Marathoning has developed into a sport for avid runners and novices alike. What used to be reserved for those die-hard souls hellbent on punishing their bodies for the sake of achievement is now a pastime for weekend warriors indifferently bent on accomplishing something in their spare time.
April 18 will commemorate the 115th running of the granddaddy of all marathons (save for the one in Greece) -– the Boston Marathon.
It's the destination of choice for America's world class long-distance runners, and port of call for many worldwide including from such exotic locales as Kenya or Ethiopia.
This marathon is among the toughest for which to qualify, with times required based on age and gender. If you are a male, aged 18-34, for instance, currently you’ll need to have run better than 3 hour, 10 minutes in a sanctioned race before Sept 25 of last year; if you’re a woman between 50-54, you’ll need a time of 4 hours, 5 seconds, and if you’re Caster Semenya ... well, just run as fast as you can and we’ll sort it out later.
The day is a national holiday in Boston (throughout Red Sox Nation only), called Patriots Day because every year, the Red Sox play a game on it. Red Sox Day, conversely, falls always on the third Patriots home game of the year and coincides with Foxborough’s annual "Running of the Blue Collar Drunkards."
So as a former resident of the Boston suburbs, though not a runner myself, I feel I'm the perfect source to answer your questions regarding the fabled course and the sport in general. So let's get to it so you, too, can compete.
This is my first marathon, after running many 10Ks before. They say the last 6.2 miles are the hardest. Do you have any advice on breaking through the “wall?” (Mary S., 29, Allston)
Yes, Mary, I’ve heard that as well, but believe me, your body will have gone on strike long before you get to the "wall." The final 6.2 miles are probably the easiest from a pain perspective as you’ll most likely be numb from the waist down. Think of the last few miles as did Phidippides, known as "the first marathoner," who valiantly pushed through his course, with the important task of delivering a message of victory to Athens. He’d never before felt such a sense of accomplishment. The pride caused him to die right there on the spot. Good luck!
I start out too fast and then feel drained too early. What can I do to curb that urge? (Runnerfrom617)
Start out slower. Heh heh, just kidding. But seriously, if this is difficult for you, begin your run ten miles up the road, so when you officially cross the starting line, you will have slowed down.
My feet tend to overpronate while running. What should I do? (Kerbs, 38)
Kerbs, I spoke with Dr. Gershwin Malloy about your question who seemed to indicate it is impossible for him to answer seeing as how he's a doctor of botany. So my guess would be to work on your underpronation.
One easy way to do this is to focus on your strides, letting your heels touch first, followed by your big toe, or hallux, and then the outside of your foot. Your overpronation problem will be gone shortly.
From this, you can expect to develop sharp pain in your knees, hips and back as your body adjusts to this new alignment. Please feel free to contact me for help in combating that problem and I will give you some exercises to help you develop an overpronating style of running.
What type of schedule should I be on for hydration throughout the race? (Mickey, Andover)
Mickey, the body needs to tap into its glycogen stores that get depleted as the race goes on. Gel packs provide sustained energy in a complex carbohydrate form, meaning it's more easily recruited than honey and/or simple sugars for fuel. Complex carbs require less blood to be diverted away from the muscles to aid in digestion. I would suggest one energy gel pack every five miles. Also, be sure to wash it down with a Sam Adams that they hand out along the course.
I’m a tiger with feet of fury and Adonis genes. What am I going to be doing? That’s right! Winning!!! ... duh. (Charlie S., Hollywood, Calif.)
Thank you for your prediction, Charlie S. Good luck in the race.
Are you a proponent of long strides, or short, quick ones? (Diane Seabold, Brooklyn, N.Y.)
I suggest long strides for tall people and short, quick ones for stubby little circus folk.
What can I expect at "Heartbreak Hill?" (Alex Higgenbottom, 40, Maryland)
Just when you come to the final 10K of the race and welcome the gradual decline toward sea level that you've been experiencing, there is a slight incline around the vicinity of Boston College. Though only a rise of 27 meters, you can expect the breaking of your spirit. Why simply writing about it has thrown me into a horrible depression that makes me want to smash my face into the computer monitor. But we shall prevail.
What if I have to go to the bathroom during the race? (LR, 25, Hyde Park)
Elite runners are not looked upon poorly for peeing in their pants ... during the race, that is. More recreational runners are. (Doing No. 2, on the other hand, is a no-no for all skill levels.) A good rule of thumb is, if there’s a camera crew zeroed in on you, let it fly! If the only people interested in you are family and friends, especially those with Flipcams, just pull off to one of those porta potties. No one will miss you.
