5 tips to make the Boston Marathon your marathon

Nancy Ferrari

Managing Director and Executive Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

I never planned on running a marathon, even though I had run for fitness and enjoyed going longish distances. I’ve never been fast, and any run over 8 miles had me wishing I had thought to use the bathroom again before heading out or thinking about how much laundry I could have finished in the time it would take me to finish a route.

But when a friend asked me to train with him to run the Boston Marathon for charity, I decided to go for it. The training was long and sometimes tedious but it was worth it to be part of this extraordinary event. I was pleased to finish in a respectable time, but what made it so rewarding was running “my” marathon (I won’t say race because I was not racing by any stretch).

Here are a few tips I’d like to share with Monday’s marathoners.

  1. You’ll find this advice in many running resources, but never, ever wear something on marathon day that you haven’t worn for a distance run before. Preferably many times before. That includes socks, definitely shoes, shorts, underwear, watches, sunglasses, hats, you name it. The last thing you need is unexpected discomfort, chafing, or blisters.
  2. If you have family or friends watching you along the route, try to know in advance where they will be. My best memories of the marathon were being able to hug friends and give my sisters and my husband a kiss on my way. Knowing where they were going to be made it easier for me to see them and to maneuver to the correct side of the road for a sweaty public display of affection.IMG_5213
  3. “The wall” is real so have a plan. I didn’t. I was quite pleased with myself that I made it through Newton and Heartbreak Hill in relatively good shape. But when I rounded into Cleveland Circle, my body said “I am D-O-N-E, done.” In that moment, I had no idea what to do. If this happens to you, try walking for five minutes or, if you’re running with music, cranking up your most inspiring tunes.

At the rate I was going, walking wouldn’t be that much slower or easier, so I kept shuffling. I could at least say I ran the whole thing. Which I did. But I think I would have been just as satisfied if I had to walk.

  1. Try to take in the atmosphere—and I don’t just mean breathing hard! The last 4 miles were tough for me. I was running along and looked up and saw a sign that said “Go Nancy.” “Wow,” I thought. “Someone has a sign for someone with my name!” As I glanced up, I saw it was for me. A friend from work had made it and was rooting me on.

But even if it wasn’t for me, I was amazed at all the support and encouragement the crowds offered all the runners. Tune into that goodwill and support. The crowd appreciation can help you keep moving. It really is for you and can help keep you moving.

  1. Enjoy the camaraderie. As I was turning onto Gloucester Street — the final stretch — a runner I’d never met looked at me and said “I can’t believe we’re here!’ I couldn’t either and it was great to share that moment (especially when you’re one of the back-of-the-pack runners). Throughout the race, don’t hesitate to connect with your fellow runners.

If you are running the Boston Marathon on Monday, I wish you a joyous and rewarding run. No matter how fast you go, how far you make it, or what shape you’re in when you’re done, you’ve been a part of something special. I’ll be cheering you on.

Related Information: Starting to Exercise


  1. Nutz Audio

    Hi guys, great post and Boston marathon is one of the most famous worldwide. We are in the audio industry; we were wondering if you have any statistics on how many runners wear earbuds during the race? We know its common practise while training, but would you know if its common whilst actually ” racing”? Your assistance would be appreciated.

    Many Thanks indeed



  2. peter

    Nice and helpfull ..!!

  3. maddy

    informative but check my previous comment.

  4. maddy

    please check your personality score and then think of running or participating.

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