Here’s a great BQ(Q) from Chuck who tells us to ignore the Runners World advice and get serious about distance and speed. Thanks, Chuck, for taking the time to fill this out!
Name: Chuck I
Age (at the time of first BQ): 34
Height: 6 ft.
Weight (at the time of first BQ): 155 lbs
At which marathon did you get your first BQ? What was your finishing time? Tell us a little about the race.
Myrtle Beach (South Carolina) Marathon 2012. 3:06. This race is perfect for BQ or pr attempts. Pancake flat, and usually good temps. I broke three hours for the first time at the 2015 race (my current pr, which is 2:54). The day I BQ’d was 40’s and 50’s during the race. It’s a medium size marathon with most people running the half, which is nice because you’re not fighting crowds or weaving in the early miles. Ran most of the way with the 3:05 pacer. She, yes she, dropped me at mile 24, but by that time there was only me and one other guy who stayed with her. The last two miles I really wanted to slow down. What pushed me through was the thought of returning home and having to tell friends that I didn’t BQ, and only missed it by a few minutes.
How long had you been running when you ran your first BQ? Did you run in college or high school?
15 years. I ran two years of high school cross country, one year of college cross county (Div. 3) and one year of college indoor track (Div. 1).
What was your approximate lifetime mileage at the time of your first BQ?
Absolutely no idea. I usually don’t track my mileage unless I’m on a marathon plan. And I only ran one other marathon prior (five years prior) to my BQ.
How many miles did you run in the year before your first BQ?
Probably around 2,000 give or take a little.
Approximately how many races did you run in that year?
Let’s see, two half marathons and a 5K
Did you follow a canned program? If so, which one? If not, can you give us an idea of what your training philosophy was?
Nope, I made up my own plan based on reading a lot about marathon training. Three pronged training approach consisting of speed work, tempo (marathon pace) runs, and long runs. I also found that a key part of running a fast marathon is to run a lot of the long run distance at goal marathon pace. Three weeks from my BQ marathon I ran 20 miles with 16 at goal marathon pace. Nailing that workout gave me a lot of confidence going into the BQ race.
Did you run with a running club or utilize a coach?
No. Where I live is rural and there are not many runners, and very few who train for fast marathons. It would be nice to have some company, but 99% of the time I run alone.
Did cross training play a role in your training? If so, how?
If running in the snow counts, sure! I live in a northern climate where any marathon training requires serious tolerance of cold temps, wind, ice and snow.
Did speed work play a role or specific workouts play a role in your training? If so, how?
The first BQ training cycle (my second marathon ever) was where I really realized the importance of training fast. My first marathon I erroneously thought I would just do some long runs and be okay. I have a decent amount of speed I thought would automatically transfer to the marathon. LSD, right? Big mistake. I’ll never forget the last six excruciatingly painful miles of my first marathon. I was on BQ pace (3:05 for me at the time) the first 18 miles, then blew up in spectacular fashion. So learning from that, I now incorporate a lot of mile repeats into my training. Every week, I do a workout with 800, 1 mile, 1.5 mile, or 2 mile repeats, usually 5-6 miles in distance. I do a 6 x 1 mile workout early on in my training, and then do the same workout about 4 weeks from my marathon. Those two workouts really help me gauge my fitness. AND, they make speed workouts during 5K season seam easy.
Any other thoughts you would like to share with those of working towards a BQ?
Ignore a lot of the conventional wisdom in publications like Runners World that are geared towards one and done, or bucket list marathoners. Stuff like trying to run your best marathon by training three days a week (never gonna happen), running your long runs slowly (slow long runs = a slow marathon), or not doing more than one faster workout per week (you can, and many do, but you have to experiment and finds what works best for you). I think the key to a BQ or pr is running more miles. It’s not a popular message, and doesn’t appeal to the masses. Remember, only 10% or so of marathoners qualify for Boston, so we’re not a target audience. When I ran my first BQ I did it off of 50-55 miles per week. At the time I felt like that was a lot of miles (based on what I read and feedback from slower marathoners). But a couple of more BQ’s in, I realize I was just squeaking by. Three years out now from my first BQ, I ran my latest pr on a 17 week training plan that had 4 weeks of 80+ miles and 5 weeks of 70+ miles. I’d love to try some 90 or even 100 mile weeks, but my wife would leave me if I run anymore!