What makes a runner "elite?" (Amanda, Boston College senior)
I can tell you, more than anything else, Amanda, that runners join the ranks of the elite when they begin to tell you how elite they are. Once they've succeeded in making you feel inferior, they officially reach elite status.
What should I eat before the race? (Jon B. Cohen, 28, Canada)
Carbs are your friend. On the evening before the marathon, I suggest loading up on pasta. (Boston's North End is your best destination for that.) On the morning of the race, you’ll want to mix in some protein to keep you strong, with not too much sugar. I suggest a couple of hot dogs. (Hold the onions.)
How will the people of Boston behave? (Svern, 25, Norway)
This is one of the only chances that Bostonians have to represent their fair city and display their inherent kindness to visitors. You will be greeted with a smile and their trademark respect and dignity ... unless you wear a Yankees hat or shirt, in which case, you had probably up your pace a little bit to avoid the projectiles hurled in your direction.
If you’ve never done a marathon, what expertise do you have? (urahack, U.S.A.)
Well, I once sat through an all-night animation festival. Also, I grew up only 20 miles from the start of the race and always meant to show up to cheer on the runners. It started before 9 a.m., though and I was inevitably still mired in a somnambulant state.
Which sports bra is best for me? (Sheila, 24, Perth, Australia)
An excellent question, Sheila, as it's mistakenly assumed that a sports bra is a sports bra is a sports bra, mainly by men who cannot fathom that there are different sizes to this ladies' undergarment and the anatomy it encases. This does not even take into consideration the different brands, a woman's desire to 'flaunt or conceal," size in proportion with other parts of her body, whether or not she enjoys attending the theatre or sporting events, if she’s the type of girl who likes the door held for her or will adamantly do it herself, or if she comes in through the bathroom window. My point is ... there are different types of sports bras?
How should I cool down, post-race?
Stay on your feet. The worst thing you can do is sit down. If you sit down, you may never get up. I’ve seen it happen. But the first thing you want to do after you stop vomiting is to enjoy a nice replenishing meal. I suggest a hot dog, and of course, a Sam Adams.
What did Rosie Ruiz do wrong? How can I avoid her mistakes? (NotRosieRuiz12)
Rosie Ruiz, for those of you who don’t know, is famous due only to her nerve and not due to any talent or accomplishment, kinda like "The Situation" from the reality television program "Jersey Shore." She "won" the 1980 Boston Marathon after bursting through a crowd of spectators somewhere on Commonwealth Avenue near the finish line. She did a lot of things wrong, including not knowing what a "split" was and for being unusually flabby for a "world-class athlete," and was caught later in the week. There are now measures in place designed to monitor your progress throughout the race and prevent this sort of duplicity.
That said, race officials are still behind the times technologically and have not taken into consideration the ability of one to clone oneself. If you can achieve this, you should be able to pull a bait-and-switch with a small amount of timing and choreography to win the race. Good luck with that.
How can I prevent chafing? (Armando, Pensacola, Fla, 26)
Run like a baboon where your arms and legs don’t rub against each other as they swing. I’ll be looking for you during the broadcast, Armando!
Is barefoot running good for me? (Peter Humphries, 33, East Bridgewater)
Invented by Africans as a result of not having shoes, the concept of running barefoot is not for everyone. Shoes protect more than your tendons and muscles and ligaments that take a pounding during such an undertaking as a marathon. Have you ever stubbed your toe on your bedpost? Think about the language you used when you did. And now imagine yourself running down the streets of Boston screaming those words with all those spectators watching you. I think you’ve got your answer.
I run with my ID and a watch. Is there anything else I need? (Jason, Canton, 30)
Yeah, pants. What’s the matter with you?! And if you are trying to establish a personal record, you should have one of those helmets equipped with cup holders to carry up to two cans of Sam Adams at one time, so you’re not constantly wasting valuable energy reaching for those little Dixie cups they pass out. Well, that’s all the time I have for now. I hope this helps. Join me next week when I’ll answer your questions on how to recover from injuries sustained from running a marathon.
Oh, and for those of you not running in the race, I will be tweeting during the race this year so be sure to follow me on Twitter @thewasif. I'll have to find a place to watch it, though, but I expect to give you up to the minute reports on the leaders, strategy, the overall scene, and anything else I can think of while in my living room drinking a Sam Adams.