Age (at the time of first BQ): 19
Height (at the time of first BQ): 5’4″
Weight (at the time of first BQ): 104
At which marathon did you get your first BQ? Philadelphia Marathon 2013
Tell us a little about the race. My time was 3:34:38. The weather was perfect – average temp of 57 degrees throughout the race. The course was relatively flat with a total elevation gain of 557 ft (by my GPS).
The first mile was extremely hectic because I ended up at the back of the corral and had to pass a lot of people. The first ~7 miles overall were very congested, but the crowd support was also terrific. The first 13.1 miles overall felt like they went by quickly, and miles 14-17 were uneventful as well.
Around mile 18 was when I started feeling not great. By mile 20, I was nauseated, and my legs were really hurting. I was worried that I would give up and start walking, but I started talking out loud to myself, saying things like, “I am going to qualify for Boston today.” This definitely made me sound crazy, but I think it helped.
I was excited to get to mile 24 where a few of my friends would be cheering for me. Two friends jumped in there and paced me from miles 24-26. I was in so much pain that I closed my eyes a few times. When I crossed the finish line and saw 3:34:38 on my watch, I felt euphoric. I gave that race everything I had, and I did it. I even got 2nd place in my age group.
How long had you been running when you ran your first BQ? About 4 years on and off. I was not a naturally fast kid, but I had always wanted to be one of those people who could run for miles without getting tired. I joined high school track because it kept me accountable in reaching this goal (I was by far the slowest person on the walk-on team). I started running consistently about 2.5 years before my BQ.
Did you run in college or high school? Yes
What was your approximate lifetime mileage at the time of your first BQ? 3706
How many miles did you run in the year before your first BQ? 1436
Approximately how many races did you run in that year? 13
Did you follow a canned program? If so, which one? If not, can you give us an idea of what your training philosophy was? No I was running with a (social, not competitive) running club at the time, and I mostly just tried to run as much as possible. On average, I ran 5-6 miles 5-6 days per week, and this sometimes include two runs in one day (I felt like the feeling of running on tired legs really helped me mentally on race day). I did two 20 mile long runs but otherwise did not follow a consistent long run schedule. I also raced a half marathon, four 6ks, and a 10k (in that order) in the 3 months leading up to the marathon.
Did you run with a running club or utilize a coach? Yes
Did cross training play a role in your training? If so, how? I was part of a CrossFit gym during that time but only went maybe 5 times in the 3 months leading up to the race. Cross training was not a priority.
Did speed work play a role in your training? If so, how? Absolutely. I don’t think there’s any way I could have BQed without speed work as I am naturally not a very fast person. I did 5 track workouts and 6 races in the 2 months leading up to the marathon. (I definitely wasn’t full-out “racing” all 6 of those races – some were more like tempo runs.)
Any other thoughts you would like to share with those of working towards a BQ? The mental part is no joke. Just as much as you prepare for the physical challenge of the race, prepare yourself for the mental aspect.
Try meditation – learning to quiet your mind and control your thoughts will help when you feel like walking during miles 20-26. I also recommend getting used to running on tired legs, like doing a workout after an easy run earlier in the day.
Also, practice telling yourself the story of how you will qualify. When I felt like dying during the later miles, I kept thinking to myself, “After this is over, I don’t want to be telling my friends how I was on track to qualify until mile 20 and then couldn’t quite do it. I want to tell them the story of how everything started hurting at mile 20, but I was able to go on, even despite that, and qualify.”