How Chiara Qualified for Boston 9 months after giving birth

Name: Chiara

Sex: Female

Age (at the time of first BQ): 36

Height (at the time of first BQ):  5’0″

Weight (at the time of first BQ): 106

At which marathon did you get your first BQ? 2014 St George Marathon

Tell us a little about the race. I wasn’t sure I was going to go for BQ so soon after having my daughter (St George was 9.5 months postpartum). I threw my name into the lottery for St George (back when it was still a lottery – I think now it isn’t) and decided that if I got in, I would go for it. Well, I ended up getting selected so I was all-in.

I used the Runners World SmartCoach which, the old version, you could specify the race date, and initial mileage. It would spit out a plan with paces, and projected finish time. It was a pretty cool program – too bad it’s not free anymore.

Race day (after having to do new mom pre-race preparations like pump and dump!), it ended up being a bit warmer than usual – the bonfires at the top of the mountain were pretty much unnecessary (usually it’s in the 30s at the start). I started the race in a tank and shorts (no arm warmers). I had a 2 liter Nathan hydration pack on and by the end I had emptied it (so ~66 ounces of Nuun).

The first half of STG was more difficult than I expected. The first 7 miles are downhill and then you climb through rolling hills for 6 miles at ~4500 feet elevation. Not being using to running at elevation, my quads were burning and my pace dropped considerably (Oxygen, where are you? :D). When I hit the half at 1:49:41, I was convinced a BQ wasn’t going to happen.

But then you get to the really downhill part of the course, and you can make up time as long as you’ve saved something. At mile 18 and 21 you get a couple more smaller climbs and with the heat, they felt hard. I was on auto pilot at this point, just putting one foot in front of the other, not having given up on my goal, just yet. I knew it was going to be close.

This course has so few turns, that my Garmin mile splits were never too far ahead of the mile markers. Thank God for that because it was close. I crossed 3:37:14, BQ-2:46. As it turns out, Boston 2016 had a cutoff of 2:28, so I squeaked in with 18 seconds to spare.

How long had you been running when you ran your first BQ? Since 1993, so 21 years

Did you run in college or high school? Yes

What was your approximate lifetime mileage at the time of your first BQ? No idea. Lots. Many thousands probably.

How many miles did you run in the year before your first BQ? About 1000. My BQ was 9 months after having my daughter.

Approximately how many races did you run in that year? 4

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, RW SmartCoach back when it was free

Did you run with a running club or utilize a coach? No

Did cross training play a role in your training? If so, how? Not really.

Did speed work play a role in your training? If so, how? I followed the SmartCoach plan, it had one quality workout per week and alternated between tempos (5 miles) and mile repeats (x4). The only thing that changed was as the weeks went by, the prescribed pace for them got faster.

Any other thoughts you would like to share with those of working towards a BQ? Some folks have natural running talent and can BQ on their first or second attempt. The more likely scenario is that you have to work for it. I ran two marathons in 2003 (4:26 and 4:30 finish times), felt it was nearly impossible that I would ever BQ. I took a break from running marathons and running regularly, in general.

I started up again in 2010, and by the beginning on 2013, I had run quite a few marathons (IDK, 10 maybe?) and the closest I got was BQ + 4:00. It took having a baby (which, strangely, fired me up to work hard), 21 weeks of training, and a very favorable course to get my first BQ. It was the most work I’ve put into a marathon (at that point in my life).

Before that, I think I expected I could just train for 8-12 weeks and see what happened. For those with good running genes, this might work just fine, for most, you gotta put in the time and miles and it might take a many attempts to achieve it. The point is, it’s not impossible. At 36, I proved that to myself 25-year-old- 4:30-marathon self.

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