Name: Matt L
Age (at the time of first BQ): 22
Weight (at the time of first BQ): 155
At which marathon did you get your first BQ? What was your finishing time? Tell us a little about the race.
I ran the 2013 Pittsburgh marathon in 2:46. The course is a bit hillier than most (though surprisingly flat given that its in Pittsburgh) but I didn’t find it too hard. The weather was very cooperative and a long downhill section near the end led to very even splits (I think I was 1:23 at 13.1 miles). I started out wanting to shoot for somewhere in the 2:50s but I felt very comfortable at a ~6:15 pace so I decided to ride it out at that speed and see how things went from there.
How long had you been running when you ran your first BQ? Did you run in college or high school?
I started running the summer of my freshman year in college. I played offensive tackle for my high school football team and lost a good bit of weight at the end of my senior season. I spent my college junior year abroad I ran for my school’s club team during that period but nothing more competitive than that. Before running the Pittsburgh marathon I had ran in one 5k in 2011 and 2 half marathons in the fall of 2012.
What was your approximate lifetime mileage at the time of your first BQ?
Maybe around 8,000 or 9,000 miles.
How many miles did you run in the year before your first BQ?
Probably around 3,100 or so based on an average of 60 miles a week.
Approximately how many races did you run in that year?
2 half marathons. The last half was roughly 6 months before the marathon.
Did you follow a canned program? If so, which one? If not, can you give us an idea of what your training philosophy was?
I didn’t stick to any particular program but I did base a lot of my training on the more advanced marathon plans featured in Brad Hudson’s “Run Faster from 5k to the Marathon.” Hudson’s advanced marathon plans rely on a lot of high mileage runs and he is a pretty big proponent of incorporating hill sprints and I think that adding such sprints once a week at the end of an easy run really helped me on the hilly marathon course. I just generally tried to stick to a basic hard-easy breakdown. I ran 6-7 days a week in the months leading up to it. I put in a lot of tempo runs and had probably completed 5 runs over 20 miles during the course of my training, with the longest run being a bit over 21 miles. I also tried to end a lot of my long runs with about 7-10 miles at ~10 seconds slower than goal marathon pace to get used to performing in a depleted physical state. Tim Noake’s massive book Lore of Running also helped shape my basic running philosophy and I recommend it to all serious runners looking to improve.
Did you run with a running club or utilize a coach?
I am a member of a track club that has a speed program but I unfortunately didn’t have time to participate the days and times the speed training group met. I didn’t use a coach but my mother is an RRCA certified coach and I bounced a lot of ideas off of her and consulted her a bunch of times.
Did cross training play a role in your training? If so, how?
Not much at all. I did push ups and body weight squats about once a week but no really organized program. I also did a 10 minute ab workout roughly every day but I didn’t really do any cross training.
Did speed work play a role or specific workouts play a role in your training? If so, how?
Yes. I would try to do mile repeats at the track by my apartment every Tuesday at 15 seconds below marathon goal pace. I would do 5 or 6 with about 800m of recovery in between. I had never previously really done any speed work before my other races and I felt like the track work helped my body get comfortable with maintaining a fast pace.
Any other thoughts you would like to share with those of working towards a BQ?
I found it very helpful to learn as much as I could about the course and watch the course video about 10 times. Maybe it was especially useful because the course was pretty hilly but I felt very confident in knowing where every incline and decline was and being able to anticipate such changes while running the marathon.