The BQ(Q) – Michael H

For the bigger dudes out there, like me, this is a BQ(Q) worth reading.  Mike is 6’2, and was 220 at his first BQ.  He is an inspiration.  Anyone who tells you you cannot be an elite amateur and be a big guy hasn’t met Mike.  Another regular on Running Ahead, he has represented the US in international competition at the 24 hour race. Great guy, and great answers below, including some bonus thoughts on racing and nutrition.

Name: Michael H (A Big Horse)

Sex: M

Age (at the time of first BQ): 35

Height:  6’2

Weight (at the time of first BQ): 220

At which marathon did you get your first BQ?

Journeys Marathon – Eagle River WI.

Tell us a little about the race –

Riding the bus I sat next to a woman veteran marathoner – She said “What ever you thought you were going to do – add 5-10 minutes – this is a tough course”.  It was 48F at start almost no wind and 54 @ finish – I had no idea what I was doing I ran in sweats and a jacket sweating like a pig.  I ran the 1st 20 miles with Adam Gould – Which was a stroke of luck as with only 140 runners to find someone to run with was great.  I ran a pace that felt easy – Any time I hit a pace that was at all uncomfortable, I backed off.  The 1st 15 miles are constant rolling hills – moderately steep.  Adam was 130# and I being 220# he would pull away on the uphills and I would catch up on the downs.  We hit mile # 20 in @ 2:28 (7:24 pace) and we parted ways – I dropped the hammer to run all out the last 10k (41:48 @ 6:45 pace) to finish 3:09:48.  I never appreciated the BQ as I did it on the 1st try – My goal was to run 3:10.  I ran Grandmas 5 weeks later 3:03 – Hoping for sub 3:00, but not fully recovered.

How long had you been running when you ran your first BQ?

10 months

Did you run in college or high school?

No previous running

What was your approximate lifetime mileage at the time of your first BQ?

3000 miles

How many miles did you run in the year before your first BQ?

1400-1500 miles in 6 months

Approximately how many races did you run in that year?

In 2003 I ran a 3 mile race in 2004 previous to the marathon I ran a 25K. So 2 races total before BQ

Did you follow a canned program? If so, which one?

Yes – Hal Higdons Advanced – But this was after establishing a base – Like many new runners, I ran way too fast most of the time – Which did give the benefit to pain tolerance even though poor training idea.

Did you run with a running club or utilize a coach?


Did cross training play a role in your training? If so, how?

I used an Elliptical to supplement running and took 1 day a week off to only do elliptical.  I only ran 1x a day, but usually was going elliptical 4-5 times a week + I walked a lot at lunch to provide recovery to muscles and all of it was really targeted at losing weight.

Any other thoughts you would like to share with those of working towards a BQ?

Most people miss the 50-60% of training that has nothing to do with running.  #1 for me is hydration – If I am not hydrated properly I have no chance at having good training runs.  #2 is sleep – Body repairs muscles during sleep  #3 is nutrition – For me eating the right foods at the right times.  #4 Booze is evil to training.  It might be good for the heart and elixir of the God’s but it interrupts – Hydration – Poor sleep – and leads to bad nutrition.  Finally I think learning to do speed workouts – At least every other week as part of your long run.  16 miler planned – Great Run a 5×1 mile or 4×2 mile or even 20-25 minutes at LAT pace toward the end of the run – Real LAT pace – Not that 10k pace stuff you usually run (Way too fast) that work out in.

Thoughts on Racing – I ran 10 marathons and thought I was tough and had a very high pain tolerance – Even running a 2:49. My next marathon I went out too fast for the 1st 16 miles … Instead of fading, I geared down from 6:20 pace to 6:30-6:40 and held to the end – It was the most pain I had ever felt running.  I had to will that if I could run one step I could run 10 more – 100 more – 1000 more – to the end.  I think many people are capable of running through a lot more pain then they give themselves credit for.

Thoughts on Race Fueling – #1 enemy of most runners in marathon is hydration – A bonk (Glycogen) is when you go from 7:00 miles to 9:00 miles with the same effort.  A hydration bonk (what most people experience) is when you slowly fade 7:00-7:15-7:30 etc.  Fatigue and hydration – If you take care of hydration you can tough out the fatigue.

Final though on race fueling #2 – Carbs.  I have done many loading techniques.  But what I find works well is to be a little light on carbs (Not true depletion) MM-TU-WE-TH morning and then eat normal Thursday – Eat the most on Friday and just top off on Saturday.  But I do get up and have 1,000 calories of easy to digest carbs 3 hours prior to race.  I also eat 4-6 gels in race.  I drink sports drink every other aide station and drink h20 on the others.

Pacing – Be patient – 1st 4-6 miles – Do not torch legs – relax and find your happy comfortable … smooth stride.  Up to mile 20 do not get greedy – If you feel great – just relax – A range of 0-6 seconds faster than needed pace is fine.  Mile #20 either tough it out or pick it up.  If you feel great at mile 5 or 10 or 15 just stay smooth and smile – Knowing you are taking care of your legs for the last 10k.

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  1. Lisa

    I think this is the most sound of all the suggestions you’ve gotten so far. I think what you do outside of running is just as important as running.
    Also, I didn’t know runners had the same issues with going up and down hills as cyclists do. I’m great at going up hills!

    1. seanv2

      Mike knows his stuff, and he is surely right about running only being one part of the training. Same thing with cycling, right? Hydration and nutrition always play a key role in succeeding in an event.

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