Uta's Daily Tips

Uta's marathon training tip of the day: Don't attack the course, befriend it

April 18, 2014 at 11:40 AM ET

Uta Pippig
Legendary runner Uta Pippig, winning the Boston Marathon in 1995.

Uta Pippig is a marathon legend, the first woman to win three consecutive Boston marathons. As TODAY's Natalie Morales prepares to attempt her sixth marathon, and first run in Boston, on April 21, Pippig is sharing her daily training tips with TODAY.com. 

Dear Boston Marathon runners and dear Natalie,

Today’s message provides details for your marathon strategy and is a follow-up to the information I shared with you two days ago which highlighted some important features of the marathon course. The key for Boston is to be mentally and physically prepared for the alternating downhill and uphill sections, and understanding the dynamics of the first part of the course—especially the first 4 to 5 miles, the rolling hills in the middle part culminating in the Newton Hills, and the last two miles of the marathon before you cross the bridge over the Mass Turnpike through to the finish.

It will be helpful—and I remember this from my own Boston Marathon experiences—to be “friends” with the course. It is best that instead of attacking it, you “run within it.” That means from the start you allow yourself to “run with” these alternating uphill and downhill sections by staying in a relaxed running style and using a good technique for both. While there are many details to each technique, allow me to point out two very important ones: avoid pounding down the hills with steps that are too long; and focus on small steps going uphill—shorter ones compared to running on flat ground or running downhill.

As already mentioned two days ago, please avoid starting out too fast even if you feel good! Although the course drops quickly in the first mile by 130 feet, run with a good and smooth downhill technique and focus on staying within your average speed for your marathon for the first 5 miles. You will avoid having to deal with later problems, like fatigued quads. You will likely dictate the entire outcome of your marathon in the first few miles.

The best strategy is to try to run an “even race”—staying with your planned average pace for each mile and keeping a “smooth” running rhythm for the entire course.

When you enter the Newton Hills at roughly the 16 ½ mile mark, make friends with them. Continue to run smart by taking smaller steps uphill, using good breathing and keeping as relaxed a running style as possible. Focus only on one hill at a time and relax on the downhill to regain momentum. And it might help you to know that a long gentle downhill section is awaiting you soon.

Now is the time, in spite of fatigue, to stay mentally focused, and think only from mile to mile. It will help to break the distance into much shorter pieces and to prepare yourself for the final two miles. The magic CITCO sign will show you the way downtown. There are two little challenges remaining—the slopes on the tunnel beneath Massachusetts Avenue and shortly after the turn right into Hereford Street—and both can feel a little daunting so close to the finish. So use the energy from the exuberant crowd and enjoy knowing that Boylston Street and the home stretch to the finish line are waiting for you. 

Natalie Morales is running the Boston marathon to raise money for The One Fund, which supports victims of the 2013 Boston marathon bombing and their families, and the Challenged Athletes Foundation, which helps people with disabilities remain active in sports. Learn more and donate on Natalie's Crowdrise page

Uta Pippig won the Boston Marathon three times, the New York City marathon once, and the Berlin marathon three times. Born in what was then East Germany, she is now an American citizen based in Boulder, Colo., where she coaches runners, has a health foundation called Take the Magic Step and does motivational speaking with her Running To Freedom series.