The BQ(Q) – Lulu Y

Name: Lulu Y (

Sex: Female

Age (at the time of first BQ): 40

Height: 5’3

Weight (at the time of first BQ): 125

At which marathon did you get your first BQ? What was your finishing time? Tell us a little about the race.
I qualified at California International Marathon.  This was my 3rd attempt at a BQ.  My finishing time was a 3:40:11 (needed 3:45).  CIM is billed as ‘the fastest race in the West’ and it may very well be.  The course is a gradual drop over the 26.2 miles with rolling hills, which help dampen the strain on the quads.  It was cold throughout (27-35F) which worked great for me.  I ran with the 3:45 pacer the whole time, but not realizing that he was running faster than 3:45.  He ended up getting us a great cushion.

How long had you been running when you ran your first BQ? Did you run in college or high school?
I had been running off and on for 10 years, but only consistently running for the 5 years prior to the CIM race.  I had to take 6 months off in 2010 to nurse an achilles tendinitis.
I never really seriously ran in college or HS.

What was your approximate lifetime mileage at the time of your first BQ?
Approximately 6000 miles

How many miles did you run in the year before your first BQ?
About 1000+.  I’m not a high mileage runner because of my propensity to injuries.  I run no more than 40 miles a week during peak training.

Approximately how many races did you run in that year?
One – My body will only allow for one race a year.

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’ve consistently used the Greg McMillan program that you can download from the NYTimes Run Well section.  His program incorporates quite a bit of speed work and track work, and the long runs top out at 18.  When I first used it in 2009 I was able to input my time for a shorter distance (5-10K) and it would generate a semi-tailored program for me with a projected marathon finishing time.  I don’t know if that is still available for free, but he does have a website which can do that but at a cost.

For what it’s worth – his program had predicted that I would finish in 3:40:36

Did you run with a running club or utilize a coach?
No, but Greg McMillan is technically a coach.

Did cross training play a role in your training? If so, how?
Didn’t do any cross training only because no other forms of exercise appeal to me that much.  However, I suspect if I did, I could run faster.

Did speed work play a role or specific workouts play a role in your training? If so, how?
I believe speed work is HUGE.  You really do run faster and are able to tolerate the lactic acid buildup that you get later on in the race.  Plus, it breaks up the monotony and makes training much more interesting.

Any other thoughts you would like to share with those of working towards a BQ?
Consistent training is a part of it, but being smart about the race is also key.  Find races that play to your strengths.  Some like flat races, others like gradual descents (would advise against huge elevation drops because it beats up your quads before you get to the finish).  Avoid late spring/summer races!  Also be smart about racing – try to run even or negative splits.  A lot of people bolt out the gate due to adrenaline rush but end up paying for it towards the end.  You need a lot of patience to hold yourself back in the beginning, but you’ll be rewarded at the end by not hitting ‘the wall’ and finishing strong.  Someone once said, “run the first half of the race with your brain, and the second half with your heart.”
Also listen to your body.  There is no one program that will work for all.  We’re all different.  Some people can do high mileage training.  Others can get away with lower mileage but with tons of speed work.  Lastly, never push through injuries because that will only sideline you.

Good luck with your pursuit.  Consistency and patience will pay off 🙂

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  1. Fran Johnson

    Great story! Congratulations and hope all is well. I’m in the sane age group. I’m 44 and my best time so far is 3:57.12. I’m slowly making my way towards my BQ and I know I’ll make it!

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