A great response from Tom, a triathlete who BQ’ed in his second attempt. I found this quote especially helpful:
“Be consistent. And enjoy your bad days. Bad days are just hard training days for the brain.”
Name: Tom G. (https://twitter.com/TGarvey4)
Age (at the time of first BQ): 30
Weight (at the time of first BQ): 153
At which marathon did you get your first BQ? What was your finishing time? Tell us a little about the race.
“Run for the Red Pocono Mountain Marathon”
It was my second attempt to BQ, as I had given it a go 3 months earlier at the Philadelphia marathon (missing with a 3:08 at my first attempt at the distance). I was so disappointed that during lunch immediately after the race I found and signed up for this very hilly race. Overall it is a net downhill run, but it goes wildly up and down, which steers most people away from the course, but I just needed another shot, and I didn’t really care where, and the timing was perfect.
I went out in 1:29 and change and I felt like sub 3 was within my reach, but the hills at the 20 mile mark crushed me and I slowed to a7:40 pace (from 6:50) within 50 yards. I held on and just kept reminding myself of the work I put in to that point, and I gutted out a 3:01:15, safely under the 3:05 needed to have a shot at qualifying.
For a little more depth on the experience, I wrote a pretty detailed Reddit post on training, racing, etc. here.
How long had you been running when you ran your first BQ? Did you run in college or high school?
About 1 year and 8 months, and no I didn’t run in high school or college. I was an Ice Hockey player.
What was your approximate lifetime mileage at the time of your first BQ?
Oh boy. Hmmmm. I peaked at 70 mpw, but that was only for a couple weeks. Before that I was in the 30-40 range for about 6 of the 20 months, and outside of that I was in the 20-30 range, soooo that all comes to roughly 800 miles or so. But I also biked and swam A LOT (my main motivation for training has been triathlon, and I have an Ironman coming up soon!) so there were definitely additional forces at work beyond running miles.
How many miles did you run in the year before your first BQ?
Using the same logic.. probably around 550.
Approximately how many races did you run in that year?
My favorite thing to do is race. I probably took part in 10-12 road races (5k to 26.2) and 5-6 triathlons, (Sprint to HIM distance)
Did you follow a canned program? If so, which one? If not, can you give us an idea of what your training philosophy was?
Not really. I’ve tried but I always falter and end up doing my own thing. In general I have a skeleton plan, then decide to do more or less depending on how I feel that day (usually more). My general philosophy is is to always have 1 speed day (intervals mostly) and never skip the long run. Also, a solid swim is a great recovery tool for me, and if I can log extra miles on the bike I always try!
Did you run with a running club or utilize a coach?
I wish. Some structure would probably do me good.
Did cross training play a role in your training? If so, how?
That’s pretty much the key to my races! I think running/biking/swimming all contribute to each other, even if the link is mostly mental (for swimming in particular).
Did speed work play a role or specific workouts play a role in your training? If so, how?
Mile repeats. The faster my mile got the faster my races got, without fail. I started with 5xmile at 6:30 pace, and by my marathon I was down to 6xmile at roughly 5:45. Speed is king, even for marathoners and Ironmen.
Any other thoughts you would like to share with those of working towards a BQ?
Be consistent. And enjoy your bad days. Bad days are just hard training days for the brain. Finish your workout and remember what it is like to finish even though you are hurting, dizzy, in (dull) pain, whatever. Your brain needs to know that you won’t let it keep you from your goal.