The Guide to Boston Marathon (6): Race Day

RACE DAY MORNING

Unlike most races where you’d get to go through your regular morning pre-race routine, the pre-race arrangement for the Boston Marathon might throw you off slightly.  If you plan to take the official bus (free for runners but unavailable for friends/family) to the start, the chart below shows the time you’d need to arrive at Boston Common (very close to the finish line) to board the bus.  Also, at the Boston Common, you can gear check (Using the official gear check bag received from your race packet only) any items you wish to pick up after the race.   NOTE: The walk from the finish line back to the gear check is a good 1mile after 26.2miles of grinding.  It was a horrible day for me to walk back as the weather was at its worst of the day.

WAVE BIB COLOR BIB NUMBER BUS LOADING TIME ARRIVAL TIME
1 101 – 7,700 6:00 – 6:48 a.m. 7:07 – 7:55 a.m.
2 8,000 – 15,600 7:00 – 7:48 a.m. 8:07 – 8:55 a.m.
3 16,000 – 23,600 7:55 – 8:43 a.m. 9:02 – 9:50 a.m.
4 24,000 – 32,500 8:45 – 9:33 a.m. 9:52 – 10:40 a.m.

 

 The logistics is as follows:

1.  Bag Check

Gear Check

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Board the bus at the stated time (see above chart) at the Boston Common (1mile from the finish line)

Boarding Bus

 

 

 

 

 

3.  Arrive at Athlete Village at Hopkinton  (~60mins ride)

Entrance of Athlete Village

 

 

 

 

 

4.  Stay at the tents for about 2 hours if it was raining like mine in 2015 or in other years people get to do some forms of warm up on the beautiful dry field.

athletes_village_2015

athletesvillage 2014

 

A question I had before getting there was would I be able to warm up at all before the race?

The answer is:  if the day was raining cats and dogs like 2015, then the answer is NO.  I wasn’t able to do any form of warm up because all runners (see top left photo) were packed in this little tent and other ones. There was virtually no space for any sort of drastic movement.  Could you go out for a easy warm up run? Not really, the field was muddy and once you left the tent your spot would immediately be taken by others. If the day was sunny, I’d think it’s quite possible to do some easy stretches on the field and perhaps some short light jogs around the field.

So on a rainy day, my advice is to do a shake-out run of 10-15mins the minute you woke up.

Another advice I give is to use the pot-o-let as early as possible.  My first stop was when I first arrived there and there was no line up.  My last stop was at 830am (about 30mins before being escorted to the start), the wait was about 30mins!

 5. Marshalled out to the Start line 

There is also another washroom stop just 400m before the start.  Actually, the distance of which  would really depend on where your corral is.  One advice I learned from fellow runners (only applicable to guys) is to bring along the warm sheet you get at the Athlete village and an empty Gatorade bottle for any last minute flush out of the system you might require.     start line 2015

 

 

 

 

 

Based on my experience this year running on a day that was extremely cold, wet and windy, my suggestion of items to bring to race site is divided in two categories as follows:

A.  Items You Will Race With 

Race shoes in plastic bag; race socks; arm warmers; GPS watch; Compression sleeves; Race cap (water-resistant); gloves (water-resistant); gels or any race specific nutrition

B.  Items You Will Donate  

2-4 layers of warm clothing (weather dependant); old socks; old shoes; old jacket; old beanie; towel (for stretching or wiping dry yourself if raining); vaseline (travel size); Body-glide (travel size); Bottled water/Gatorade; something to munch on (e.g. Cliff bars);and; 1-2 large garbage bags to sit on.

That’s all I could think of…my apologies in advance if I have missed out any details or if the event itself has made any changes that did not reflect my experience written here.  Please feel free to ask me a question or two in the comment section below.  All the best!  Lastly, if you are interested in my race, please kindly see my post on Boston Marathon 2015 Race

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The Guide to Boston Marathon (5): Before the Race Day

AT THE BOSTON MARATHON EXPO

 

This is by far one of the biggest marathon expo I had ever been to.  It’s probably four times the size than the biggest one I had attended and the crowd was probably twenty times larger!   It’s also the first one for me to go through security checks at the entrance of the building before entering a race expo.  Few runners warned me beforehand to just go in and out immediately after retrieving my bib and race packet.  The expo is so enticing that one would stay there for hours and hours without realizing the next day their legs would end up so exhausted from all the standing and walking.

