Without fail, every marathon season, I am asked by my patients, what kind of advice I would offer up to them as they prepare to run the Boston marathon. I first admit that I have never (nor will ever) run a marathon, but given my unique insight of spending 1000’s of hours alone in a room with these road warriors, I will say that my advice comes straight from the most reliable sampling anyone could hope to find. Here are just a few of the tips they have offered up for both runners and spectators.
Starting too fast can ruin the entire race for you:
Runners: Your adrenaline and nerves will be off the charts. Set your watch, follow your own cadence and ignore the rush of people flying by you. It’s not really a race against anyone but yourself. Remember your training.
Spectators: Cheer positive affirmations as they speed by you along the way. They hear your words and thrive off of your energy
Be mindful of the weather on race day:
Runners: We all know the most unpredictable element of the marathon is the weather. If it’s cold, wear layers you can shed and discard without care. If it’s hot, be careful of hoses and misters that can get your feet wet and make you susceptible to blisters.
Spectators: Runners appreciate your efforts to assist them, but be careful not to simply spray water on someone who looks like they need it. Don’t give out wet sponges, only to re-soak them and offer the same germ infested sponge to the next runner. Give wet paper towels that can be thrown aside easily (and not re-used)
Don’t over think your water intake, understand your needs prior to race day:
Runners: You should have good understanding of what your intake should be, take only what you know you need and don’t change your strategy out of fear. Be prepared.
Spectators: It’s nice to volunteer to hand out water, but you should run along with the runner, make eye contact, and offer it up without forcing it. Hand it to them carefully being mindful that they are focused and mentally taxed. Just sticking an arm out and risking spilling it on them, could alter their rhythm and potentially cause an injury.
Allow the crowd to be your wings on race day:
Runners: There are estimated to be close to 500,000 spectators along the route. Write your name on you (front, back, arms, across your bottom). Give the spectator some way to connect with you. It will help you when you least expect it.(especially in Wellesley, trust me it gets loud)
Spectators: There are over 25,000 runners and they all need your help. Yell their names, bib numbers, charities or whatever it takes to let them know that you are cheering for them. Your support creates such a mental lift for these runners. They need you (especially as they hit the home stretch). Crowd support is paramount to having a successful and memorable Boston marathon experience.
Have a mantra that you can repeat throughout the race:
Runners: You’ve trained hard for the past 17 weeks (or more). This winter, especially the weekends, were a tough go at it. You are ready; YES! you are. To paraphrase Yogi Berra, “Marathons are 90% mental and the other half is physical”. Now is the time to stay positive. Trust your training, believe in yourself. You have earned this moment. Shine.
Spectators: Race day is not about the parties, it’s about the runners (no, really). Take a moment and read a few of the 1000’s of stories (see Team Hoyt for starters) that make this one of the most special races in the world. Give them the kind of support that has branded this race THE best spectator crowd for marathoners. Let them hear you cheering and supporting them.
Most of all, have fun, live in the moment and applaud your accomplishments.