Nancy’s story of Qualifying for the Boston Marathon

Name: Nancy

Sex: Female

Age (at the time of first BQ): 39

Height (at the time of first BQ):  5’2″

Weight (at the time of first BQ): 110

At which marathon did you get your first BQ? Poconos

Tell us a little about the race. Mostly downhill, but some small hills at the end that kill after you’ve burned up your quads doing so much downhill in the beginning

How long had you been running when you ran your first BQ? 21 years

Did you run in college or high school? Yes

What was your approximate lifetime mileage at the time of your first BQ? 17,000

How many miles did you run in the year before your first BQ? 1,200

Approximately how many races did you run in that year? 2

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, Hanson’s Beginner

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

Did cross training play a role in your training? If so, how? No, very little cross training, although I spend very little time sitting during the day

Did speed work play a role in your training? If so, how? Yes, as part of Hanson’s plan. Although I did all of my speed work on the treadmill. I also eased into the speed work because Hanson’s has you do your first speed workout at 12 X 400. No way I could do that without working up to it, I’m almost 40 years old, I don’t want to get injured.

Any other thoughts you would like to share with those of working towards a BQ? This was my seventh marathon, although I had been close before. I think what really helped was staying next to the pacer the whole way. I stayed next to the 3:40 pacer, but lost him mile 21 or 22. The 3:45 pacer caught up with me but helped to push me to stride it out at the end. It was hard, no doubt, I was DEAD, but I just turned off my mind and went into robot runner mode.

I wish I had stuck with pacers for previous races–I just lacked the confidence to do it, or I would try to do negative splits. Just go all out, you have nothing to lose. If you DQ, you DQ, oh well, at least you tried to get the time you really hoped for.

Although I BQ’d, I only BQ’d by 45 seconds so I probably won’t get in. Oh, well, gives me something to work toward in future races.

I think I have read EVERY one of the BQ stories on this website, they have all been so inspiring! I have also gleaned good advice that I have applied to my training (like fast leg turnover, and running less hilly race courses.)

I still get teary eye’d thinking about the race. I’ve poured my heart into running, if you’re reading this I think you know what I mean. Don’t give up!!

Boston Qualifier Questionnaire Art

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.

The BQ(Q) – Diane Berberian

Diane in legally blind. She first qualified for Boston in 1995 before she lost her vision, but she has since qualified again as a blind runner. She’s an incredible inspiration. Check out her story below and be sure to follow her on social media! Thanks Diane for taking the time to share your story.  

Name

Diane Berberian (www.dianeberberian.org or @dianeberberian or irondiane on instagram

Sex:

Female

Age (at the time of first BQ):

38

Height:

5’2″

Weight (at the time of first BQ):

120

At which marathon did you get your first BQ?

Jacksonville Bank in Jacksonville. FL

 

Tell us a little about the race.

Small event in numbers. FLAT. January.

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

5 Years

Did you run in college or high school?

No

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

Not sure? I have always been a low mileage/week due to injury prevention

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

~37 miles per week

Approximately how many races did you run in that year?

30 or more of varied distances but only 1 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 had a coach. Speed work was weekly, tempo runs and long runs. Although he tried to get me to do more miles my body kept breaking down. That was the year I became a triathlete. LOL

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

Yes

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

Absolutely. I could not and still do not tolerate high mileage so I did lots of swim and bike. Actually did so much that I did an Iron man triathlon that year.

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

Absolutely. I was a very strong runner both mentally and physically.

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

I need to add that the first year that I qualified was 1995 and chose not to go to Boston since I loved triathlon more. I did not even try again until 2012 when I was legally blind and qualified with the qualifying time being slower. I am no         where near the 3:42 that I was in 1995.

Legally blind endurance athlete Diane Berberian

The BQ(Q) – Lucy

Name

Lucy (@libgeeksgirl)

Sex:

Female

Age (at the time of first BQ):

37

Height:

5ft

Weight (at the time of first BQ):

8 stone (112 pounds)

At which marathon did you get your first BQ?

London 2015 (UK)

Tell us a little about the race.

Last few miles were hard and pace dropped a bit, but still managed my aim of under 3:30, really enjoyed the first 17 miles! Great crowd and atmosphere. Pacing was better than Manchester in 2014, although time was slower.. I put this down to the course and size of field.