I am grateful that I arrived at the Expo on Saturday and so I had at least a day to rest up on Sunday before the race.  I mean this is a life-time experience and it’d be pity for me to miss-out completely.  I decided just to walk the parameter of the expo and would only venture into the core if I saw something that interests me.  At the end, even with this strategy, my family and I stayed there for at least 2 hours.

BUYING BOSTON MARATHON APPARELS/SOUVENIRS? 

Yes, I realize everyone, including myself, has this strong urge to buy the Boston Marathon jacket (~$110).  You could save all the line ups and weaving in & out of the crowd by buying them online.  The disadvantage of which is of course you don’t get to try and feel it and also the lack of seeing other products.

Most people buy their Boston Marathon Apparels at either the EXPO or at the Marathon store just located across the expo.  Both are situated on the Boylston Street. In my opinion, the line up at the expo was long and the store had virtually no line up.  What most people don’t realize is that these apparels can also be found in most athletic stores in Boston Downtown at the same price and with virtually no one inside.  Even better, I saw great deals at the running warehouse on-line store!

At the end of the day, it’s your personal choice what you plan to do and buy.  I didn’t get the jacket because the trip itself cost me already an arm and a leg but I did purchase a 2015 Boston Marathon Cap ($20) as a souvenir to bring home.

There were definitely some great deals at the expo.  However, just remember the adage that never try something new on race day!  One of the booths that drew my attention was the Timex where they displayed their newest GPS watch with email/texting functions without connecting to any smartphone. They were offering a very nice discounted price of less than $100 than what I would pay here in Vancouver.  Owing to the lack of prior research on this product,  I decided to walk away and forget about it.

Also at the expo, if the timing is right you might see some of your favourite running book authors doing book signing and elite runners talking to their fans.  Please see schedule ahead of time if you do plan to find someone to meet for autographs.

Picking up your race packet/bib

If you decide not to do any shopping, you could take the escalator to the 3rd floor.  Once in there, you’ll see numerous volunteers distributing your race packet according to your bib#.  The process was smooth and took less than 3 minutes. Unlike some marathons I attended, the chip/sensor on the Boston Marathon bib did not require any activation.

Once you’ve received your race packet, you should head into the big conference room to pick up your shirt.

This is also where you will purchase additional tickets if you plan to bring a friend or family member to the pre-race pasta dinner ($20/person) and/or the post-race party.

PRERACE PASTA DINNER

Every runner will receive a free coupon in their runner’s passport for the pre-race dinner on the night before the marathon.  See above for additional tickets.

There were two lines to get into the building at the City Hall Plaza.  One was short and the other was tremendously long. If you wish to save time, REMEMBER DO NOT bring any bags/luggage/backpack/small purse/stroller/diaper bag  into the pre-race dinner; otherwise, you’ll need to go through the super long line up and subject to a security search.  So how bad was it?  My family and I lined up at about 5pm on an evening that was extremely windy and chilly.  To make matter worse, my little guy of 2yo lacks the patience to stand still and would run away from the line in several occasions. You can actually find me in the above picture  (hint: stroller).  We finally got seated at 630pm and left at 730pm.

 

I’d say the event was a great experience but I’d likely never do it again.   The best part was the chance to meet up with different runners at the table.  However, I’d prefer to stay home/hotel next time for a more quiet rest time and probably enjoy a dinner more of my preference. Special thanks and kudos to all the volunteers putting up a great show!

Please continue reading Part 6

The Guide to Boston Marathon (2): Training Strategy

MARATHON TRAINING 

I respect that everyone has their own unique way to tackle the beast.  Therefore, I will not fully discuss about my training herein.  However, I wish to discuss few things I did and did not do for training that might be good reminders for most.

Hills training

One of the most popular topics I came across while training for the Boston Marathon was whether or not to do hills training.  If you go on any runner’s forums (e.g. Boston FB page, Runners’ World, and etc), you will see the majority of runners would suggest doing hills training, especially downhill running.  I live in a city where hills are everywhere!  My coach had only prescribed 1 workout that was elevation specific/downhill for me to do; otherwise, all my training were pretty much running around town in rolling hills.  I never had the time to train on the track and had done all my speed workouts using a GPS watch on the roads.  So for me, I didn’t really do any downhill/hills training for the Boston marathon.   Honestly, I did not find the hills/downhill that bad in Boston comparing to the hills I have run here in Vancouver.  It is most likely the placement of the four hills starting at 25th K and ending at 33K that makes it a beast to run!  In retrospect, I think I have prepared myself very well for the race by running many race pace specific training, especially on my long runs.  If you live in an area that is pancake flat, then it might be worthwhile to look into some form of hills training.

