Very excited to share this great questionnaire filled out by my Prospect Park Track Club teammate Luca. Luca is a stalwart of our club, organizing out of town runs and other events all while being blaziningly fast. Huge congrats, Luca, on qualifying for Boston and going sub-3 all in one go!
Age (at the time of first BQ): 37
Weight (at the time of first BQ): 125
At which marathon did you get your first BQ? What was your finishing time? Tell us a little about the race.
Chicago 2015, 2:58:25 — it was not an easy race; I ran with Ben C., a PPTC teammate who reached out to me asking to run together since we may have had similar goals. He is faster, much faster and finished Chicago in 2:53 but for the first 30k we paced each other and had a lot of fun; the plan was to run 21-minute 5k’s up to the 30k mark after which each one was on his own. Up to 30k it was easy sailing, averaging 20:30 5k’s and crossing the halfway mark in 1:27:30. After I crossed the 30k, my form started to deteriorate; the warmth (it was around 65 at that point) and the steady breeze from south-west were becoming more and more noticeable. At a water station, I couldn’t keep up with Ben who continued his race and I mine.
To be totally honest, I gutted it out, the last 2 5k’s were incredibly tough and I slowed to a crawl (21:30 and 22:00). I ran Chicago in 2010 (one of its hot years, 70 at start and 85 by 9) and seeing those places where I walked and called it quits kept me honest and kept me going. Crossing the finish line left me with some bitter taste for I had not run the race I wished I would have run, but I avenged both Chicago 2010 and NYC 2014 and I broke 3 hour so I wasn’t feeling bad or anything. It was just a very weird rush of mixed feelings.
By the way, splitting the race in 5k-chunks made it more manageable: I helped me to avoid checking the watch every 15 seconds for the impending beep and breaking the flow. (The actual reason was more menial: Ben runs in km/min, I in mi/min — 5k is something we both understand and have a feeling for.)
How long had you been running when you ran your first BQ? Did you run in college or high school?
No track or cross-country in high school; I would have liked high school more had I had it, I guess. I started running as I was finishing grad school in 2008 so 7-8 years
What was your approximate lifetime mileage at the time of your first BQ?
No idea! A very rough estimate would be around 15o miles a month to account for injuries, so approximately something north of 10,000
How many miles did you run in the year before your first BQ?
I was injured for all winter and got back in April starting at around 25mpw, I think, increased to 40-50mpw by July; I used a shortened training cycle — 8 weeks of training and 2 of tapering — during which I was averaging 70mpw with a peak of 84mpw.
Approximately how many races did you run in that year?
Very few; I raced the New York Road Runners Team Champs in August and Lehigh Half in September
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 was helped by two friends, Allan and Chris. I followed somewhat closely Allan’s MTG program and ran several of the workouts he created for the group. That was a huge help!
Did you run with a running club or utilize a coach?
PPTC; I didn’t technically utilize a coach but I was helped by the aforementioned Allan and Chris. (And with “helped” I really mean it.)
Did cross training play a role in your training? If so, how?
I often say I would do a triathlon if it were not for the swimming leg and the bike leg. I profoundly dislike swimming and accept biking as transportation. I didn’t cross train but I was doing physical therapy once a week to address tightness and soreness.
Did speed work play a role or specific workouts play a role in your training? If so, how?
A huge role. Simply put, I don’t think one can BQ without working on speed and especially long sessions of marathon pace runs (in this context, tempos); I was running 8-10 tempo runs every week except for the one leading to Lehigh. I’m sorry but I don’t think there’s another way out: one needs to train the legs to that pace and cadence.
Any other thoughts you would like to share with those of working towards a BQ?
Be consistent. Be determined. Be honest. The first two don’t need an explanation; it’s what everybody says. The third is different. What I mean by that is you will BQ when you will see indications of a BQ; if your half marathon PR is 1:35, it doesn’t matter how much you train, a BQ is simply not realistic. I really think that it’s important to get shorter races down first; work one year to improve your speed, get a sub-1:30 half (or what is for women, sorry I’m not familiar with women’s times) and then the chips will fall into place.