The BQ(Q) – Mark Shipley


Mark Shipley (@TheCranberryKid)



Age (at the time of first BQ):




Weight (at the time of first BQ):


At which marathon did you get your first BQ?

Erie Marathon

Tell us a little about the race.

I’m sure many of you are looking for a race report here, and I will get to that. However, this one begs for more than a race report. It needs a history lesson. I started running in 2003 with the goal of running the Marine Corps Marathon as a bucket list item. It was an experience I will never forget and not a pleasant one beyond 16 miles. I finished in 5:10:57, but I decided I liked this running thing and kept at it. I kept taking chunks off of my time but kept chasing the 4 hour barrier until marathon #6, the 2009 Marine Corps Marathon where I ran 3:52:52. From there it was on. I wanted Boston. It’s been one hell of a chase since then. I took my first attempt at Wineglass in 2010, when I needed 3:15:59 but came in at 3:25:01. My next shot came last year at Towpath when I thought I was going to do it even with needing 3:10:00 or better. But that too was not to be when I finished in 3:20:10. That left a very bad taste in my mouth, so a few weeks later I ran the Inland Trail Marathon for my previous PR in 3:18:38. That wasn’t a Boston attempt. I just wanted to run a solid race. Then came Shamrock on St. Patrick’s Day this year. I knew I had it. That is until the brutal wind killed me when I completely crashed. Knowing I needed to change something if I was going to make a serious challenge to my BQ time, I committed to losing the extra weight I was carrying and train to the best of my ability. Erie was going to be it. So today not only did I beat my Boston qualifying time by 4:52, but I also beat my first marathon time by MORE THAN 2 HOURS!!! I think that’s just about as big in my mind as qualifying for Boston. And because Boston registration opens up again in the morning for everyone with a qualifying time with less than 5 minutes to spare, I know I’ll be in. With nearly 5 minutes of cushion, I won’t have to sweat it. And the best part is that I’m also in for 2015!!!
My detailed race report is below, but here’s a brief recap (splits are at the bottom). I ran this almost exactly to plan. If I hadn’t had a very brief bout of hamstring cramps at mile 25, I would have shaved a few more seconds, but that was the only hiccup in a nearly perfect race for me. As it was, it barely cost me any time. I just couldn’t let it fly until after 26 because I was afraid of the cramps coming back.
Pre-race: Because it was chilly/cold (low 50s with 10mph wind), I stayed in my car as long as possible before the race. About 40 minutes before the start, I made the slow trek to the start, got in the long bathroom line, checked my bag, and then headed to the start. There wasn’t much time after that before the gun, so I timed it perfectly. I met up with a few of my friends and running buddies, wished them luck, got lined up, listened to the national anthems, Canada and US, and then we were off.
Early miles: This was all about ticking off the miles SLOWLY. It was a fight to keep my pace under control, but I did a very good job at it. The 2nd mile was a little too fast, but I gave that back in miles 3 and 4. Everything went according to plan. It was also good to get to talk to Lou P. a few times before we separated. The only thing I really noticed during these miles was how many people were ahead of me. As the half marathon started 30 minutes later, these were all marathoners. There must have been 200 people in front of me, and I knew I wasn’t that far back in the pack. I figured I would see many of them again soon as I ran past, and I was right as I finished 61st overall.
Miles 5-10: Somewhere thru here I met up with 2 brothers who had nearly the same race strategy as me. We ran a couple miles together, jabbering away. That was great until mile 8 when I realized that they were slowing me down from my goal pace. That’s why you see my pace drift off and then pick back up almost too fast for mile 9. After that I settled back in through 10. Again, there was not much to these miles. I felt very strong but kept telling myself to respect the distance and not push yet.
Miles 10-13.1: Right about the 10 mile mark, I caught up with a group that was all aiming for 3:05. Hardly a word was said amongst the 8-10 of us, but it was nice running with company. Even our footfalls were in synch. My goal for the first half was 1:33:28, and I ended up coming through at 1:33:33. Darn near perfect! It was also great to see so many people cheering for us as we came through the start/finish area. The one thing that sticks out in my mind is Jen and Michael on the side yelling at me. I couldn’t make out much because of the noise, but I did hear Michael yell “13 miles to Boston!” as I ran on. So very true.
Miles 13.1-16: Where did everyone go? No sooner had we gone through the halfway point when everyone from that group was gone. Yes, I picked up my pace as planned, but only 5 s/mi. Only 1 other guy stayed with me, and he was gone by 15. This section was the most boring and loooong part of the race. It was on a stretch heading back to the entrance to the park and the turnaround. I just wanted to get to that turn because I knew that from there I could start letting it go. Still doing great on pace here.
