Boston Marathon Prep: Course-Specific Workouts

Sample Boston-Specific Workouts

The BAA 2-4-2
The 2-4-2 workout is an uphill and downhill tempo run used by the BAA on the Boston marathon course that you can also simulate at home or on the treadmill. The group performs this workout twice, once in early February and once in early March with the second session being slightly longer or faster. Here’s how it works:

1. Start with a 2-mile tempo, mostly uphill, at your normal tempo run pace. Then, you have a 4-5 minute easy jogging rest. You can reduce this to 1 mile if you’re a beginner or for the first session.

2. Next, run 8 x uphill/downhill repeats on a moderate incline (6-8%) at marathon pace. Each uphill and downhill section is about a quarter-mile long (so about 800 meters per repeat). There is no rest between these repeats – it’s a continuous effort.

3. Finally, after a 3-4 minute easy jog rest, run a 2 mile, mostly downhill, tempo run at normal tempo run pace.

You can modify this workout to suit your mileage and typical workout volumes, but keep the ratios the same and make sure you include both the uphill and downhill sections.

Downhill intervals
Since preparing your quads for the downhill sections is just as important as being ready for the Newton hills, I like to perform early segment speed workouts on a slight decline. This enables you to integrate speed work early in the training cycle while also keeping the training course-specific.

As an example, I’ll have athletes perform mile repeats on the treadmill at a decline. To compensate for the downhill being aerobically easier, I’ll typically shorten the rest period rather than making the pace too fast (to decrease the risk of injury). An example workout would be 5 x 1-mile downhill repeats at 5k to 8k race pace with 90 seconds rest.

RELATED: Hit The Hills, Reap The Benefits

2 x 5 miles
This workout simulates the third quarter of the Boston course (miles 11-16 and then the Newton hills, miles 16-21) to prepare you physically and mentally for the hardest part of the course.

Perform two 5-mile tempos at marathon pace or just a bit faster. The first 5-mile section should be relatively flat, simulating the middle miles of the Boston course. Take a 5 min standing recovery and then run the second 5-mile tempo on a hilly (mostly up) course.

Hilly long runs and tempo runs
While this workout prescription isn’t as specific or “novel” as the other four workouts mentioned in this article, I think it’s important nonetheless. When training for Boston, be sure that some of your marathon-specific long runs and marathon pace work are performed on rolling hills. You can get super specific if you want (some treadmills have the Boston course as a pre-defined setting), but it’s not 100 percent necessary. The goal is simply to get accustomed to running on the hills when tired.

Implement these four course-specific workouts and long runs into your training segment this spring and you’ll be ready to run your best in April!

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