The BQ(Q) – Amby Burfoot

Technically, Amby Burfoot never qualified for Boston. When he ran it for the first time, you didn’t need to qualify. However, since he finished 25th that year, and would go on the WIN THE RACE in 1968, I am going to grandfather him in.

It is incredible honor to have Amby fill out this survey. Burfoot is not only an incredibly accomplished runner and editor of Runner’s World. He has also given much more to the sport through his writing, speaking, and advocacy. It tell us volumes about Burfoot’s humility, generosity, and love of running that he found time in his busy schedule to fill this out.

Thanks, Amby, you just made this runner’s day. I hope I get a chance to meet you at this year’s Manchester Road Race and thank you in person.

Name: Amby Burfoot

Sex: Male

Age (at the time of first BQ): 18

Height: 6’ 0’’

Weight (at the time of first BQ): 140

At which marathon did you get your first BQ? What was your finishing time? Tell us a little about the race.

Didn’t need to qualify then. Boston was my first marathon. My longest previous run was perhaps 16 miles, but I was a very fit 18-yr-old. I believe I ran 2:34 and finished 25th overall

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

Did you run in college or high school? I started running three years earlier as a h.s. junior.

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

Lifetime? I would guess 4000 miles.

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

Probably 2500.

Approximately how many races did you run in that year?

Lots of college xc and track races in addition to Boston, Manchester on Thanksgiving Day, and other road races.

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 “mentored” by John J. Kelley, the 1957 Boston champ and my h.s. xc coach. Which is to say, he never told me what to do, but I mimicked what he did. Essentially we ran steady pace on the roads and through whatever woods and parks we could find.

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

I was a freshman at Wesleyan University in 1964. Jeff Galloway was a teammate. Bill Rodgers would become a teammate several years later. Jeff influenced me a lot with his consistent application to hard training, and he had already run a marathon. Bill was just a young punk to us.

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

No. I did nothing but run.

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

I ran speed because I was young and competing on a track team. I never enjoyed it, or racing in mile races, which I always lost on the last lap. But the speed did make the road races seem easier.

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

I have mixed feelings about the importance of a BQ. I mean, there are a million other races these days, and they are just as important to one’s personal fitness and sense of accomplishment. That said, Boston remains a big goal for those with the time and talent, and it is certainly the granddaddy of them all.

Amby Burfoot in 1968 on his way to winning Boston.

Burfoot On Training for Boston

Amby Burfoot winning Boston

In mid-March my Wesleyan track team took a spring training trip to Quantico, Virginia. With Boston a month away, I wanted to pile on the miles. The first morning, I was up early for a 17 miler. That afternoon I talked my teammate Bill Rodgers (yes that Bill Rodgers) into joining me for what promises to be a relaxed 12-mile run. And it was, until we got totally lost in the twisting trails of Prince William Forest Park.  After two hours in low-80s heat, we walked a couple of time, then started up again, and eventually emerged to some roads. The run took three hours. I wrote it down in my log as 22 miles. That gave me 39 for the day, a good beginning.

Amby Burfoot and Bill Rodgers

Over the next two weeks, I averaged 25 miles a day, hitting 350 miles for the 14 days. After a few days of recovery, I noticed that I was running fresher than ever. Even when jogging, I skimmed along at six minutes per mile.  This had never happened before. It has never happened since. But in April 1968, I was in the flow… I was totally focused on the upcoming Boston Marathon and totally energized by the process. 

– Amby Burfoot from the essay “Running Scared”