A real challenge to the Boston Marathon? Going down.

The Boston Marathon is just over a week away, which means many runners are worried about these latest climbs, especially the infamous 20-mile Heartbreak Hill.

Boston’s dirty secret, however, is that the course also requires skills that many of its 30,000 participants probably spent little time thinking about or preparing for – hill-climbing.

Plots up the mountain usually attract all the attention, but the marathon, which runs northeast from Hopkinton, Massachusetts, to Copley Square in the Back Bay area of ​​Boston, is what is known as a “network descent”. It loses nearly 450 feet of altitude above its 26.2 miles, making it inadmissible for world records.

Much of this altitude loss occurs in the first five miles. The starting line lies at an altitude of 490 feet above sea level, and the first mile goes down by about 130 feet. The trail descends another 180 feet or so by the time runners reach Framingham, Massachusetts, the third of eight municipalities on the trail, after a mark of five miles. For the next 10 miles there are small ascents, but it’s mostly plain and down, as the height drops to just 60 feet above sea level before Newton’s Hills begin at 16 miles.

But do not be fooled: the descent is not a joy.

“The quadriceps muscles need to work harder on the descent to help maintain balance and control gravity,” said Bill Pierce, an honored professor of medical science at Furman University in Greenville, Carlamina, and co-author of a popular training guide. Run less. Run faster, ”he explained.

Countless Boston veterans are familiar with the panic that is approaching when their ATVs begin to collide before the race is over halfway through.

Amanda Waters, a 17-time finish in Boston and coach of the Boston Athletics Association’s charity team, said the descent sections force runners to even lean back slightly to prevent them from tipping over. This adjustment causes the foot to land closer to the heel, creating another and in some cases a greater load on ATVs, calves and hamstrings than when running on flat ground or uphill.

“It’s a different kind of race because you work so hard on ATVs in the first half and then on the hamstrings in the second half, so you need to really train those muscles to withstand the work,” said Jordan Metzl, a sports doctor. and author of “Running Strong: A Complete Sports Doctor’s Guide on How to Stay Healthy and Injury-Free for Life.”

If you’re first running the Boston Marathon on April 18 and haven’t received a memo on downhill training, you may be a little surprised that we waited 10 days before the race to write about it. (But we have tips for your next hilly race. Sign up for our weekly newsletter here.) Indeed, it is too late to do anything out of training that will really help on race day other than to score miles and avoid injury. But there is still a way to manage the race and its reduction of the first half, which can minimize the pain and drama that can often bring pain.

Jess Movold, a coach with Runner’s World + staff, said that if strength and mountain training were not part of your training, then focus on what you can control. Run smart. Be light and fast on your feet. Lead your hips. Control your hands with effective circular motions. “Be smart on this first mile when evaluating how you feel,” Movold said. “Minimize the blows. Keep the cadence. “

In the name of Paul Rever, we repeat, do not leave quickly. There will probably be a runner on the bus to the starting line or in the paddock who brags that he drove less than three hours. Ignore them.

Dave McGillivray, director of the race, said the key is patience, “a little restraint in the first half so you both avoid hitting and you have something left aside for the second half.” He would know. This is the 50th Boston McGilley Marathon in a row. He will work at night, after completing his duties as race director.

But holding back can be hard on the track, where the temptation is to get out quickly, with gravity on the slopes plus all the excitement of a racing day. Boston is the fastest field among any major race. This requires that almost all runners meet qualification standards. However, McGill’s race plan is worth a healthy consideration.

“I’m slowing down a bit, coming down the hills, as if I’m shuffling rather than running to eliminate the whole blow, and it works,” McGilly said. “I could go a little slower than if it was a flat stretch. It’s okay, and for me it’s better than crashing on a hill and then shuffling the survivors for the last 10,000. “

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