How To Pace The Boston Marathon To Perfection With Garmin’s PacePro Tool

Garmin’s PacePro Tool
(Image credit: Garmin)

Any of the best running watches can help you pace a marathon, as long as the GPS accuracy is on point. By using the lap pace in particular you can judge your pace for each mile or kilometer split and ensure it’s in line with your overall goals, and stop yourself from going out too fast at the start.

However, Garmin’s PacePro tool goes beyond this by offering a pacing guide that’s tailored to your target time, the way you want to run the race and the course you’re going to run. That last part in particular makes it perfect for the Boston Marathon.

That’s because the Boston Marathon route is not the pancake flat course you get at other major marathons like London, Berlin and Chicago. Boston has hills, with the most famous being Heartbreak Hill in mile 20, and you need to judge your effort on the uphill and downhill sections of the course carefully to hit your target time.

With Garmin’s PacePro tool you set the course you’re going to run and an overall target time, then you choose one of three race strategies and how hard you want to run any uphills. The race strategies are even pacing, a negative split (where you run the second half of the marathon faster than the first), or a positive split. 

If picking a negative or positive split, you also choose how much of a difference you want between the two halves of the race. You could start slowly and set yourself up to sprint home, for example, or just aim for a minute or two difference across the two halves. You also select how hard you want to run uphills, but if you ease off you’ll have to make the time up on flats and downhills.

Garmin’s PacePro Tool

(Image credit: Garmin)

This is the magic of PacePro, in that it will give you target times for each mile or kilometer split of the race based on your preferences, target time and the elevation of the course during that exact split. For example, if you set up a target time 2hrs 50min for Boston, plus a negative split where you take it easy on uphills, you’ll be given your fastest split targets for the downhills that come after the famous Newton Hills, with a slower target for the mile that includes Heartbreak Hill, or any other incline.

Garmin’s PacePro Tool

(Image credit: Garmin)

This allows you to ease off in the early stages of the race, and on any uphills, knowing that the race plan will have you hitting your overall target time by attacking the easier downhill miles on the course. The Boston Marathon has a lot of downhills, so you can judge how much time to make up in those sections well to allow you to be slower on the uphills.

During the race the PacePro screen will show your target time for the exact mile or kilometer split you’re running, plus your current split pace, how much distance is left in the split and the total time you are ahead, or behind, your overall goal.

You will need to use a Boston Marathon route within the Garmin Connect app to get a PacePro strategy, but these are easy to find in the app or on the website by searching for Hopkinton, the town where the race starts. There are several Boston Marathon routes to pick between and you can use them to create your PacePro strategy and then send it to your watch. 

The routes are all slightly longer than the exact marathon distance, because they are probably created from the routes people actually ran—it’s hard to run the perfect racing line at a big marathon because of the crowds.

PacePro screen on the Garmin Forerunner 55

PacePro screen on the Garmin Forerunner 55 (Image credit: Garmin)

Most of Garmin’s current range is compatible with PacePro, even if the watch doesn’t have maps or breadcrumb navigation as a feature. The Garmin Forerunner 55 is the cheapest watch to have the feature, and you can be assured that any more expensive watch launched in the past couple of years will also have it. You can check if your watch is compatible on the Garmin website by typing it in and selecting your watch.

Garmin’s PacePro tool is useful for lots of races, but is best for hilly courses and also those that don’t spend much time in the center of big cities with tall buildings, because the GPS accuracy that dictates the pacing info on the watch is affected when you’re in the heart of London or New York, for example. It’s perfect for the Boston Marathon as a result, and may well be just the thing for getting you up and over Heartbreak Hill still on course for your PR.

How To Set Up PacePro For The Boston Marathon 

  1. Go to Training & Planning>Courses
  2. Search for Hopkinton and select a Boston Marathon course from the list
  3. Click ‘create a PacePro strategy’
  4. Pick your target time or pace
  5. Choose between mile and kilometer splits
  6. Choose your race strategy and uphill effort
  7. Check the individual splits to see if they make sense for you, then hit save
  8. Send the route to your device

You can find the PacePro strategy in the training and workouts section of the running app on your watch. Make sure you select it before you start the race. You can also create a PacePro strategy on the watch for any route you have saved on there, but it’s easier to do it in the Garmin Connect app or on the website.

Nick Harris-Fry
Senior writer

Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.