Boston Marathon

Ty Velde | Marathon Training

It’s time to visualize the Boston Marathon homestretch

A cyclist rides over the newly applied Boston Marathon finish line on Boylston St., Thursday, April 13, 2017, in Boston. The finish line is made from an adhesive decal that covers a painted version that is left in place throughout the year. The 121st Boston Marathon is to be run Monday, April 17. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
Steven Senne/AP

The journey to Boston is a long one.

For some it’s one that has been years in the making. A dream that has finally become a reality. It’s the culmination of months of training. But now, the moment has finally arrived.

When I reflect on the journey I have taken, while the memories are abundant, it has for the most part been measured in miles. Mileage is how I mark the phases of my training, categorize my progression, and most importantly gauge my preparedness for race day. It’s a gradual build that starts small and finishes high, and by the time race day arrives it’s about knowing that I’ll be ready to run 26.2.

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Therefore, when it comes to preparing for race day in Boston, it’s completely natural to parse the course into key milestones and apply focus to managing known course challenges, such as the downhill start out of Hopkinton or the infamous Newton hills.

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As important as it is to consider how you’ll manage your race from the start, I’ve also come to learn the importance of thinking about how you’ll manage it toward the end. I’ll be first to admit that thinking about how you’ll finish Boston before you’ve even started seems like an abstract concept, particularly when you still have 26.2 miles to cover. I’ve also learned that one of the keys to formulating a well-rounded race day approach is to take some time to think about the one mile on the course that right now seems so much farther than all the rest … the final mile.

The final mile begins in Kenmore Square, just after you crest the bridge on Beacon Street that carries you over the Mass Pike. Depending on when you’re passing through Kenmore, not only will you be greeted by throngs of enthusiastic people, you’ll also be greeted by the Fenway Faithful as they spill out of Fenway Park, following what I hope is a Red Sox victory.

It’s then down Commonwealth Ave., where you’ll pass under the “Boston Strong” bridge, which then leads to the Mass Ave. underpass. This underpass is a quick down and up, but it’s important to be ready for it. Then comes the famous right on Hereford, which is a mild incline, and it’s then time to take that final left on Boylston,” and the utterly amazing and emotional push to the finish.

Visualizing these elements prior to race day and understanding what awaits you in the final mile ensures you are prepared for a time that will be filled with challenge, excitement, and most certainly emotion.

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All too often the final mile is viewed through the lens of have run 25.2 miles and the condition we think we’ll be in at that moment. It’s a mile we leave to chance. We hope we’re feeling good, but all too often its framed with assumptions that we’ll be tired, hurting, and emotionally and physically drained. While these are not wholly inaccurate, the final mile is too often viewed through a lens of how we think we’ll finish versus how we want to finish.

By proactively thinking about the final mile, it’s an opportunity to reframe it in the context of what you are about to achieve – finishing the Boston Marathon. Most importantly it’s an opportunity take control of mile that all too often seems out of our control and approach it with a sense of comfort and confidence.

The final mile is truly about embracing the end. It’s about creating the mental desire and want to finish strong. This is the moment I know I can leverage the energy, passion, and love of my fellow Bostonians to provide me with the strength I might otherwise be lacking. If there is one thing you will certainly come to see in the final mile, is that no matter who you or where you are from, it’s that you are not alone. While the energy of the marathon is certainly prevalent along the entire route, it rises to a whole other level in the final mile.

As we head into these final days leading to race day, I like to think we’re all in the final mile of what has been a very long journey. Yes, the final mile might now seem very distant, but I’ve also come to the important realization that now is also the moment to make it seem much closer.

Follow Ty Velde on Twitter at @TyVelde.