Here’s another great BQ(Q) from another redditor, Kaitlyn. Thanks Kaitlyn, I really appreciate hearing about the methodical approach you took to get your BQ!
Weight (at the time of first BQ): 123
At which marathon did you get your first BQ? What was your finishing time?
The New Jersey Marathon, 3:28:15
Tell us a little about the race.
New Jersey has a very flat course right along the shore — perfect for BQing, and why I picked that race. The day of the race, however, was very windy. Turning a corner at about mile 19 was like turning into a wall of wind (not to be confused with hitting the metaphorical wall). I felt great the entire race and was on pace for a solid 3:25 (I was really hoping to BQ by 10 minutes so I could register early), but that wind really took it out of me at the end, tacking three minutes onto my goal time. Other than the wind, however, the weather was generally perfect. Maybe a little warm, but not bad. I wore a hat though–which I’m not used to–because there was virtually no shade and I’m tremendously pale.
How long had you been running when you ran your first BQ? Did you run in college or high school?
Short answer: 1 year consistently immediately before, about 6 years cumulatively in the decade before.
Long answer: I ran track and cross country in high school, and I was okay–on varsity–but not one of our strongest runners. I decided not to run in college because I was taking on two majors and thought the student athlete thing would be too much. As it were, I ended up getting a nasty case of ITBS about midway through my freshman year. I stopped running for a year and put on some weight. By junior year, I was unhappy with how out of shape I had gotten and decided to start running again, and ran my first half marathon (1:40:10). I continued to run recreationally through the end of college but stopped during my first year of full-time work, only to pick it back up about a year later when training for my second half marathon. I’ve run pretty consistently since then, with the exception of time off for injuries.
What was your approximate lifetime mileage at the time of your first BQ?
Probably about 5,000 miles (I didn’t track these things well in high school)
How many miles did you run in the year before your first BQ?
1,100 miles, which included one month of time off from my first marathon to deal with IT band issues and a few weeks of time off in the fall to deal with plantar fasciitis.
Approximately how many races did you run in that year?
11 — a lot in part because I was working through a program to gain entry into the NYC Marathon that requires you run 9 local races and volunteer at one. I ran three 5ks, one 4-miler, two 5-milers, one 10-miler, 0ne 15K, two half marathons, and 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?
I took about five different programs and made my own based on my schedule and the milage and types of workouts I knew my body could handle without getting injured. Following strict programs always seems to result in injury for me.
I only averaged about 35 miles a week in the 16 week training cycle leading up to the race, with a peak week of 42 miles. Before training started, I undertook a very conservative approach to building up my miles, starting with 15 miles in one week, 17.5 miles the next, 20 miles, 22.5 miles to 25 miles the first week of training.
Did you run with a running club or utilize a coach?
Yep, I swear my running club makes all the difference! It helps to have people to push you in interval/hill/tempo workouts and to run with for long runs.
Did cross training play a role in your training? If so, how?
Yes! Cross training is key! It keeps me from getting injured. I started taking barre classes, which I think really helped address weakness in my glutes and hips that I’ve pinned as a major source of my IT band problems.
Did speed work play a role or specific workouts play a role in your training? If so, how?
I generally try to do one tempo/hill/longer interval run a week on Tuesdays and then a shorter interval/speed workout on the track on Thursday (my running team’s practice schedule). During that training season leading up to my first BQ, I’d say in reality I only did about 40 percent of those planned workouts, but they were still very valuable. In my most recent season I did those workouts more like 65 percent of the time, and I shaved another 7 minutes off my time to 3:21. When I didn’t get formal workouts in, I tried to do my runs at marathon pace or faster.
Any other thoughts you would like to share with those of working towards a BQ?
Keep at it. You need to put in the training (and the cross training) to make it to the finish line fresh and injury free. I continue to build up my weekly mileage with each marathon training cycle. I went out too hard in training for my first marathon (averaging about 45 miles a week), and paid for it. I showed up at the starting line injured, put in a good effort in the first 18 miles, and walked/limped the last 8 miles to finish in 5:09:11–less than ideal. I learned I personally needed to cut back on my mileage and instead focus on getting in quality workouts. Learn what works for you.
Oh, and keep in mind it’ll be very difficult to run your BQ if you don’t run a decent amount of your training miles at or faster than marathon pace. I can’t tell you how many people I know who say they want to BQ, but have run virtually no runs at their goal race pace. I’d recommend at least a few long runs that include some middle miles at race pace and progression long runs that see you gradually build speed to run the final miles at goal pace.
Somewhat related: caffeinated salt pills (I use salt stick) are like magic. I have never gotten near hitting the proverbial wall since I started using them. I hate gatorade, so they are a great way for me to make sure I have enough electrolytes in me, and the caffeine is amazing in helping me remain focused (though I am extremely caffeine sensitive.)