The BQ(Q) – Steve W

Steve BQ’ed at the age of 45 after having only been running for a year and a half.  Thanks for the very thoughtful reply, Steve, especially to the last question.

Name: Steve W

Sex: M

Age (at the time of first BQ): 45

Height:  5’9”

Weight (at the time of first BQ): 148

At which marathon did you get your first BQ? Tell us a little about the race.

Rocket City – Huntsville AL. Capped at 1500 or so – so nice small race feel to it. Decades old, it’s a race put on by runners, for runners. Very organized. Excellent on course support. Lots of twists and turns through neighborhoods but it’s well marked all the way. No associated Half or 5K or anything with it so it’s all about the marathon. Great post-race food. Early Dec race so the weather can be unpredictable but my 2 years were fine: in the 40s at the start.


How long had you been running when you ran your first BQ? Did you run in college or high school?

Been running 19 months. A few haphazard 5Ks, 10Ks in college. No training. Quit in my 20s until I was 44.

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

1600 mi

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

1205 mi

Approximately how many races did you run in that year?

5 x 5K; 1 x 5 mi; 1x10mi; 3 x ½ M

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 program. Running the full was almost an after-thought. Offered to keep a friend company on his long runs as he prepared. Once I crossed the 15mi threshold w/him, a full was conceivable and I was suddenly interested to see if I could finish one. Didn’t regard it as a race, so didn’t train to race. The ‘A’ goal was to finish w/out walking. The ‘B’ goal was break 3:30 (BQ at the time for my age). The pace needed for that was equal to or slower than our regular easy day pace so in my mind it was a matter of learning to run for three and half hrs. Got a 3:27:38. I think I ran 1x 20 miler during training. I wanted every mile beyond 20 to be new territory on race day.

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

Ran with friends – some experienced.

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


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


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

  • Ha – wait until you’re a masters runner – the target gets pretty soft! Mostly I’m kidding, but I do think many of the folks you hear about who try over and over for the BQ begin trying when the bar is still set pretty high.
  • I was VERY intimidated by the distance. Still had plenty in the tank at the ½ mark, and even at mile 20 but I was too cautious to let it go before mile 24. I read too many horror stories about bonking and other assorted disasters. And I witnessed some in that first race. Guys who blew past me at mile 10, I saw again in the final 3 miles. The road was like dawn of the dead with zombies staggering back and forth. Had to weave through them. You could see their calf muscles seizing up, people sitting on the curb. It was horrible. So, respect the distance. Which leads me to this point:
  • Run a lot of volume. I averaged 42/week which wasn’t nearly enough. I was clear-headed and ready to go in the final miles of the race but my calfs/quads were in total rebellion. The slightest changeup in cadence or pace and everything would lock up. I was consigned to maintain the pace and rhythm I had been running for the previous 3 hrs and there was nothing I could do about it. Frustrating.
  • WHEN you get the BQ, go to Boston. I didn’t. I thought just qualifying would be enough. Turns out it wasn’t enough. All but one of my training partners had been and it is unanimously a ‘must-do’ in their opinion. So, my brother and I decided to run it in 2013. We qualified in 2011 back in Huntsville again (his first full, my second) under the new standards and we’re in. I decided to treat this one more like a race as I was determined to make the BQ minus 10 min registering window. Used the Brad Hudson ‘level two’ plan in his “Run Faster” book. 49 years old this time. Got my ‘A’ goal with a 3:09:15. Still relatively low volume – avg 48 to 53 – but better than the first time. Which reminds me of another point:
  • Use the pacer is they have pace groups. I ran the second BQ with the 3:10 group up through mile 9 and it really helped to get into a rhythm early on. Felt comfortable enough rolling along with them I decided to move on after mile 10.
  • That plan for BQ #2 was 20 weeks. That’s too long in my opinion. I was pretty sick of running by the end of it. I also ended up injured and lost 3 weeks of training out of the final 8 – but that was my own stupidity, not the plan’s fault.
  • Similar cramp issue during BQ#2 – again due to not enough volume in training. This time it was foot cramps in the final 2 miles. Every surface undulation would set it off. Not a show-stopper the way a calf cramp is but enough to keep you from giving it all you’ve got. You don’t want something like that when all systems are ‘go’ otherwise. Get the miles in. I don’t think in either race cramps were due to electrolytes or such – I think I had the nutrition dialed-in pretty well. Just wasn’t physically ready to put out for that long. Some of it may be due to being a ‘young’ runner in terms of accumulated years, too.

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