The BQ(Q) – Simon O

Its marathon season now and the BQ stories are coming in fast and furious. Thanks, Simon, for filling out the questionnaire and telling us about his BQ!

After reading the story of my team mate and friend, Greg, I would like to share my story on your blog as well. My BQ was very recent. It was achieved just 12 days ago (October 19th, 2014). Please review my answer, and please consider posting it on your blog. I would like to inspire many runners that nothing is impossible- I am not a born runner (nor did I started running in high school or college). 

Name: Simon O




 Sex: Male

Age (at the time of first BQ): 26

Height: 5 feet 8

Weight (at the time of first BQ): 158

At which marathon did you get your first BQ? What was your finishing time? Tell us a little about the race.

Toronto Waterfront Marathon 2014- Toronto was my third marathon in my three years of running. My first two marathons were in Calgary with the following times: 4:38:32 (2012) and 3:57:37 (2013). Toronto was my first marathon, in which I followed a training schedule from beginning to end. During the training phase, all my workout time(s) were pointing toward a time of 2:55, which was my goal going into the race. The week before race day didn’t really go to plan – I was busy on my feet, and did not get enough rest. Race day came, and to be honest I was not really expecting a BQ that day! I was lucky to have my assistant coach (Mark Martens) and the rest of my running teammates (the Adrenaline Rush Athletic Team) there to give me the extra confident boost. The first 32k was at a controllable and conservative pace (4:12-4:15 min/km). It was windy that day (I think the wind were going around 20-25k/hr). Fortunately, my assistant coach, Mark, told me to draft behind him, and that he will keep me on pace, and if ever he could no longer hold his pace that I should run without him. By km 39, our pace dropped to 4:20min/km. By km 40 to the end, both Mark and I were digging deep. We were both surprised to finish under 3 hours in such windy conditions, not to mention a slight uphill close to the end. Another team mate of ours (Morris Roberts) finished under 3 hours, and was the only one in his age category (55-59) who have done it that day.

How long had you been running when you ran your first BQ? Did you run in college or high school?

As some of you might have read the “No Limit” article in the Running Room magazine (link:, I was 230 lb guy before I have started running in late 2011. Back in high school or college, I am a fat nerd who spent most of my time playing chess, and eating fast food. No athletic background, and was not interested in doing any sport (so, running was the last thing on my mind back then).  It was when I experienced some health problems that I began taking on running as my way to get back in shape. To this day, I am glad that I made that decision. Running is now my passion, and I could not go a single day without thinking of running. Thanks to my friends (you know who you are) and family for continuing to give me support and encouragement!

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

In my three years of running, I have probably logged up to 3,700 miles (around 6000 km).

How many miles did you run in the year before your first BQ?

I have logged in 1171 miles (1886 km) from the first week of marathon training (June 22, 2014) to the day before the BQ race (October 18, 2014). Most of these miles were done in group (team) runs. I love team runs, as it offers motivation, accountability, and some competitions (in our group long runs, we often joked about ‘who’s the winner’, as we raced each other in the last kilometre of the long run). Overall, it sure beats running alone with an iPod/mp3, when you have someone to talk to, or someone to joke around.

Approximately how many races did you run in that year?

I ran 22 races prior to Toronto Waterfront Marathon. The race ranged from 5k up to 25k (and from road races to cross-country trail races).

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 followed a training program outlined by my coach (Janice Mccaffrey). In the first few weeks of training, the main focus was to build strength, aerobic conditioning and speed. The paces were very conservative, and I learned how to run by effort rather than pace during this phase of training (especially on the hills). Afterwards, there was a transition phase where the focus was to improve lactate threshold. Following this phase was the “goal race specific phase”, where the legs had the opportunity to experience the goal marathon pace. But, I would say the most important part of the training program is the tapering phase, as our running performance improves during rest.

 Did you run with a running club or utilize a coach?

Yes! I run with the Adrenaline Rush Athletic Club, run by an awesome and amazing coach, Janice Mccaffrey. Ever since I joined this team in Dec 2013, I have been obtaining 5k, 10k, half marathon, and now marathon PB (and BQ). Coach Janice has a vast knowledge in running, and I am fortunate to be taught by her.

Did cross training play a role in your training? If so, how?

During my marathon training, I rarely do any cross training, with the exception of dragon boat paddling (which improves my core somewhat). In my opinion, the only way to be good in running is to do more running.

Did speed work play a role or specific workouts play a role in your training? If so, how?

Yes, I think the speed and lactate threshold workouts play an important role. The paces for these workouts are way faster than marathon pace; hence, it makes marathon pace feel much easier and attainable on race day.

Any other thoughts you would like to share with those of us working towards a BQ?

My final words: 

“Train hard, and smart! Follow your training plan, but also listen to your body. Come race day, it is important to step back and spend some time thinking of all your training. You should tell yourself in front of the mirror (honestly, I did this on race day!) that you are fit and you can do this! You must have faith in your training (as training does not lie!), but more important you must have faith in yourself. Have fun, and enjoy your journey to achieving a BQ – it worth it at the end!”


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