Nutrition

If my memory serves me correctly, there was only one gel station at the entire course of the Boston Marathon.  It was also situated later in the race at around 20 mile? I highly suggest to practice taking gels during your long runs and familiarize with a particular brand that sits well in your stomach.  I carried 8 gels on the day, aiming to take 1 every 5km.  I lost one right at the start so I figured I’d take one of the gels at the course.  That station happened to be somewhere along a hill before Heartbreak and the gel tasted extremely awful in flavour and the texture was at least 10X thicker than my normal PowerGel.  The moral of the story is to bring your own gel and perhaps bring extra ones as backups! I’ll talk more below about what to bring on race day!

Course Map

I used this course map as my desktop wallpaper at work and whenever I had a chance I’d just stare at it.  I find it to be important to really understand the placement of the big drops as well as the hills.

Boston Course Video 

For those who wish to better visualize the course, here is a video link of approximately 20mins of the entire race course: www.youtube.com/watch?v=EjJw3fRS5xM

Boston Marathon Mile-By-Mile Description

Here’s a great link (http://boston.cbslocal.com/guide/mile-by-mile-guide-to-the-boston-marathon/)for those who might want to know more what happens at each mile on the course.  The condition on the day I ran the marathon was quite horrible so much of my memory of the course was pretty much a blur.

Please continue reading PART 3 

The Guide to Boston Marathon (4): Getting Ready for the Trip

RECEIVING YOUR CONFIRMATION LETTER 

The registration happens on the first week of September and the specific day is based upon your qualifying time.  I registered on the 2nd day for runners who ran more than 10mins faster but less than 20mins for their age/gender category.

I received the confirmation letter on Oct 30. An email confirming my acceptance was sent to me immediately the following week on Sept 14.

Between the time you received your confirmation email and race day,  you shall receive at least 5-7 more newsletters from the Boston Marathon Association informing on various subjects about the race.

 WHAT TO PACK FOR YOUR BOSTON TRIP 

I’ll mention only running specific items that I packed for the trip.  Two weeks prior to my flight, I made a Google excel worksheet of my Boston Trip To Bring List.  Whenever I thought of something to pack, I’d add it in to this list.  The column for running-related items conjured to 35 things!  It was indeed a handy document to have when it came to time to pack.  So here are the things I’ve brought along!

Running Items Quantity
Race shoes 1
Walking shoes 1
Training shoes 1
Race socks 1
Training socks 2
Compression sleeves 2
Compression 3/4 recovery tight 1
Massage roller 1
Oakley Sunglasses 1
Hat (training, waterproof, race day) 3
Race tights 2
Race shorts 1
Skechers Race Singlet 1
Body Glide 1
Skin shaver 1
Garmin Gps watch 1
Gps charger 1
Band-aid 4
Gels 14
Bread 3
Old clothings 3
Old Jacket 1
Old pants 1
Gloves 2
Arm sleeves 2
Beanie 1
Vaseline 1
Fuel-belt 1
Nike belt for training 1
Yoga Belt 1
Roller 1
Towel 1
BREAD (breakfast)  4

 

One awesome tip that I learned from Meb is that NEVER pack your race day items (e.g. race shoes) in your checked-in luggage.  Always, bring your race day gears with you in your carry-on.  You’d never know if your checked-in luggage might get lost or got sent to another part of the world!  It’d be a shame to find a new pair of shoes at the expo to wear on race day.  We all know how catastrophic that could be for a runner!  I’ll talk more below under Race Day about what to bring and what NOT to bring.

Please continue reading PART 5

The Guide to Boston Marathon (3): Flight and Hotel

BOOK YOUR TICKETS AND ACCOMMODATION ASAP

I’d say if you have BQ’d at least 5 mins faster than the stated qualifying time for your age/gender category and you are determined to run the Boston marathon, you should book your air tickets and accommodation ASAP!   A whooping surge of 30,000 runner plus their friends and family members will swarm Boston on the week of the Boston Marathon.  The later you book, the higher the price you will pay.  The average cost of hotel/night around the finish line in Boston was about $500.  The earlier you book, the cheaper it shall be!  For example, I booked my air ticket from Vancouver, BC to Boston for about $220 plus tax =~$300 Canadian.  Most people I know who booked later were paying at least over $400 and some were over $600.