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

7 years

Did you run in college or high school?

No

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

Maybe 4000 miles?

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

Probably under 1000

Approximately how many races did you run in that year?

About 15, some were triathlons

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. Myasics… Speed work, tempo run, long run

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

Yes

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

Yes, I train for triathlons, so also swim twice a week and cycle regularly.

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

Yes. Do speed work sessions weekly. I think they really help my running.

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

I think consistent running and speed work are important. There’s no way to run faster without running faster!

 

The BQ(Q) – Danielle

Name

Danielle

Sex:

Female

Age (at the time of first BQ):

36

Height:

5’2”

Weight (at the time of first BQ):

105

At which marathon did you get your first BQ?

Myrtle Beach

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

8 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

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

1500

Approximately how many races did you run in that year?

6

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

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

No

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

Pilates

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

Yes. Twice a week

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

Time and experience.
Also long slow distance runs aren’t enough. I had to pick up the pace in the long runs.

The BQ(Q) – Elizabeth C (Boston Bound)

I love all the BQ(Q) responses, but I really love the ones from people who’ve put in a lot of time running before they ran a BQ, I mean runners like Elizabeth who’d run over 18,000 before her BQ. Congratulations, Elizabeth! Great work!

Name

Elizabeth C http://www.ElizabethClor.com, Boston Bound

Sex:

Female

Age (at the time of first BQ):

36

Height:

5’5

Weight (at the time of first BQ):

114

At which marathon did you get your first BQ?

B & A Marathon

What was your finishing time?

Tell us a little about the race.

This race is run on a paved “rails to trails” course in Severna Park, MD. It’s relatively small with approximately 200-300 finishers. The course profile is mainly flat with some inclines, and just one significant hill.

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

14 years

Did you run in college or high school?

No

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

18,000

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

2150

Approximately how many races did you run in that year?

12

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

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

Yes

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

No.

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

Yes. I did speed work twice a week, and sometimes I incorporated speed into long runs.

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

For me, the problem was more of a mental block than a physical one. I think I could have BQ’ed 5-6 years sooner if I didn’t have a mental block + performance anxiety.

The BQ(Q) – Kimberly B

Here’s a great new BQ(Q) with Kimberly who qualified by running a 3:26 at Columbus. Congrats, Kimberly!

Name: Kimberly B

Sex: Female

Age (at the time of first BQ): 38

Height: 5′ 8″

Weight (at the time of first BQ): 152#

At which marathon did you get your first BQ?  Columbus Marathon

What was your finishing time?  3:26

Tell us a little about the race.

The weather was great in 2006 with lows in the mid-30s and high topped out in the mid 50s, I think. The course is fast and flat with very nominal ‘hills’ on overpasses and crowd support on the cloverleaf designed course that also happens to wind through the OSU campus area is amazing and easy for friends and family to see you multiple times if they want.

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

6 months

Did you run in college or high school?

I ran track in High School but didn’t run again for about 20 years when my daughter started running track in junior high

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

I don’t keep a running journal and aside from maybe 300 a season in High School and 100 a season in junior high I averaged about 50 mpw in the 6  months leading up to the Columbus marathon so maybe 2600 mile lifetime total before BQing at my first marathon?

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

Maybe 1200?

Approximately how many races did you run in that year?

I ran a race series with 5ks, 10ks, 15k, half-marathon and a 20 miler  … I think I ran a race about every 3 weeks from May thru Sept leading up to my BQ at the Columbus Marathon

Did you follow a canned program?

Altered, but I did Pfitzinger/Douglas marathon training for less than 55 mpw

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

No, just ran on my own and made my training plan on some notebook paper

Did cross training play a role in your training?

Yes, I was working at the local Y as a swim instructor and aerobics instructor as well as doing 3x/week strength training with plyometrics at the end and stretching for 20 minutes each day (mostly pilates)

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

Yes, I followed the protocol of Pfitzinger’s book I did the 2 mile time trial and based my weekly interval workouts on my time according the directions in the book and I did my Lactate Threshold/tempo/marathon pace workouts too as best I could fit them along with the training races as they fit into the racing series schedule I signed up for.     Multi-speed training is the key to reaching one’s personal potential.  I am a strong believer in specificity of training.

