I admire (and am a bit jealous!) of people like Julian who BQ’ed in there first marathon. Lots of great stuff in here, including specific speedwork suggestions, thanks for taking part, Julian!
Age (at the time of first BQ): 37
Weight (at the time of first BQ): 140 pounds
At which marathon did you get your first BQ? What was your finishing time? Tell us a little about the race.
Auckland Marathon New Zealand 2013 (my first marathon). Time was 2:54. I had been a half marathon specialist until finally taking the plunge to run a full marathon. I had begun to increase my weekly mileage to try and get used to the longer distance of the marathon. I thought that I was ready to run well. My goal was to run under 3 hours in my debut marathon. The benefit was that this was a home race and I knew the route very well. It was a perfect day and I was in good condition. I tried to go conservatively for the first half, but after about 5 miles, I got impatient and took off… I got through to half way fine and on track, but then my body started to tire badly. Not used to racing longer than a half, everything from here was pushing beyond my comfort zone. I struggled on, but every 3 miles, I could see that my pace was dropping off.
By the time I reached the 30K mark where my family were waiting to cheer me on, I just wanted to stop and go home! Still I soldiered on, and fought harder still whilst my pace continued to deteriorate. The final 5 miles seemed to go on forever, and I was cramping badly in my legs. I also had a massive blister in my left foot arch forming which made my foot feel like it was on fire… Eventually I made it to the final straight to the finish line and somehow managed to drag myself over the line. When I crossed, I was so tired I literally did not know what to do- sit, stand, get a drink… then I inadvertently walked right in between the elite women’s winner being interviewed by a commentator! Eventually I recovered enough to find my family and supporters and take in the pride of running my first ever marathon, and managing a sub- 3 hour time! I didn’t think about entering to race Boston until mid-way through 2014, and by then I had already trained for and raced my second marathon at the Gold Coast Marathon Australia in July 2014 (faster course) on the advice of my coach. Hence I was able to use this faster time for my BQ which was 2:49:34.
How long had you been running when you ran your first BQ? Did you run in college or high school?
3 years. At high school I did mainly sports such as soccer and rugby. But I enjoyed track athletics (sprints) as well- never a long distance runner though.
What was your approximate lifetime mileage at the time of your first BQ?
How many miles did you run in the year before your first BQ?
Approximately how many races did you run in that year?
Each year I would race approximately once a month at least. The Auckland Marathon is in November, so I would have run at least 10 races prior that year. I remember my last ‘warm up’ race before this first marathon well. I had to do a 22 mile Sunday long run, so to keep it interesting, I ran 5 miles from home to the start line of a race, entered the race and ran 5th in a half marathon, then ran the 5 miles back home afterwards!
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 have a coach that gave me a relatively consistent program to follow. Generally it consisted of the following: Easy 5 miles on Monday; Intervals on Tuesday (12 X 400m or 6 X 800m or 5 X 1km repeats); 45 mins on Wed (6-7 miles); 60 mins steady on Thu (8 miles); Rest day on Fridays; Tempo Run/ Time Trials on Saturdays which built up to running 7 miles (quarter marathon) at race pace to simulate the actual race; Sunday long runs which slowly built up to approx 24 miles, but the focus was getting used to the time running on your legs. So the longest was close to the 3 hours target that I had set for the marathon.
Did you run with a running club or utilize a coach?
I trained entirely on my own, but utilizing the program written by my coach. I also had regular phone catch ups with him to review my program. This is definitely the best way to prepare for a marathon and to target a BQ time. Having someone that holds you to account and also supports you with getting an understanding of how your training is going, dealing with motivation issues/ injuries etc. Also, it’s great if your coach has been there, done that, so that they can draw on their experience to help you get to the start line and achieve your race goals.
Did cross training play a role in your training? If so, how?
Not much. I am not much of a swimmer. I have a road bike, but I decided that I’d rather not risk getting run over by a car whilst training for a marathon! Also, I don’t really like the gym…
Did speed work play a role or specific workouts play a role in your training? If so, how?
Yes, as per my program listed in Q7. Speed work is fantastic as firstly it gives you variety from the longer runs. Also, to me it’s more of an indicator of how your running is improving over time. Tuesday morning is my speed work session, and I always look forward to checking my interval splits to see where my fitness is at.
Any other thoughts you would like to share with those of working towards a BQ?
Running a BQ was not originally a running goal for me. Stepping up to running a marathon was merely a curiosity as I had run so many halfs, I wondered what it would be like. Though the thought of being out there running for so long was not an appealing idea either. So I vowed that if I was ever going to run a marathon, I wanted it to be snappy (under 3 hours)! Hence that was my motivation. The irony is that to run a good marathon, you need to be very patient (at least 4-5 months training, slowly building up your distances and strength, and in the race you really need to save yourself until the last 5 miles otherwise you aren’t going to finish strong). So for a BQ, I think that the same rules apply- firstly you need to be mentally strong enough to set that goal and be determined that YOU WILL one day achieve a BQ. Then you need to go out and do the work, and stay focused on getting to that goal. But my advice is to definitely get yourself a coach that you trust to help you along your journey…