Being less than two weeks out from the Boston Marathon, I figured it was time to come up with a race pace strategy. Although I don’t have an overall time goal, I do want to go into the marathon with a pace strategy. From what I’ve read the Boston Marathon is highly technical and if you don’t pace properly, you will pay for it dearly toward the end of the run. But I’ve also read that if you pace smartly, Boston can actually be a relatively fast course – assuming the weather conditions are good.
As you can see in the course elevation profile above, the course is very hilly, with a net elevation loss of 442 feet (783 ft elevation gain – 1225 elevation loss). So trying to go out and run even splits every mile probably isn’t going to work. Although there are more downhills than uphills, the downhills will trash your quads if you run them too hard, so I’ll need to make sure to hold back.
They say you can break Boston down into four distinct sections based upon the elevation profile. Segment 1: miles 1 – 5 is downhill; Segment 2: miles 5-16 are rolling/flat; Segment 3: miles 16-21 are the Newton Hills; and Segment 4: last 5 miles are downhill to flat. As a result, each segment should have their own pacing strategy.
I feel I’m currently in shape to run a marathon between 3:15 – 3:25. If this were a flat course, I would probably try and run even splits of around 7:30/mile pace. Since Boston is not flat, I will instead try to average a 7:30 pace, using the following pacing for each segment.
Segment 1 (Miles 1 – 5, downhill): 7:30 ~ 7:40/mile; although this is mostly downhill, I plan to start off conservatively. Running the 2011 New York Marathon was a good lesson on how I sub-optimized my time because I got so caught up in the moment early in the race.
Segment 2 (Miles 5 – 16, rolling/flat): 7:20 ~ 7:30/mile; since I plan to start out conservatively, this is where I’ll gain back some of the lost time.
Segment 3 (Miles 16 – 21, Newton Hills): 7:35 ~ 7:45/mile; this is going to be the toughest part of the race and inevitably I need to dial the pace back by about 15 seconds per mile.
Segment 4 (Last 5 miles, downhill/flat): 7:25 ~ 7:35/mile; hopefully, by this time I’ll have enough left in the tank to maintain around a 7:30 pace.
So there you have it, we’ll see what happens on race day. The pace above is assuming we have decent weather conditions. I would be interested to hear any comments on my planned strategy from folks who have run Boston.