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

Pay attention to your body, take a rest day if you are fading in your workouts, take some time off if you get injured and instead of aiming for some random ‘time’ posted on the BQ page you should instead focus on becoming your very best and attack each workout with purpose.  Know what the goal of a long slow run is, know why you need to find your range for VO2Max workouts, know what a Lactate Threshold workout is for and hit that zone.  Do not race every workout nor do every workout at LSD.   Live with purpose and run with purpose.    Have FUN.

The BQ(Q) – Laura S

Great to read this story of Laura training, and qualifying, for Boston after having two kids. Congratulations Laura!

Name: Laura S

Sex: Female

Age (at the time of first BQ): 35

Height: 5’2.5″

Weight (at the time of first BQ): 113

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

I qualified for Boston this year at the Little Rock, AR marathon (2014). Their theme was “epic” and it was that! At the start it was 50 degrees and drizzling but a huge ice storm blew in and by the time I reached the finish it was 35 degrees and pouring rain! I ended up with a 3:32:52, first in my age group, and frostbite on my hands! Great race support despite the weather!

How long had you been running when you ran your first BQ? Did you run in college or high school?

I was a sprinter in high school and college…400m hurdles was my event. I hated distance running! I started running 2 years prior to my BQ to lose those last few pounds of baby weight after having my 2 children.

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

About 2500 post baby miles!

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

About 1250

Approximately how many races did you run in that year?

2

Did you follow a canned program? If so, which one? If not, can you give us an idea of what your training philosophy was?

My plan was developed by a good friend and training partner of mine. 3 weeks of progressively harder workouts then a recovery week for 14 weeks. One long run, one speed workout, and 2-3 light to moderate workouts each week. Hilly route at least once per week.

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

I have an amazing group of runners to train with on a daily basis!

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

I did some cycling on recovery days.

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

Let’s start by saying that I hate mile repeats…but they really do help. They help you stay focused when you feel very fatigued and full of lactic acid, just like the end of the marathon!

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

Be consistent in your training, rest when you need to, push your limits, and believe!

Laura S.

Laura S.

The BQ(Q) – Terzah B

Terzah has been a reader of the BQ(Q)s for some time and I am so happy she has finally gotten her BQ!

Here’s what she wrote to me yesterday:

Thanks again for maintaining the BQ Questionnaire. I referred to it often during my three-year quest to qualify for Boston, which I finally did at the Chicago Marathon the other week. Here are my answers to your questions.

Congratulations Terzah, and thanks for taking the time to share your story with us!

Name: Terzah B; my now-closed blog is bqby40.blogspot.com; my Twitter handle is @terzah

Sex: female

Age (at the time of first BQ): 40

Height: 5’7″

Weight (at the time of first BQ): 127

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

I ran my first BQ at the 2013 Chicago Marathon in 3:44:06. The weather was near perfect. My instructions were to stick with the 3:45 pace group, and that’s what I did. My legs were sore for the last four miles, but it was a good day. While I had some momentary doubts after a shoelace snafu, deep down I knew I could do it.

How long had you been running when you ran your first BQ? Did you run in college or high school?

I did not run in high school or college, except the occasional and irregular jog to keep my weight down. I started really running in 1995, when I entered my first race, a 10K. It was fun, and I was hooked.

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

No idea…..I started those weight-maintenance jogs when I was 12, but they never exceeded two or three miles until I was in my twenties. And then I had a period in my late 20s where I didn’t run, before I started up again with zeal in my 30s.

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

I estimate around 1300 miles.

Approximately how many races did you run in that year?

Marathons–3 (the first two were huge disappointments; the third was my BQ, which was also a 9-minute PR)

Half-marathons–4 (again, three disappointments and one that was a 10-minute PR–the latter was a full year before my BQ; it was a hard year until that BQ)

10Ks–1

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 hired a coach about a year and a half before my BQ.

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

Both! My coach is Darren De Reuck of Boulder Coaching (bouldercoaching.com). I also ran several speed workouts and long runs with the Boulder Striders, a local group coached by Olympian Colleen De Reuck (she and Darren are married). And on top of that there is a local meetup in my town that organizes lower-key runs–I ran several times with them as well.

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

I weight trained diligently every Thursday, did an occasional Pilates class on Tuesdays, core work at home (more erratically) and, when I felt like I might have an injury coming on or was recovering from a race, I did stationary bike workouts instead of running.

