heard more than a hundred times.  After Fenway, just focus on – Right on Hereford, Left on Boylston!  The left on Boylston is probably the most famous turn in endurance racing history!  I’m getting goose bumps just thinking about it!  I’ll see you in Boston!


Wednesday, April 3, 2024

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