WHERE TO BOOK YOUR HOTEL

If you are financially sound, then of course by all means save yourself all the troubles on race day and stay as close to the finish line as possible or somewhere near the Boston Common where you’ll board the official bus on race day morning to the start in Hopkinton.

For those like myself who are tight on cash, you might want to look at the above subway map to book your accommodation somewhere along those stations that will lead you to the Green Line at Boylston Street Station, the Green and Red Line at Park Street Station, the Orange Line at Chinatown Station, the Orange and Red Line at Downtown Crossing Station, and the Orange and Blue Line at State Station.  You will certainly save up more by staying away from Down town.

One thing to bear in mind though while you take the T (subway), they are old, extremely slow and have limited access to an elevator. I did however find the subway to be quite safe in general.

For more details, please visit http://www.mbta.com/riding_the_t/marathon/

Which stations are closed during the Boston Marathon?

To accommodate large crowds in the Downtown Boston area, Copley Station is closed during the day. Additionally, South Street, Kent Street, and St. Mary’s Street Stations on the above-ground branches of the Green Line are closed between 10 a.m. and approximately 6 p.m. on Marathon Monday.

Please continue reading Part 4

The Guide to Boston Marathon (1): Registration and Getting Qualified

Before you begin, a major caveat is warranted here: obviously, I do not know EVERYTHING about the Boston Marathon; however, I do wish to write this blog based on my first hand experience at the 2015 Boston Marathon.  I hope this article will help those who have attained the elusive standard to better prepare themselves for their upcoming event.  I will talk about everything I know from registration, booking tickets, travelling, packing,  expo,  race morning, race day, and many more.

THE BOSTON MARATHON QUALIFYING STANDARDS & REGISTRATIONS

AGE GROUP MEN WOMEN
18-34 3hrs 05min 00sec 3hrs 35min 00sec
35-39 3hrs 10min 00sec 3hrs 40min 00sec
40-44 3hrs 15min 00sec 3hrs 45min 00sec
45-49 3hrs 25min 00sec 3hrs 55min 00sec
50-54 3hrs 30min 00sec 4hrs 00min 00sec
55-59 3hrs 40min 00sec 4hrs 10min 00sec
60-64 3hrs 55min 00sec 4hrs 25min 00sec
65-69 4hrs 10min 00sec 4hrs 40min 00sec
70-74 4hrs 25min 00sec 4hrs 55min 00sec
75-79 4hrs 40min 00sec 5hrs 10min 00sec
80 and over 4hrs 55min 00sec 5hrs 25min 00sec

 

BIG congrats to those who have achieved the elusive standards!  But are you CERTAIN that you are absolutely in for the Boston Marathon? For 2015, the cut-off was 1:02 minute.  So if you just made the standard on the dot, you will unfortunately not be accepted into the marathon.  I’ve seen the cut-off to be as rigour as more than 90s, so my sincere advice is aim for a faster time than what is posted of at least about 2-3 mins faster .   The registration works in a rolling acceptance manner. In other words, the fastest runners get to register on the first day while the slowest runners on the last day.

The total number of runners accepted for the 2015 race was 30,000 and the qualifier breakdown was:

  • 4,093 qualifiers who were 20:00 or more under their standard.
  • 6,490 qualifiers who were 10:00 or more under their standard.
  • 6,160 qualifiers who were 5:00 or more under their standard.
  • 6,447 qualifiers who were 1:02-4:59 under their standard.
  • 356 qualifiers with an active streak of at least 10 years.

In retrospect, interestingly, one thing I should mention post-race is that out of the 30,000 runners, only 26,600 made it to the finish line.  I witnessed many who dropped out during different stretches of the course.  It was a rough day to be out there.  I’ll talk more about my race in another post!

Another important thing I learned for registration was that your Boston qualifying time is based on your age on race day and NOTon your age on the race you qualified.  For example, I ran my BQ on May 03, 2014 at the Vancouver BMO International Marathon in a time of 2:58:06.  My age on that day was 34 and I’d turned 35 on the day running the Boston Marathon.  Initially, I thought my qualifying time would be 3:05:00; however, it was actually the next age category of 3:10:00.  What difference does this make? The former gives me 7 mins, allowing me to register on the 3rd day on registration week sometime in September.  The latter enables me to register earlier on the 2nd day for those who ran more than 12 mins faster than the stated time. This also gave me extra confidence to know I’d be accepted and to proceed with my air/accommodation booking.

Please continue reading Part 2