Uta's Daily Tips

Uta's marathon training tip of the day: Prevent heartbreak, plan for the Boston hills

April 16, 2014 at 3:35 PM ET

Three-time Boston marathon winner Uta Pippig is sharing her training tips with Natalie Morales and TODAY.com
Tim DeFrisco
Three-time Boston marathon winner Uta Pippig is sharing her training tips with Natalie Morales and TODAY.com

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 will be sharing her daily training tips with TODAY.com. Here's her seventh one:

Dear Boston Marathon runners and dear Natalie,

Let’s take some time to look at the beautiful Boston Marathon course with its winding country roads, rolling hills and the home stretch into town lined with enthusiastic New England crowds. While there are many course details to consider, today I am going to share three key features to familiarize yourself with, so that you will be able to get the most benefit from my “race strategy” posts. Those of you who previously have run Boston most likely remember the course very well and you probably can describe in vivid detail every hill, whether it be “rolling,” “steep” or “tricky.”

The course map and profile is available on the Boston Athletic Association website. The first 4 ½ miles descend from Hopkinton into Ashland, with the first and steepest dropping 130 feet. It feels like “easy running” and causes many to start the marathon too fast. Please, do not fall victim to this temptation.

Another stretch to focus on is the almost mile-long gentle downhill, starting at a little over 15 ½ miles — this is one of my favorites. It can give you a great chance to shake off some fatigue you may be feeling as you enjoy this nice gentle downhill to the 16 ½-mile mark. It also provides an opportunity to mentally prepare yourself to enter Newton and its famous hills.

Uta Pippig, winning the Boston marathon in 1995.
Uta Pippig, winning the Boston marathon in 1995.

There you face four rather rolling hills — a frequent alternation of up and downhill running. And then at roughly 17 ½ miles, a right turn at the Newton Fire Station will signal that you are approaching the three “Newton Hills,” with the third being the most famous “Heartbreak Hill” covering roughly 0.4 miles between Mile 20 and Mile 21.  

Once you are familiar with the course details, you then can plan your unique strategy, which we can discuss right here in two days. One additional thought: when you look at the course and its rolling and challenging hill sections, please note that there are many flat parts and rather gentle downhills as well. Many of these sections lend themselves to comfortable running, and together with the rolling hills make this marathon such an amazing running experience. 

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.