Jordan Silva, 4.17.2020
April is synonymous with “Marathon Monday” in Boston. From the moment the race ends, runners and spectators alike look forward to next year’s Patriots’ Day. Streets shut down, businesses close for the day, and thousands of fans line the sidewalks to get a glimpse at one of the greatest road races on the planet. This year, however, April and Patriots’ Day won’t be the same, with the journey from Hopkinton to Boston being postponed until September.
For runners especially, this April 20th will be an occasion to mourn. Since the frigid winds of December came rolling in, runners have poured their heart and soul into training — braving snow and rain, dark, lonely mornings, and double-digit runs in single-digit temperatures. Some were in their best shape ever and were hoping to PR. Some made plans to visit Boston from thousands of miles away. Now, we are all uncertain about what’s to come.
For runners, the big question is, “how should I adjust my training to accommodate for the race now taking place five months later?” As a former collegiate coach, I know firsthand how race plans — and, in turn, training plans — can change. You may feel lost, so here are some tips to guide you:
Take some time off.
I am a big advocate for taking time off in between training cycles. It’s the best way to mentally reset, prepare for the next race, rest your body, and avoid injuries. Try taking 1-2 weeks completely off running if you haven’t already.
Ease in, and build a base.
After taking time off, don’t make the mistake of jumping right back into the mileage and workouts you were doing at your peak. That’s an easy way to get injured or burn out. Instead, ease into some easy mileage for a couple of weeks to build a base. I usually take my peak mileage, divide it in half, and that’s where I start in a new training cycle (so if you peak at 50 miles per week, start off with 25 miles). Increase mileage by no more than 10% each week.
Start small, then go long.
Meaning, there’s no need to be doing 20 mile long runs in May. Remember, Boston runners, May is the new January! Try doing 10 and increasing each week.
As you get into workouts, consider doing some speed work before getting back into long marathon efforts. Speed is a great way to build strength. Hill repeats, track work (400s and 800s), and fartleks (2-3 minutes on, 2 minutes off) are great ways to get faster without ramping up the mileage.
Just as important as training your body, you will also need to train yourself to have a positive mindset. That doesn’t mean suppressing negative feelings you’re having right now. It’s okay to grieve, but you can’t let sadness and uncertainty stop you from achieving your goals. Find ways to get excited about what’s to come rather than dwelling on what didn’t happen. Treat yourself to a new running product, even something small like a pair of socks; print out photos of where your next race is taking place (Boston in September is gorgeous!); write down positive affirmations and gratitude. Control the controllables, and know that some things are just out of your hands.
Running won’t be the same for a while, but even when we’re apart, the community can come together. For the foreseeable future, we’ll all be running alone, which means you will most likely be training for a marathon alone — maybe for the first time. While the prospect of tackling long runs and hard workouts without a partner is scary for some, you don’t have to be lonely when you’re solo.
Take this time to find some new music, podcasts, or audiobooks. Call a friend to check in before and after your runs to hold each other accountable. Join virtual running communities on Strava so you can give your friends kudos and even e-meet new people. Training alone may seem daunting, but consider it a challenge and a great way to do some self-reflecting.
We don’t know what our world will look like in September. Social distancing will be a big part of our lives for a while, and that may affect how you prepare for race day. We don’t know what the protocol will be for spectators, so it’s important to keep in mind that Marathon Monday may not be the same as years past. Race logistics could look a lot different than usual, and it will almost certainly require patience, flexibility, and kindness, to volunteers and other runners. Knowing now, five months out, that the Boston Marathon will have to accommodate for social distancing will allow you to be open and ready for anything.
The marathon was pushed back, but the race will go on. Runners and spectators, locals and visitors, the front of the pack and the back, all have the opportunity to stay apart now to keep people safe, then come together to run as one. No matter how long the road ahead may seem, there will always be a finish line.
Jordan is a part-time sales associate at Marathon Sports, mostly in the Brookline and Melrose locations. She is an avid middle-distance runner and a creative writer. You can connect with her on Instagram (@write_and_run).