You may have heard of Heartbreak Hill—the part of the Boston Marathon course that’s infamous for being one of the toughest, steepest hills a runner will ever experience. However, that’s not the biggest problem: It’s the 17 miles of downhill before Heartbreak Hill that really messes with runners’ minds, Troyanos says.
Basically, an unexpected downhill is like false hope for runners in terms of how their body feels. They run faster than their planned pace because they're moving downhill and it feels easy. However, running faster than planned uses up more energy so they don't have as much gas in their tank to then make it up Heartbreak Hill without pain.
Holding back just a little bit on the downhill—even when you feel powerful and like you have energy to spare—can work in your favor because when you get to the incline, you'll feel almost rested. The best way to prep for this is to look at the course map so you know when downhills are coming, Troyanos says. That way, you can save energy for the tough spots, like those final three miles.
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