I met Tim at a Running Ahead meet up after last year’s New York City Marathon. He struck me as a smart guy with good taste in beer. His thoughtful response to this questionnaire proves I was right. If you’re interested in what makes runners run, you’re going to want to read this one, especially Tim’s great answer to the last question.
Name: Tim T
Age (at the time of first BQ): 31 at first qualifier, 32 race day
Weight (at the time of first BQ): approx. 175lbs
At which marathon did you get your first BQ? Sugarloaf Marathon
What was your finishing time? 2:56:44
Tell us a little about the race:
I had run my first marathon the prior fall at the MDI marathon, a very challenging course. I missed a BQ at that race by just under 2 minutes and that near miss motivated me to train hard for a BQ. Mother nature cooperated and provided a mild winter (I live in Downeast Maine) leaving the Carriage Paths of Acadia National Park open all winter. Over that winter I met a lot of strong runners…and a few of those runners also ran Sugarloaf.
By the time race day came (May 2007), I knew I was in shape for a BQ. Weather cooperated again with starting temps in the mid forties. The gun went off, and so did I. Fortunately for me, a very talented runner named Christine caught me just before mile one and said, confidently, “too fast”. She was right. I hit the first mile at about 6:30 pace…and immediately backed off as I watched her pull away; Christine was a consistent sub 3 gal.
I ran comfortably through the flat section of the course (1-8) and confidently up the only significant hill in the race (9-12). As I crested the hill, I spotted Christine and another runner–who had jumped in to pace her—about 100 yards ahead. I forced myself to catch them and the three of us rolled from 13 through 20…these remain the most effortless miles I have ever run in a marathon…just rolling. And then Christine faded. I had serious doubts about running those last 6+ miles alone—as I had no idea I was in sub 3 Shape. Mile 23 was my gut check moment as I felt some serious tightening and feared a major “wall” ahead. Guts from 23 to 26.2…and a 16 minute PR. That PR held for many years.
How long had you been running when you ran your first BQ? Did you run in college or high school?
No. I played team sports—Ultimate and Soccer. And I smoked.
What was your approximate lifetime mileage at the time of your first BQ?
No idea, maybe 2000 miles? Laughable looking back.
How many miles did you run in the year before your first BQ?
1000 miles maybe?
Approximately how many races did you run in that year?
No idea…it was before I tracked races or mileage. My first 5k was about a month before my Sugarloaf PR
Did you follow a canned program?
I bought Hal Higdon’s “Marathon: The Ultimate Guide” and followed a 16 week plan. I also discovered speed work that winter/spring and had some informal coaching from Christine (and others)
Did you run with a running club or utilize a coach?
I ran with a group called “Eden Athletics” for track workouts and some long runs. Most miles were solo miles.
Did cross training play a role in your training? If so, how?
Nope. But it did play a role in my shaving another 6 minutes of my PR
Did speed work play a role or specific workouts play a role in your training? If so, how?
Yes. Speed work and hill work (speed work in disguise) played a huge roll. In my first marathon, the hills at the end of the course ate me alive. I hated the feeling…more accurately, I was scared by the feeling of hitting the wall. I spent that winter and spring finding hills and learning tempo. It paid off.
Any other thoughts you would like to share with those of working towards a BQ?
I know a lot of people have to work really hard to get to a BQ and I feel “blessed”?, or something, with some degree of “natural ability”—and I think someone reading this might conclude that I didn’t have to work as hard. They might be right. But, I think there is more to it than that. I think that tolerance for pain and suffering have a lot to do with success at the marathon. What I’ve learned is that I have a capacity to punish my self—trying to prove something to myself about self-worth—that compensated for a lack of mileage and marathon specific training (really reflecting on my first marathon effort here). As my running has matured, I’ve learned to redistribute that tolerance for pain and the desire to prove myself worthy to my training miles. The marathon itself, when all the training is approached with discipline, is the celebration of all that work.
Here is something I wrote to a training group 3 days before that Sugarloaf PR: Sugarloaf will be my second marathon and, while I recognize that I am just a puppy when it comes to running (i.e., still have tons to learn), I am really enjoying this second time around. I have been having a particularly positive mental experience this time out; throughout my training, I have had an idea in my head that has been so helpful for me that I wanted to share it. This idea may seem weird or arbitrary or simple or perfect…I dig it, and maybe some of you will too. Here it is:
I am no classical music buff, but through reading a book on the psychology of possibility, I encountered an anecdote about the composer Igor Stravinsky. Briefly, Stravinsky was approached by a violinist who complained that a particular violin concerto was virtually unplayable; Stravinsky is reported to have said: “I don’t want the sound of someone playing this passage, I want the sound of someone trying to play it”. Stravinsky composed passages so difficult that the world’s best players had to strain every fiber of their technical resources to play his music.
IT IS THE EFFORT, THE STRAIN, THAT PRODUCED THE BEAUTIFUL SOUND.
So, I have made up my mind that the marathon on Sunday is my concert. I have practiced for months, having run slow, fast, long, short, and everywhere in between. On Sunday, I will strain every fiber of my running resources in an effort to run the race I want. It will be hard and it will hurt…and I can’t wait! I can already imagine the music in my ears and it is the effort and the pain that will make the music of the marathon so beautiful.