Here’s a great one from Rich, who qualified way back in 1972! This is a great little insight into what it was like at the beginning of the first running boom. Thanks for taking the time, Rich!
Name: Rich E
Age (at time of first BQ):19
Weight (at time of first BQ): 165 or so
At which marathon did you get your first BQ? What was your finishing time? Tell us a little about the race.
Philadelphia on the old three lap course around the Schuylkill River and Art Museum in November, 1972. 3:29:42. It was an hour and five minutes faster than I’d run the previous May. I remember getting a headache and very nauseous around midway and was going to stop. But I’d thought I could be decent at marathons and had been disappointed with my performance earlier in the year and decided that if really was going to be an OK marathoner I needed to suck it up and become one. So I bent over and tried to make myself vomit thinking it would make me feel better and I’d then manage to run better. I couldn’t vomit so just decided to run even if I felt awful. The feeling passed pretty shortly afterward.
How long had you been running when you ran your first BQ? Did you run in college or high school?
I went out for my high school’s track team as a freshman and kept on ever since. I’d just finished my junior year of college cross country when I ran the marathon.
What was your approximate lifetime mileage at the time of your first BQ?
Probably around 4,000-4,500 miles.
How many miles did you run in the year before your first BQ?
Probably around 3,000 miles.
Approximately how many races did you run in that 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 actually am not sure what a “canned program” is so probably not. In those days if you were on a cross country or track team you were pretty much on the track doing intervals nearly every day. We had one stretch in my sophomore year where we did something like 11 interval sessions in a week. And I raced very poorly off of it so in the off seasons I made Joe Henderson’s “LSD: The Humane Way to Train” my running bible.
Did you run with a running club or utilize a coach?
No club but the college team I mentioned. So the team’s coach or coaches were mine. Usually I had to work around him to get in the sort of work I thought I needed. But still, I have loads of respect for him because he really made me want to run well and nurtured my love for the sport. I don’t know if I’d have run for the next four decades without his influence.
Did cross training play a role in your training? If so, how?
Not at all
Did speed work play a role or specific workouts play a role in your training? If so, how?
No again. It was mostly just a lot of miles and consistency that got me from 4:34 to 2:35 eventually.
Any other thoughts you would like to share with those of working towards a BQ?
I cannot imagine wanting to run the Boston Marathon today. The size of the race to me is totally unmanageable. I never ran a race for “fun” or for “the experience.” I always wanted to run as fast as possible and finish as close to first place as I could. One of my favorite moments in a road race was the one where I’d worked my way through the crowd at the start and found some open space where the runners were spread out. Then I’d find one ahead of me, or a little group ahead of me, and work on catching him/them. That’s impossible now at a race like Boston unless you’re very fast. And the logistics of getting to the starting line and then waiting for ages until you actually run seems agonizing.
But I understand the allure of doing it at least once and doing it with a qualifying time rather than with a boatload of charity money. My advice to someone wanting to qualify would be to run as many miles as you can, probably more than you think you’re capable of doing right now, race more than people tend to do today, to find races LONGER than half marathons if you can and in the likely event you can’t as that sort of race has nearly vanished, is to run some maximal time trials in the 15-20 mile range.
Also, understand that you’ll have bad patches in many of your marathons. They pass. Don’t misinterpret them and think that because you feel awful now you’re done for. I learned that with the episode of having a headache and wanting to vomit at the 14 mile mark of my first qualifying race. I’ve told marathoners I’ve advised that somewhere near or just past halfway you’ll frequently feel very tired and you should because you’ve been running hard for 14-16 miles or so and that’s along way to run hard. You may find the idea of running another 10-12 miles feeling like you do to be impossible and want to quit. So don’t think about running another 10-12 miles feeling like that. Instead, think of running for another 10-12 minutes feeling like that. You’ll find that much more easier to imagine. Just keep promising yourself another 10-12 minutes. Eventually you’re well beyond midway and can much more readily imagine hanging on to the finish.