Treadmill settings to train for Boston marathon hills

Since I have to train for Boston through the winter, I am driven to the treadmill far too often. I decided to try and make the most of it and provide myself with some distraction by calculating the incline over each quarter mile of the Boston marathon.   When I told a friend about this strategy, they asked for a copy of the spreadsheet, so I figured well maybe other runners would like it as well. You can also check out my post on how to make treadmill running more bearable.

How does it work?

My first run on the treadmill I start at mile 0 of the race, when I get to a quarter mile I change the incline to match what it would be on the course, I do this again at 1/2 mile, 3/4 mile and so on until I am done my workout. Then I use a post it note to mark where I finished.

The next time I am on the treadmill I pick up where I left off, so if I ran 6 miles on my first treadmill workout, I start my next treadmill workout with the incline for 6 – 6 1/4 mile stretch of the Boston course.

My treadmill does not do declines, so I compensate by treating downhill as 0% incline, and flat stretches I treat as 1 % incline.

Why do I do it?

Two reasons:

Reason #1 if I am going to be on the treadmill it helps me practice all the different stretches of the course.

Reason #2 it provides a distraction! Every 1/4 mile I am checking and possibly changing the incline. I also have to do math in my head… I started this run at the 6.5 mile mark, I’ve run 3 3/4 miles so I need to change to the incline listed for 10.25 miles.  It doesn’t make the treadmill any more fun, but it does provide a distraction.

How did I calculate it?

I printed out the hill profile shown below, and noted the elevation at each quarter mile.

bostonelevation2

Then I used the formula (change in elevation)/(race distance)*100 to get the % incline for each 1/4 mile.

My treadmill does not support declines so I may the following adjustments for my treadmill training. These values are in the third column of the table

  • I added 1% to each incline because I want a baseline of 1% incline for flat stretches of the course
  • I set all downhill stretches (negative values) to 0% because my treadmill does not support declines. I figure 0% is the easiest setting on my treadmill so I’ll treat that as downhill.

If you have a treadmill which supports declines, you can use the fourth column showing the actual incline and decline % for each stretch with no adjustments.

Not a lot of flat on the Boston course, so make sure you do your hill training, up hill and down hill!

Check out my runners page for other running related posts include race reports for Boston and a Practical Guide to Boston Marathon weekend to help you plan your trip to the race.

Here you go!

 

Miles Meters Incline With Declines
0 0 0% -6%
0.25 400 0% -5%
0.5 800 3% 2%
0.75 1.2 1% 0%
1 1.6 0% -2%
1.25 2 1% 0%
1.5 2.4 1% 0%
1.75 2.8 0% -2%
2 3.2 1% 0%
2.25 3.6 1% 0%
2.5 4 0% -4%
2.75 4.4 1% 0%
3 4.8 0% -2%
3.25 5.2 0% -2%
3.5 5.6 0% -2%
3.75 6 1% 0%
4 6.4 1% 0%
4.25 6.8 4% 3%
4.5 7.2 1% 0%
4.75 7.6 0% -2%
5 8 1% 0%
5.25 8.4 3% 0%
5.5 8.8 0% -2%
5.75 9.2 0% -2%
6 9.6 0% -1%
6.25 10 2% 1%
6.5 10.4 1% 0%
6.75 10.8 0% -1%
7 11.2 1% 0%
7.25 11.6 1% 0%
7.5 12 3% 2%
7.75 12.4 0% -2%
8 12.8 1% 0%
8.25 13.2 1% 0%
8.5 13.6 0% -1%
8.75 14 2% 1%
9 14.4 0% -1%
9.25 14.8 2% 1%
9.5 15.2 3% 2%
9.75 15.6 1% 0%
10 16 2% 1%
10.25 16.4 2% 1%
10.5 16.8 1% 0%
10.75 17.2 1% 0%
11 17.6 3% 2%
11.25 18 0% -2%
11.5 18.4 0% -2%
11.75 18.8 0% -2%
12 19.2 2% 1%
12.25 19.6 1% 0%
12.5 20 0% -1%
12.75 20.4 2% 1%
13 20.8 0% -1%
13.25 21.2 0% -1%
13.5 21.6 3% 2%
13.75 22 0% -1%
14 22.4 2% 1%
14.25 22.8 1% 0%
14.5 23.2 2% -1%
14.75 23.6 1% 0%
15 24 0% 0%
15.25 24.4 1% -7%
15.5 24.8 1% -1%
15.75 25.2 0% 2%
16 25.6 0% 3%
16.25 26 3% -2%
16.5 26.4 4% 3%
16.75 26.8 0% -2%
17 27.2 1% 0%
17.25 27.6 1% 0%
17.5 28 0% -1%
17.75 28.4 4% 3%
18 28.8 3% 2%
18.25 29.2 1% 0%
18.5 29.6 0% -1%
18.75 30 0% -1%
19 30.4 0% -2%
19.25 30.8 1% 0%
19.5 31.2 5% 4%
19.75 31.6 1% 0%
20 32 1% 0%
20.25 32.4 1% 0%
20.5 32.8 3% 2%
20.75 33.2 5% 4%
21 33.6 0% -1%
21.25 34 0% -3%
21.5 34.4 0% -2%
21.75 34.8 1% 0%
22 35.2 1% 0%
22.25 35.6 0% -2%
22.5 36 0% -2%
22.75 36.4 1% 0%
23 36.8 2% 1%
23.25 37.2 0% -1%
23.5 37.6 0% -2%
23.75 38 0% -2%
24 38.4 0% -2%
24.25 38.8 0% -1%
24.5 39.2 1% 0%
24.75 39.6 0% -2%
25 40 3% 2%
25.25 40.4 0% -2%
25.5 40.8 1% 0%
25.75 41.2 0% -1%
26 41.6 1% 0%
26.25 42 1% 0%

7 responses to this post.

  1. Great idea. People think the hills are so steep, but the maximum incline is only about 5%. Doesn’t sound so bad, but at mile 21 it sure feels harsh!

    Reply

    • Very true… the challenge with Boston isn’t that there is an individual hill that gets you, it’s the multiple back to back hills in Newton. My first Boston I made the classic mistake, too fast at the start because of the nice downhill, then in the Newton hills managed the first two and had to walk for part of heartbreak. Second Boston I increased my hill training and was able to run all the Newton hills. And all too often people forget to train for the downhills… that little dip at the underpass in the last mile has destroyed many a quad!

      Reply

  2. Posted by Melissa Brady on February 8, 2019 at 7:04 AM

    I plan to calculate the downhills because I have access to a treadmill that goes down to negative 3 decline level. What number do you actually use for the bottom of the formula (race distance)? Is this 26.2 miles coverted into feet? Help much appreciated!

    Reply

    • I calculated using 400 meter increments, treating each 400 meters as 0.25 miles If you do calculate the declines please share, I’ll provide an alternate version of the table with the declines… Unfortunately I just looked at my original spreadsheet and apparently I deleted the original elevations per 400 meter and just kept the incline calculation results. Otherwise I would have shared them here.

      Reply

    • Hi Melissa, I found the original elevations, so I have updated the post to include the declines. Hope that helps, and if you are running Boston this year (2019) good luck! I’ll be there too!

      Reply

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