Course specificity

This is a wonderful short video on Eliud Kipchoge’s preparation for his first Boston Marathon. There’s a ton more in preparation beyond this two-and-a-half-minute video clip. The preparation for a race, if one is indeed preparing for a specific race, can be boiled down to a word: specificity.

Simply put, you train for what you want to do. If you want to run fast, you practice running fast. If you want to run far, you practice running far. If you want to power through hills, you practice on hills. And that list can go on and on. And if you need to accomplish a multitude of things, you practice all of them, and you have to give yourself the time to incorporate all of that practice in a dedicated training block.

I’ve been on a perpetual training plan since September of last year, leading up to six races in this past year’s Austin Distance Challenge. I built that plan specifically leading up to this year’s Boston Marathon. Boston is my “A Race,” and everything leading up to Boston needed to line up and work out just right. In January my Boston training began in earnest, especially the beginning of introducing more volume and long runs on weekends. And things lined up, by design, as the 3M Half Marathon (January) and Austin Half Marathon (February) incorporated a lot of hills.

The week after the Distance Challenge ended with the Austin Half Marathon, I went straight into a peak week for Boston Training. That meant my first 20-miler, one week after having run a 1:20:20 at the Austin Half. I specifically planned my three 20-milers to mimic the Boston course — downhill for the first half, and uphill for the second half. And since the start of my training in September, I specifically worked on training for distance and, more importantly, speed. I pushed hard on the tempos and intervals and really worked on turning my legs over and getting faster and stronger.

This will be my fourth Boston Marathon. My first was in 2018, arguably the worst Boston Marathon in terms of weather. The temperatures were barely above freezing, it was pouring rain the whole day, and we all had to push against 20 and 30-mile per headwinds the whole way from Hopkinton to Boston. I ran a negative split that year and I couldn’t be stopped. I ran Boston again in 2021 and 2022. Both years presented perfect running weather — clear skies and mid-50s temperatures. However, the Newton Hills brought me to a walk both years. And hills don’t usually bother me. But they’re the Newton Hills. They start at mile 16. Heartbreak Hill is at mile 20.

I specifically designed my three 20-milers so that the first halves were downhill, and the second halves were uphill. I have trained so that I can control what I can control. No one can predict the weather or other conditions in Boston. It could be raining, windy, cold, or hot. Those are all things that I can’t control. You just have to be ready and accepting, and confident in controlling only what you can. I’ve worked on being ready for the hills. They are my #1 adversary. I feel confident that my body is ready. A huge part of training is preparing the mind. I will use these final three weeks while tapering to continue to train my mind and mentally prepare for my adversary.

I will be ready.

First peak week 20-miler long run

Second peak week 20-miler

Third peak week 20-miler

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