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

Yes! Each Tuesday I had heart-rate leveled speed workouts that got harder and longer as the marathon approached. My coach doesn’t believe in too much track work, so most of these were in the form of fartleks and “sustained” or tempo runs. It was really fun to watch my heart rates at various speeds decrease over the weeks leading up to the race. I knew my training was working.

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

It really helped me to eliminate most sugar from my diet and really concentrate on eating lots of vegetables during the training period (I did *not* diet). I believe this not only supplied me with the proper fuel but also kept me from getting the colds and other illnesses that stopped me in my tracks in the run-up to other marathons. Staying healthy is huge.

BQ(Q) – Sarah

After I posted about this project on the Runnersworld forums, Sarah was kind enough to respond with her story.  Thanks for taking part, Sarah, have a great run in Boston!

Name: Sarah

Sex: F

Age (at the time of first BQ): 40

Height: 5’7″

Weight (at the time of first BQ): Approximately 120 lbs.

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

I first BQ’d at Portland (OR) 2007.  My finishing time was 3:40:05.  A friend and I started running short distances approximately 1.5 years before that, doing a couple of 10K races.  We were both approaching our 40th birthdays at that time.  About 6 months after we started running together, just after we both turned 39, we decided to train for and run a marathon to celebrate turning 40 the following year, thinking “now or never.”  At the beginning of training, we had no time goal and no goal of qualifying for Boston.  That marathon was a mix.  I was absolutely elated for about the first 17 miles, okay for the next 4-5, and then crashed hard at around mile 22.  Despite knowing about the “wall,” nothing could have prepared me for how bad I felt from mile 22 to the end of that marathon.  We were happy to have BQ’d, but I had no desire to run another marathon after that, so no plan to run Boston at that time.  Three years later, I ran a second marathon (Portland 2010), mainly to keep my husband and some other friends company in their training.  I BQ’d, but some of the friends from our group didn’t.  We decided as a group to run CIM two months later in an effort to have everyone qualify for Boston, thinking that we’d go together if we all qualified.   I BQ’d again there, and it is that qualifying race I’m using to run Boston this year (deferred from last year).  While I love to run, particularly with a group of friends, I think marathoning itself is hard and painful.  After each of these marathons, I’ve said “never again.”  However, I am finally running Boston this year  because I’m not sure that I’d ever qualify again (or go through what it takes to qualify), and I feel like I should take advantage of this opportunity to run Boston while I have it.  This may be my last marathon.

How long had you been running when you ran your first BQ? Did you run in college or high school?

I ran competitively in high school and during my first year of college.  After that, I ran/jogged sporadically for a few years into my early 20s, never racing.  I almost never ran between my early 20s and my mid-30s, starting to run regularly again in my late 30s.  I had been running regularly (a few times per week) for about 1.5 years before my first marathon and BQ.

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

I don’t know.

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

I haven’t calculated it, but I generally run between 25 – 40 miles per week, even at the height of marathon training.

Approximately how many races did you run in that year?

2 or 3.

Did you follow a canned program? If so, which one? If not, can you give us an idea of what your training philosophy was?

My friend and I made up a program based on the Hal Higdon Advanced program.  We modified it so that we ran only 4 days per week, but many of the runs were more intense or longer than specified in the plan.  Shortly into the training, we began running with 2 other friends. One of them had run several marathons and had qualified for and run Boston several times.  The other of them had run three or so marathons and had also BQ’d and run Boston.  My training philosophy going in was simply to train enough to complete the marathon and cross a marathon off my bucket list.  After joining the more experienced friends, our philosophy was a bit more competitive, but I don’t think I was consciously thinking about a BQ before it happened.  We’ve used this same sort of hybrid program to train for both successive marathons.

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

I ran with an informal group of friends and family members.

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

No.  I am bad about cross training.  At this age, 45, I am really starting to recognize that I should be doing some strengthening work to avoid injuries.

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

Yes.  We did fairly intense speedwork in an effort to balance our somewhat low mileage.  Speedwork ranged from fartleks, tempo runs, pace runs, and intervals (distances between 400 and mile). We also did Yasso 800s a couple of times leading up to each marathon.  And, we did many hill repeat workouts.

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

Good luck.  I hope you enjoy the process as much as meeting the goal.