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2006 Boston Marathon
  The course: Fun, then sweat, then heartbreak hell

Boston Marathon - course profile
| Hopkinton, Ashland, Framingham | Natick | Wellesley, Newton |
Heartbreak Hill, Brookline, Boston |

By Brian MacQuarrie, Globe Staff

The Boston Marathon is divided into three parts: 14 miles of fun, 8 miles of sweat and 4 miles of hell.

That's one entrant's perspective. And except for a flukey Patriots Day in 1990 -- when my final mile was nearly my fastest -- the other 12 races I've run from Hopkinton to Boston have followed that division.

It's not all grunting, groaning, moaning and misery. Any runner who has trained properly will enjoy the mostly downhill journey from the starting line to Wellesley Center.

Those 14 undulating miles are the sweet payback, the adrenaline-pumping reward for running in all kinds of weather, six days a week, for a minimum of three months. The crowds are large and enthusiastic, the body is supple and rhythmic, and the mood is upbeat and focused.

The pain comes later, as does the mentally exhausting effort to concentrate on pace, form and a rejuvenation of will. The payback for this comes after the race -- maybe an hour later, maybe a week later, when starkly etched memories flood the mind in satisfaction or regret.

To a runner, here are some of the landmarks along that memory lane of 26 miles, 385 yards:

Stage 1: Hopkinton, Ashland, Framingham
Stage 2: Natick
Stage 3: Wellesley, Newton
Stage 4: Heartbreak Hill, Brookline, Boston

(From the Boston Globe archives, April 17, 1992)