Thanks to Mike for answering these questions, I especially like his answer to the last question “Mileage and a focus on speed work. Some people can BQ without one or the other, but chances are they were born fast”. Wise words I need to follow.
Name: Mike D:
Age (at the time of first BQ): 33
Height : 5’6″
Weight (at the time of first BQ): 145
At which marathon did you get your first BQ? Tell us a little about the race.
It was the Fargo Marathon -2007. Course was a loop course, basically running south first and then north back to the finish. This was my 2nd BQ attempt and 5th marathon (well realistic attempt anyway) and I made and followed a pace band precisely through the first 14 or so miles. After that I was running north into 25 MPH winds and holding pace was nearly impossible.
At mile 22 I had fallen behind goal pace by about 30 seconds, legs were bricks, but the course turned west giving a slight relief from the wind. I pushed as hard as I could those last 4.2 miles and it was during those moments when I truly learned the level of fatigue and pain you feel if you managed to leave only enough to hold on to finish at goal pace. The finish was inside the stadium and I ran into it seeing 3:10:XX on the clock. I ran with everything I had and crossed the finish line in 3:10:56- three seconds to spare. It was a great moment for me personally, made even more dramatic by how close I was to not making it. It was like I won the lottery but earned it at the same time.
How long had you been running when you ran your first BQ? Did you run in college or high school?
I ran off and on in high school/college to get in shape for soccer, nothing structured at all. My first race was a half marathon when I was 31 about 5 months before my first marathon. At the time I played soccer 5 days/week though and was in pretty good shape aerobically. My first 3 marathons were all in the 3:20’s: 3:26, 3:24, 3:29, and this was on around 30-40 MPW, but I was still playing soccer 3-4 days a week then. It wasn’t until I increased my miles and started doing more speed work that I dropped 11 minutes off my time.
What was your approximate lifetime mileage at the time of your first BQ?
Maybe 2500 miles? Hard to say since I didn’t start logging my miles until 2009, and I was running maybe 30-40 miles a week at peak for my first two marathons with a lot of downtime in between.
How many miles did you run in the year before your first BQ?
In the 12 months preceding probably 1500. In the calendar year probably 600.
Approximately how many races did you run in that year?
Only one other race that spring – a half marathon.
Did you follow a canned program?
Kind of. I had used Hal Higdon’s training program that I added miles to, more speed workouts, etc. that I found on runners world. Basically took his advanced, got it to peak at 60 MPW, and added speed work. Really had no clue what I was doing. It’s questionable if I do now
Did you run with a running club or utilize a coach?
Neither. Occasionally I would join my wife who ran with team in training, but this was maybe once a month.
Did cross training play a role in your training? If so, how?
Did speed work play a role or specific workouts play a role in your training? If so, how?
Yes, ultimately the speed work helped me control my effort levels and lock into a pace better. Tempo runs really helped me a lot. When I first started doing them, I could only go 2-3 miles. By the time I worked up to my BQ, I could handle 7.
Any other thoughts you would like to share with those of working towards a BQ?
Mileage and a focus on speedwork. Some people can BQ without one or the other, but chances are they were born fast. I would not have BQ’d or achieved a sub 3 without applying both of these consistently for several years. I would also recommend racing more. I think part of the reason why ex-college runners are able to do well at marathons in their first or second attempt is all that prior racing experience. Something us newbies have to figure out the hard way.