How Course-Specific Training Can Improve Race Day Performance

Cleveland Circle falls just after the 22-mile mark of the Boston Marathon and presents a unique course-specific challenge. After copious amounts of downhill running in the opening 15 miles, runners will climb through the famed Newton Hills—culminating with Heartbreak Hill—before descending once again from Boston College through Cleveland Circle and onto Beacon Street for the final drive home to Back Bay. 

Inevitably, runners of virtually every age and ability find their quads locking up in this late race downhill section, a condition brought to you by the race's opening half and the plethora of declines. The cure for this Boston-specific malady is simpler than many realize: Utilize downhill running in various forms throughout the marathon build-up. In short, prepare your quadriceps for the pounding on the fronts of legs. 

Those accustomed to training on consistently rolling terrain are often surprised to find overload and fatigue in the latter stages of longer, flatter races.

While Boston is perhaps the best example of the need for course-specific preparation, be aware that even amongst shorter distances and flatter marathon courses, training to replicate a muscle firing pattern similar to what will be seen on race day is important—even if that course is rhythmic and forgiving. Flat runs for extended periods teach prime movers to repeat virtually identical firing patterns for hours on end. Those accustomed to training on consistently rolling terrain are often surprised to find overload and fatigue in the latter stages of longer, flatter races. 

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