Its tough to be the BQ(Q) right after a running legend, but I think Bob does a pretty great job with his no B.S. response to these questions. Thanks for taking the time to do this, Bob!
Name : Bob H http://bobhearn.blogspot.com
Age (at the time of first BQ): 39
Weight (at the time of first BQ): 168
At which marathon did you get your first BQ? What was your finishing time? Tell us a little about the race.
Victoria 2004, 3:12:18. There’s not really a lot to tell. It’s a middle-of-the-road course in terms of speed, not super hilly, not super flat. Rolling. The scenery is beautiful. The weather was good. I kept closely to my pace targets, was a little ahead at the half, and picked up a little more time towards the end. It went the way it’s supposed to — the training is the hard part. Race day is just proving you did the training.
How long had you been running when you ran your first BQ? Did you run in college or high school?
Less than a year. I started training in January for a 10K in March — longer than I’d ever run before. I volunteered to be part of a team entry, so I thought I’d better pull my weight, and found a training program. I discovered that, while running had previously been a chore whenever I’d tried it, having a goal race to train for made all the difference. I was hooked. The 10K went well, so it was on to a half in June, in 1:37. That made me think that maybe, with a solid training program, I could run a BQ (3:15) in my first marathon. I bought Pfitzinger’s Advanced Marathoning and went from there.
I didn’t run in high school or college, except abortively to try to impress my girlfriend, who was a real runner.
What was your approximate lifetime mileage at the time of your first BQ?
I think something under 1,500.
How many miles did you run in the year before your first BQ?
Pretty much the same
Approximately how many races did you run in that year?
As I recall, two 10Ks, Two halves, one 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?
Yes — Pfitzinger 24-week up to 55mpw plan. This was a challenge for me; moving up to 50ish mpw that quickly put a lot of stress on my body. I needed the help of a good PT to get through it (mostly ITB issues). But the plan was solid; I finished it pretty close to as scheduled. There are other good plans out there, but I think it’s fair to say that if you successfully complete a Pfitzinger plan, you will be well positioned for your race. (Note that in the 2nd edition of Pfitzinger, the 24-week plans have been removed, to make room for higher mileage plans.)
Did you run with a running club or utilize a coach?
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. I did the scheduled Pfitzinger workouts. Some of these are tough, especially the longer tempos and the MP long runs. I didn’t successfully complete every speed workout. The mental toughness these workouts require is just as valuable for your first BQ as the physiological benefits.
One way I modified Pfitzinger was to make the MP long runs “fast finish” runs, as prescribed by McMillan — after the MP, you run the last mile fast, and the last quarter very fast. This prepares you well for hanging in towards the end of a marathon.
Any other thoughts you would like to share with those of working towards a BQ?
If you make it a priority — don’t let other races interfere; use them as tune-ups if anything — and follow a solid training program, and you are basically healthy and not overweight, you ought to get there. Most of the people I see who repeatedly try and fail to BQ are just not doing it right. For most of us it does require a serious commitment, at least the first time. (But it does get easier!) If you are overweight, you have to decide whether to lose weight first, or to take on the extra challenge of BQing with a handicap. It is possible. But I would choose to lose weight first. The goal of a BQ is a good motivator.
But don’t be discouraged if it takes a while. Everything went well for me my first time out, but there are any number of things that can go wrong in a marathon, so you might have to try again. And again. The course could be slow — that’s under your control; be realistic when choosing a race if a BQ is what you are after. Weather is pretty much outside your control (not completely, because you can pick a race likely to have good weather). Gear and nutrition are things you need to practice in training, but incidents can still happen.
After putting in the appropriate training, pacing is the biggest thing under your control that can go wrong. And most people frankly screw it up. Smart pacing is not hard, but you do have to make yourself do it. Don’t throw away all that training, thinking oh, I feel great, at 5 miles, and discover you ran a PR at the half. Oops. Start with a goal and stay on target. If you still feel great at 20 or so, *then* you can push for extra. IMO the best way to get a realistic goal time estimate is to race a half all out 3-4 weeks before, and look at a pace comparison chart, e.g. McMillan. Of course, if McMillan says you will be short of a BQ, you might still choose to go for it — great. But then don’t be greedy and try for even more!