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Running Tips

Return to racing

Boston Marathon cartoon

Follow John DeAngelis, Brooks Guru for the New England region, as he uses insights from the Boston Marathon to help you prep for in-person races. 

Boston Marathon cartoon

After a year of modified races like the Boston Marathon and New York City Marathon, in-person racing is back. The Boston Marathon will take place on October 11, 2021 (it’s typically held in April) and 2018 winner Des Linden is going to compete.

In honor of our favorite Boston champ, we reached out to John DeAngelis, the Brooks Guru for New England, to help prepare you for your next race. John ran the Boston Marathon three years in a row from 2017–2019 representing Susan G. Komen New England. He shares some insights about different sections of the Boston course and lots of universal tips to help you return to racing.

Boston Marathon welcome

Pre-race prep: Athletes’ Village and Runner’s Village

Runners will show up at various times at the Boston Marathon, but you’ll be there for a quite a while before the race starts. If you’re taking a bus to the start line, know that they’re school buses and won’t have bathrooms. Plan your bathroom breaks and hydration/fueling accordingly.

Tips for any race:

  • It’s a long morning, so be sure to eat enough before. Pack lots of food and water.
  • Be weather-prepared. If the weather is cold or rainy, be sure to have ponchos, and any other waterproof running gear. Bring a couple of garbage bags to sit on or foil wraps from a previous race.
  • Keep your feet dry.
  • Bring snacks and hydration — there will likely be light snacks available at most races, but stick to what you know. Never try anything new on race day.
  • Know your wave and be ready to line up at the right time
Boston Marathon cartoon with motorcycle

Getting started

The Boston Marathon begins on a narrow road and drops like a rollercoaster. The first significant spectator hangout you’ll pass after the start is at mile 2: TJ’s Food and Spirits, a popular biker bar.

Tips for any race:

  • It’s easy to ride the wave at the beginning of any race, but stay in the middle and let the faster runners pass on the edges.
  • Resist temptation! Don’t get caught up in the excitement and try not to pass in the first mile.
  • Remember your strategy and pacing.

The middle miles

The Boston course flattens out a bit around the 10K mark. If you went out too fast in the beginning, you should start settling in and focus on your pacing. In Framingham, you’ll also cross the first of seven sets of railroad tracks. Then the course undulates as you run around Lake Cochituate and at mile 12.5, you’ll hit Wellesley College, affectionately known as “The Scream Tunnel.” Because of the way the course bends, you’ll be able to hear the celebrated shrieks of the school's students and their friends well before you get to them.

Next up is Newton Fire Station at mile 17.5 where, for the first time in the race, the course takes a sharp right turn onto Commonwealth Ave. and the first of the Newton Hills. The second hill will take you past the Johnny Kelley statue on the left side of the street.

Newton Fire Station cartoon

Miles 22-25 will lead you to the top of Heartbreak Hill and down through Boston College. Before entering Cleveland Circle, the race turns right onto Chestnut Hill Ave and then left onto Beacon St. If you’re struggling, break it down into smaller portions or run the mile you’re in. Despite common advice, don’t look for the CITGO sign yet! It’s farther than you think! There is a slight uphill coming through Kenmore Square.

Tips for any race:

  • Forget about your splits and focus on effort during flat portions of any course.
  • Shorten your strides until you reach the top of a hill, then coast over the next mile.
  • Really draw on the crowds when you’re running hills — the cheers will help you get through the most difficult parts of a course.
Boston Marathon finish line

The finish line

A straight shot down Commonwealth Avenue (Comm Ave, if you’re a local) leads you to the most famous turn — right on Hereford, left onto Boylston. Hereford is longer than you think, and slightly uphill. Keep your arms swinging. Once you make that left turn onto Boylston Street, you can see the finish line, and all your effort is about to pay off.

Takeaways and tips:

  • It’s ok to be selfish- the crowds are cheering for YOU. Soak it all in.
  • It doesn’t matter what the clock reads, you’re finished!
  • Wear your medal proudly. Strangers will approach you on sidewalks to congratulate you.
2018 Boston Marathon winner cartoon

Run like Des

If you are ready to race again in person, know that you will be in good company — Brooks athlete, Boston Marathon winner, and all-around badass Des Linden will be running Boston this year. Des won Boston in 2018 despite brutal weather conditions. Take her lead and stay tough, no matter what challenge arises in your race.