Sorry, you need to enable JavaScript to visit this website.
Moe Johnson Running with Moe

Moe Johnson Running with Moe

Contemplating running in the Boston Marathon

Sunday, April 30, 2023

I was recalling some of the highlights from watching the Boston Marathon a couple of weeks ago. Boston and New York are the largest marathons in the United States and seem to be the most recognized. Boston is different in the fact that you have to run a qualifying time to enter.

When I ran Boston I had to run under 3:10 hours. It is now about 30 minutes slower to make that age group. But, when you still have 40,000 runners run a race, those in the back can’t even get to the starting line for 10 minutes or more. Most are there just so they can say they ran Boston.

Watching the lead runners it is hard to imagine how fast they are running with such ease. And the fact that runners have to run 26 miles-plus at that pace. There are many miles where the pace is under a 5-minute per mile time. It is interesting to watch as in the first portion of the race the lead group is fairly large. It gradually gets fewer and fewer as the miles add up. There is a large group of professional runners that can run close to that 5-minute pace for a few miles. The task is to run those 26 miles at that pace. That group gets smaller each mile and watching them run that fast for that distance is hard to comprehend. And the fact that they make it look so easy to run that fast is amazing.

Paula Radcliff from England ran a 2:15 marathon. She ran between 5 and 15 seconds above that 5-minute pace for 26 miles. Her times only varied a few seconds every mile and that was probably because of the course that may have had slight inclines or curves to slow her down.

The week before the Boston Marathon there were numerous posts on media outlets about what it takes to run downhill. Boston is considered a downhill marathon because the starting point is higher in elevation than the finish line. It may be considered downhill but it has a section in the last six miles that runners call ‘Heart Break Hill’. It is a series of small hills that are not that impressive other than the fact that they come at the end when runners are starting to feel the effects of running 20 miles.

Runners often mention that the 20-mile mark is the halfway point in a marathon. And that is when the hills take their toll on the runners. My sister took a photo of me as I started up those hills and while I thought I was ’running,'–both of my feet were in contact with the ground when she snapped the photo.

Most first time marathon runners want to run under five hours for the distance.

A few experienced runners try to break four hours in a marathon first try. Running a marathon is a learning experience. Other runners will give you tips about running a marathon and a runner can read a book on how to run a marathon but it takes an actual running of a marathon to appreciate what it takes to run that distance.

I used to train and lead runners for a 3:30 time. That amounts to running an 8-minute-mile pace to achieve that time.

Our first miles were closer to an 8:30-minute pace and many of them were worried that they wouldn’t run the time they had set for themselves. I would tell them that the halfway point in a marathon was at 20 miles and you need to be fresh and have energy to run those last six miles. Save your energy in the beginning so you have enough left for the finish. If they stayed with me we would finish within five minutes or so to that 3:30 time mark. In most marathons over 50% of the runners are over 4 hours and a good portion of those are over 5 hours in time. The most important part of running a marathon is to finish. Time is a distant second in importance in running a marathon. A runner only has to finish one marathon to be able to say they have run a marathon.

If the runner decides to run more than one marathon, then time becomes a factor. Experience is an important part of running each marathon faster than the time before. My first marathon time was 3:45 and people asked me if I was going to run Boston. That meant running well over a minute faster for over 26 miles to qualify for a 3:10 time. That was not achievable. But, each marathon became a little faster until I ran a 3:20 time. Now 3:10 was not that unreachable time. I ran a 3:04 time to qualify for Boston and I have to say that I was tired at the end. Marathons are a special race for runners and only about 15% of runners will ever run a marathon.

And whether you run a marathon fast or slow a runner can still answer, “Yes, I have run a marathon,” when asked.

San Marcos Record

(512) 392-2458
P.O. Box 1109, San Marcos, TX 78666