Miles 16-20: This is where it all started getting mental for me. The first part was thinking about getting past 18. For whatever reason, it’s 18 miles, not 20, that is my Achilles heel in marathons. If it’s going to go south for me, that’s where it happens. So to the 18 mile marker, that was my sole focus. After that, I did a quick body check and realized that I still felt awesome! I was ready for the push to the finish, but I knew I still had nearly an hour of running to do. And that’s where the battle between my brain and legs started. When I saw my friend Jinny somewhere between 19 and 20, she asked how I was doing. I responded with “I feel great, and I’m about to unleash hell.” That’s exactly how I felt. I wanted to GOOOOOOO, but I knew it had to wait. Get to 22 I kept telling myself. Don’t really push until then.
Miles 20-24: After 21 I just couldn’t contain myself anymore. After constantly seeing 6:3x as my pace and pulling back, I let myself go. To keep my mind occupied, I kept doing the math to figure out how slow I could go and still make 3:10:00 in worst case scenario of disaster striking. I wasn’t worried that it was going to happen because I still felt great. But it kept my mind occupied and off of the fatigue that was starting to set in. Up to this point, I had done everything right in the race. My execution was spot on, and I was tracking a few seconds ahead of my goal. So I had a choice to make, and ultimately this is where I made my only slight miscalculation of the day. I took a gel right before the start and then again every 40 minutes of the race. That worked great as my last one came at 2:40. The decision was about my Endurolytes. I take one every 30 minutes in a marathon, so my next one was scheduled for 3:00. If I waited until then, it wouldn’t have a chance to do any good since I was staring at almost exactly 3:05. I decided to push it up to 2:50. I should have aimed for 2:45.
Miles 25-26: At this point I was really feeling the fatigue but my pace was staying on target. It’s just when you have run 24 miles, you get a bit tired. It was somewhere around here where Jinny showed back up on her bike. She stayed with me to the end, and I am so thankful that she did. While I didn’t say much back to her, having a friendly face and an encouraging voice down the stretch made a huge impact. She was also there to encourage me through what happened next. Bam! Both hamstrings. It probably looked like one of those old westerns where the cowboy is shot in the back. Both legs started to cramp at the same time. But these weren’t debilitating cramps. I broke stride for about 100 yards but never stopped running. Come on Endurolyte! Do your job! Slowly, slowly, slowly it worked. The cramps eased, but they scared me enough that I backed off to over 7:00 pace. Just keep it in the low 7’s and you’re golden is all I kept saying to myself. If you do, you still have a shot at 3:05.
To the finish: Can I get 3:04:5x? It’s gonna be damn close. I did a good job running the tangents, but I was still a little long. But how much? 26.2 would get me in under 3:05. 26.3 wouldn’t. But what in between? It was at this point that I saw my friend Daryle. She’s one of my long-time running buddies from my DC TNT days, and she had run the half. I hear her say “Don’t look at your watch. Just run!” So I did. Cramps be damned! Sprint (or some reasonable facsimile thereof)! Now I’m in the throngs again. This part was a complete blur. I see Jon and then a host of other Steel City friends. They’re all yelling. I hear them but keep running and focused on the finish. The clock comes into view. It’s on 3:05:0x already, but I have 7 seconds to spare chip time. Tick, tick, tick. Nope, 3:05:06 on my watch, 3:05:08 I found out later officially. But I did it. I immediately knew I had punched my ticket for Boston, not just as a qualifier but as going to be accepted and running in 2014. And for that matter 2015 too because we’re in that qualifying window as well. I let out some sort of primal scream after crossing the mats, and then I don’t remember much. I know Michael came over to congratulate me, and then there were a few more. Even now it’s still all a blur. What a day! What a race! What a journey! But I finally did it!
If you’re still with me, here are my splits. If you want to see how this compares with my goal, check out my pace band, I was 5 seconds off for the first half, 7 seconds off for the second. I’d say that’s pretty good.
1: 7:13
2: 7:07
3: 7:20 (I think 3 and 4 were off individually but accurate when combined)
4: 7:10
5: 7:09
6: 7:05
7: 7:11
8: 7:13
9: 6:54
10: 7:08
11: 6:57
12: 7:05
13: 7:09
14: 6:53
15: 6:57
16: 7:01
17: 7:00
18: 6:55
19: 6:59
20: 6:51
21: 6:59
22: 6:46
23: 6:54
24: 6:54
25: 7:11
26: 7:11
.3: 1:55 (6:30 pace)

How long had you been running when you ran your first BQ?

10 years

Did you run in college or high school?


What was your approximate lifetime mileage at the time of your first BQ?

15K miles?

How many miles did you run in the year before your first BQ?



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?

Yes, Pfitzinger Douglass 18/70

Did you run with a running club or utilize a coach?


Did cross training play a role in your training? If so, how?

Not really, I didn’t do much of it then. That’s since changed, and core and strength work have helped me lower my times further despite becoming a masters runner.

Did speed work play a role or specific workouts play a role in your training? If so, how?

Speed, not really. It’s long tempo runs that did the trick.

Any other thoughts you would like to share with those of working towards a BQ?

Keep grasping at it. You can get there. It may take years and years, but don’t give up. Nearly everyone who can complete a marathon can get a BQ if they want it. They simply have to have the desire to do everything it takes to get there.


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