Justin is a member of my wonderful running club, Prospect Park Track Club who BQ’ed two years ago. Nice work, Justin! I hope to see you at a club run soon and thank you in person for filling this out!
Name: Justin B
Age (at the time of first BQ): 48
Weight (at the time of first BQ): 182 lbs.
At which marathon did you get your first BQ? What was your finishing time? Tell us a little about the race.
I got my BQ at the 2012 Mohawk-Hudson marathon, a point-to-point race from Schenectady to Albany, New York. My time was 3:24:23, which was a only 37 seconds under my age/time BQ threshold. (I had to run 3:25:00 or better) It was a race where everything went right for me. First off, the weather was perfect – 42 degrees at the start, overcast with no wind. The race had a relatively small field of about 1,000, so right from the start I could get to my goal pace. I am the type of runner for which a negative split is a chimera, so I went out fast and then held on for the last 10k. The last few miles were a gut punch and lots of mental calisthenics. A sense of desperation kept me going: I kept reminding myself that weather conditions were perfect and my body was responding as well as could be expected, thus if I fell short in this race, a better chance to BQ might never come along. Fear is a great motivator: mind and matter ultimately triumphed. It was a tremendous feeling of satisfaction to cross the finish line. … The race was Oct. 7 that year, and by a quirk, Boston 2013 registration was still open, even though the registration window had opened more than three weeks before. The first thing I did when I got home to Brooklyn that night was register for the 2013 Boston marathon, and I got accepted. (I ended up finishing Boston just over a half-hour before the explosions near the finish line, but that’s another story).
How long had you been running when you ran your first BQ? Did you run in college or high school?
I ran one year of cross-country and indoor track my senior year in high school. I could run in the high 16s/low 17s for the 5k and my best indoor mile was 4:32. I mostly drank beer and played intramural hockey and softball in college. I ran a marathon in 1988 in Detroit, but soon after dropped running because I moved overseas to work as a foreign correspondent for newspapers. I didn’t run another race until 2010, starting with 5ks then working up to a half-marathon late that year. (I got back into running because I cut back on softball and soccer) I ran the inaugural Brooklyn marathon (6-plus laps in Prospect Park) in 2011, finishing in 3:42:00 at the age of 47. Given the toughness of the Brooklyn course, I decided then and there that a BQ was attainable and decided to go for it the next year. I was a college student in Boston and had watched the marathon each year in the mid-1980s. I’d always wanted to try to run one.
What was your approximate lifetime mileage at the time of your first BQ?
1,200 miles give or take
How many miles did you run in the year before your first BQ?
700 or so
Approximately how many races did you run in that year?
A dozen or so in 2012. I like to race at all distances – 5k, 10k, half and full marathons.
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 got Pete Pfitzinger’s book, Advanced Marathoning, but followed it loosely. I also joined a track club (The Prospect Park Track Club in Brooklyn) and signed up for speed workouts on Tuesday nights. I needed the group workouts to motivate me to get speed work in. But mostly, when it comes to running, I’m a loner. In preparing for the BQ, I focused mostly on getting mileage in. Having said that, I’m not into the two-a-day thing. The most I ran was 55 miles per week. The first thing that goes for me in a distance race is my quads, so I paid attention to getting my quads acclimated to lots of miles.
Did you run with a running club or utilize a coach?
Yes. I’m with PPTC in Brooklyn. The speed workouts are helpful, but I think I could BQ without them. I enjoy the club for the companionship mostly.
Did cross training play a role in your training? If so, how?
No. I hate swimming, and biking in New York is downright dangerous. I avoid gyms like the plague and have never run on a treadmill, I have no idea what is Instant Knockout and don’t plan on figuring it out. If I do anything in the form of cross-training, it’s playing occasionally in co-ed soccer and softball leagues. But I’ve cut way back on soccer because it’s murder on my ankles.
Did speed work play a role or specific workouts play a role in your training? If so, how?
Speed work helps, I suppose. It certainly helps make me mentally tougher. And the mental challenge in a marathon is every bit as tough as the physical.
Any other thoughts you would like to share with those of working towards a BQ?
No matter how much you prepare, sometimes it comes down to the weather on race day, so you just have to be philosophical. I’m actually trying to BQ again this year, and I’ll be running Mohawk-Hudson again in October. But as a backup plan, I’m also registered for New York in November. This strategy is pricey, but also it’s a form of weather insurance. If I feel weather conditions are not favorable, or if I’m just not feeling it at the start of the race in the first eight miles or so, I plan to dial it back at Mohawk-Hudson and save myself for a shot a BQ at New York. If I go for it at Mohawk-Hudson, then I will do New York basically as a fun run, shooting for a time of 4:15 or so. Now that I’m 50, I only have to run 3:30 to BQ, so I’m hopeful that I can get in the ballpark.
I feel I was both lucky and good to get the BQ on my first real attempt at it. At the same time, my margin of error is always slim. I don’t expect to BQ ever again. But I want to be in position to give it a good shot, in the event the stars appear to be in proper alignment again. If I don’t BQ this year, I’m not sure I’ll try again anytime soon. Training to run a fast marathon takes a lot of time.