The BQ(Q) – Aaron Heun

Yeah, ok, Aaron went from couch to sub three hour marathon in 12 weeks… but he had 30,000 miles of base in his legs before that. Thanks, Aaron for sharing your story!


Aaron Heun



Age (at the time of first BQ):




Weight (at the time of first BQ):


At which marathon did you get your first BQ?


Tell us a little about the race.

I ran in college until 2008, raced bikes until 2011 (elite level) and then got a job, got very out of shape, had a kid, hit 200 lbs and decided to train for a marathon from couch to race in 12 weeks.

I only had 12 weeks to train for the race and was walking the end of 18 milers in the weeks leading up.  I went out fairly conservatively and still had a 4 minute positive split but was happy to finish.  I ran 2:57:26.


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

25 years. I did local races with family starting at age 5, so I was always a runner.  I started really training at 14 and had a pretty steady ramp from about 30 miles a week at age 14 to 100 plus at age 21.  Probably 20,000 of my lifetime miles happened from age 19-23  From 24 through 27 I focused on cycling at an elite level and only ran for cross training.  After that I got pretty out of shape and was over 200 pounds.  I probably ran less than 1500 miles in the 6 years before I started training for Portland.

Did you run in college or high school?

Yes, both

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?

Less than 1000 and about 700 of it was in the 12 weeks prior to the race.

Approximately how many races did you run in that year?

One 5k in training and 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?

No, I mostly needed to get to a point where I could complete the distance.  I did a few lactate threshold runs, but I mostly just focused on building mileage and trying to finish my longer runs.  Weight loss was another big priority.  I lost about a pound a week during training.

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

No, I’ve coached a few runners as a hobby including an olympic trials qualifier and have studied a lot of Lydiard and Daniels.  I felt comfortable self coaching.

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


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

For the most part, no.  I did add in a few fartlek workouts when I found myself bonking very early in the few lactate threshold runs I did.  I did this, not for the speed, but to draw down my glycogen reserves on some easy runs and work on my fat metabolism (I always did these runs first thing in the morning on an empty stomach.)  Long runs were my primary focus and I never did a fartlek or lactate threshold workout if I felt it would hurt my ability to complete my long run later in the week.

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

I think for the majority of runners at the BQ level, aerobic efficiency is most likely the limiting factor.  I would always prioritize easy mileage and long runs over speed work until you’re running a minimum of 60 miles per week and experiencing diminishing returns.  The limiting factor in a marathon is fuel consumption, so it doesn’t matter how fast you can run at VO2 Max or LT if you can’t utilize fuel efficiently at sub LT paces.  Plot your PRs on an equivalency table (VDOT, Purdy, etc.) and if you’re marathon lags behind your shorter distances, you probably need more easy mileage.


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