Michael’s advice here on taking the long view, and looking at the training as a series of cycles (base, short speed, longer MP work) is pretty much exactly what I am thinking for the New York Marathon this fall. I won’t BQ like Michael did but I hope I get a little closer.
Thanks, Michael for taking the time to do this!
Name: Michael S.
Age (at the time of first BQ): 38
Weight (at the time of first BQ): 170
At which marathon did you get your first BQ?
What was your finishing time?
Tell us a little about the race.
Very good running weather. Mid-40s and overcast. A bit of a headwind, but I found a great group of runners to tuck into the first half of the marathon. Our pack was led by a very tall former college CC runner who clicked off splits like a metronome. When the pack fell apart, I found another strong runner who I stayed with through mile 22. Until that point in the race my mile splits were quite even – almost every single split was between 7:00 and 7:06. The last few miles I faded a bit, but I achieved the one goal I had set out for – the BQ.
How long had you been running when you ran your first BQ?
I had been running for about seven years.
Did you run in college or high school?
I ran cross country for one year in high school. No running in college and didn’t really get back into it until, on a whim, I signed up for the NYC Marathon lottery in 2007 and was surprised to find I had been accepted. Used a bare minimum 3-day-a-week program for the NYC Marathon and finished that race around 3:41.
What was your approximate lifetime mileage at the time of your first BQ? 8500.
How many miles did you run in the year before your first BQ?
Approximately how many races did you run in that year?
About 5 races. Most important might have been a couple of half marathons smack in the middle of the summer. Gutting out fast miles in 80-degree weather was a good test for handling the pain of the last few miles of the 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?
Not really. I would occasionally check the Hal Higdon intermediate and advanced programs as a general guideline, but I put together my own training program. The key behind my training philosophy is to slowly and gradually build up mileage for the marathon. In contrast to the program I followed for my first marathon (a typical 12 week beginner’s program), I spent nine months slowly building up my mileage. Importantly, the real mileage number I focused on was my monthly, not weekly, mileage total. My goal was to add about 10% more miles each month until I peaked the month before the marathon. By the standards of serious marathoners, my mileage was fairly shabby. By my standards, the 185 mile month I hit was more than I had ever done before. In addition to miles, I focused early in the training cycle on track and hill intervals and core work. Later in the training cycle I focused on 8 – 12 mile marathon paced runs.
Did you run with a running club or utilize a coach?
I do run with a running club for about half my runs. I don’t have a coach.
Did cross training play a role in your training? Yes. If so, how?
I try to get in a bit of strength and core work when I have a few extra minutes. I also play basketball (my first love) one night a week.
Did speed work play a role or specific workouts play a role in your training? If so, how?
Yes. As mentioned above, early on in my training cycle I focused on getting fast at short distances. I did intervals at 400m, 800m and 1M intervals. I gradually replaced most of these workouts with longer tempo and marathon-paced runs.
Any other thoughts you would like to share with those of working towards a BQ?
Take the long view. Unless you are blessed with an inordinate amount of natural talent achieving a BQ simply takes a lot of time and a lot of work. There are no quick fixes. If you enjoy running and you’re willing to slowly build up miles, you’ll have a shot to qualify.