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Hopkinton's 1st-Time Marathon Columnist Tackles Hills

Kelly Walsh runs Stu's 30K at Wachusett. See how she did. Plus Fitcorp explains some particular difficulties of the Boston Marathon course. Stu's runners share a tip.

Two weeks ago I took on the challenge of an 18.6-mile course along the hilly Wachusett Reservoir, what would be the longest run of my training thus far. And when I say hills, the course was filled with them - the most painful was at the last mile.

was a critical point in my training because my marathon mentors told me that if I could finish Stu’s I definitely would succeed in Boston. So I knew if I finished in under my goal of 3 hours and 30 minutes it would be a testament to the training I have done so far.

 Stu’s is known to be a training run for the Boston Marathon. So it is expected the approximately 400 runners who ran Stu's will be at the Boston Marathon's Hopkinton starting line in April.

The athleticism the morning of Stu's race when we all congregated in the gymnasium was amazing. It was very intimidating for me on my first serious run.  Myself as well as my running partners Meaghan and Lisa, clearly stuck out as beginners.

We were approached by some veteran Stu’s runners who shared some advice. They have worked out an algorithm. Take your mileage pace for Stu’s subtract 15 seconds and that will be your mileage for the Boston Marathon. Works for me.

 I finished Stu’s in 3 hours and 16 minutes. That averages out to be 10:53-minute miles.  Meaghan and I were thrilled with our times and cannot wait to see our mileage time when we have the adrenaline from the crowds along the Boston Marathon route.

 What is great about Stu’s 30K compared to other trainer races for Boston is the hills. Hill-work is a crucial part of training, especially for the Boston Marathon.

The experts at Fitcorp, an organization which provides Boston Marathon training for participants and the Melanoma Foundation of New England, claim that other than distance, hill training is the single most important workout.

Fitcorp warns that the significant downhill in Hopkinton's first few miles of the Boston Marathon causes "internal muscle damage, particularly in the quadriceps muscles."

The reason for this damage, the Fitcorp trainers say, is eccentric loading, which is “the braking force the quadriceps muscles apply when you descend.” This makes the last 10 miles of the Boston Marathon even more difficult. Your body does not realize the internal damage from that downhill start until Mile 16 when you begin to approach Heartbreak Hill.   

The best way to prepare your body for muscle breakdown from downhills and save strength for the later portion of the race is to train on hills! Fitcorp recommends including hills into long runs or as individual runs. They call them hill repeats.

Fitcorp states, “A two-minute hill repeat may be the single, most beneficial workout to someone running Boston. Beacon Street (in Newton and Boston) is perfect. The incline is ideal (5 degrees) and the downhill portion of the hills allows for that specific adaptation of the quadriceps muscle without putting excessive load on the knee.”

Luckily living in a town like Hopkinton whose mascot is the Hillers means that finding a route with hills takes no planning – it is inevitable. So needless to say I have gotten a lot of hill training. I hope it all pays off when it comes to Heartbreak Hill!

The above information can be found at http://www.fitcorp.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/Importance-of-Hill-Training-for-Boston.pdf.

The elevation profile (hilliness) for Stu’s 30K is at http://www.usatf.org/routes/view.asp?rID=352.

The elevation profile for the Boston Marathon is http://www.usatf.org/routes/view.asp?rID=102175.

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