Thanks to M from the great blog Read Eat Write Run for taking the time to fill this out. Congrats on your BQ!
Name: M @readeatwriterun
Age (at the time of first BQ): 47
Weight (at the time of first BQ): 106
At which marathon did you get your first BQ? What was your finishing time? Tell us a little about the race.
Shamrock, March 16 2014! 3:49:25
For full race report
How long had you been running when you ran your first BQ? Did you run in college or high school?
I’d been running on and off since age 30, but only started seriously training since 2013 (despite training for and completing marathons in 2003-04). I was never an athlete growing up, only did sports in PE class as required and things like splashing around in local pool in summer, riding bike to and from places.
What was your approximate lifetime mileage at the time of your first BQ?
I have no idea!
How many miles did you run in the year before your first BQ?
In calendar 2013, about 2740.
In the training plan (12/2/2013 -3/16/2014), just under 730.
Approximately how many races did you run in that year?
Before the BQ – one, a 5k about 6 weeks before – I am not used to racing in marathon buildup, I usually do any shorter races after my A race is over.
This year, since Shamrock I have run a half marathon in June, two more full marathons, one in October, one in November (both BQs, October a big PR from Shamrock). And at the end of this month, I’ll run my first ultra – 50k.
Did you follow a canned program? If so, which one? If not, can you give us an idea of what your training philosophy was?
It wasn’t a canned program, but a training plan I built myself based on Greg McMillan’s YOU (Only Faster) book. I did a lot of supplemental reading as well, but my plan was based on that book and his articles, calculator, etc. Highly recommend.
Did you run with a running club or utilize a coach?
Did cross training play a role in your training? If so, how?
Yes! I cross-trained instead of running for 2 days a week. I’d had an injury in August 2013 (ramped up mileage too fast) that caused me to choose not to run a November 2013 marathon, though I was only off running for a couple of weeks. In recovering from the injury and moving forward, I did a lot of rehab (pool runs, up to 2.5 hours, stationary biking) prior to starting my training plan and was very very careful to not push too hard.
Once I started my training plan, I kept up with the biking as well as core work that I’d been doing, and sometimes got to the pool.
I also started doing the Wharton Active Isolated Flexibility routine while injured, and am still doing it daily, over a year later.
I did – and still do – exercises prescribed by my chiropractor, who I see weekly.
I also started (post-Shamrock) doing Coach Jay Johnson’s General Strength Exercises (on Running Times web site, free) and they’ve made a big difference in improvements since Shamrock.
I’ve kept up with all these things on top of my running. It takes time, but it is worth it.
Did speed work play a role or specific workouts play a role in your training? If so, how?
Yes. I think what really made a difference to my running was running more time at goal pace or faster, whether tempo, tempo intervals, fast-finish long runs. In my Shamrock training, two of my long runs were 21 and 22 miles with 17 and 18 miles (respectively) at goal pace.
I also did some cruise intervals and faster repeats, but I think that for me, locking goal pace into my brain and body with lots of miles at that pace or faster made the most difference.
McMillan’s book and web site (and articles) have lots of good info on different workouts, it’s piecing them all together that takes time and effort and thought.
I do 99+% of my training on a treadmill, including my long runs. (longest treadmill run so far 25.2 miles) During long runs, I try to mimic the course profile – I also try to only take water at where the race water stops are. I’ve been a treadmill runner for years due to schedule, weather, safety concerns and personal preference. During decent weather, I try to get outside on Sundays but it hasn’t happened a lot – more like once a month than weekly.
So I’m proof you can train on a treadmill and BQ!
Any other thoughts you would like to share with those of working towards a BQ?
Keep going after your dream, hold on to it. I wanted to BQ since I started running occasionally and casually in 1996, and I did my first two marathons in 2003-04. I wound up walking in the first one and injured myself training for the second one (had to walk from mile 20 of that one and have dealt with the aftermath of the injury since). I didn’t give up the dream, but I really didn’t have any confidence I could ever get fast enough, even though I was getting older which is supposed to help. When they cut 5 minutes from the BQ times, I was so upset (though I was nowhere close to BQ at the time) as it seemed my dream had just moved a little further away. I went through years of dealing with injury, cancer diagnosis and treatment, multiple job changes moves, family medical situations and other life stuff. But I kept holding on to my dream and kept moving toward it. I can still barely believe that it’s happened, much less that I’ve BQ’d 3 times this year! Next year will be my first Boston Marathon.
Find a way. Find YOUR way. There are many routes to the same goal, it’s not a one-size-fits-all journey and anyone who says they’ve got THE answer is probably trying to sell you something. (might work for them, might work for many, but it only matters that it works for you) You might do well on less mileage and more cross-training, or your body might do well with higher mileage at slower paces. You have to try different things and be willing to say, “this doesn’t seem to work for me, how else can I accomplish the purpose I’m trying to fulfill to help me reach my goal”. You have to be willing to change if something stops working for you.
Always think long-term. Consistency – thus health and lack of injury – is the key. When in doubt, don’t do anything that might make you unable to run tomorrow or next week. No single workout will make your race, but injuring yourself can stop your training, make you miss your race and put your future running at risk! Be willing to pull back instead of push sometimes. It’s a hard fight with your ego to do less especially if the mileage monster sits on your shoulder (more interested in your training log numbers than the end results) or you’re seeing friends or people on social media doing amazing workouts. But if you’re trying to BQ, you have to get to the start line healthy to get that precious time. To paraphrase Boston RD Dave McGillivray, remember that it’s “your game, your rules” and keep your eyes on the prize!