The Boston Qualifier Questionnaire — Vanessa Jimenez

Name: Vanessa Jimenez

Sex: Female

Age (at the time of first BQ): 25

Height (at the time of first BQ):  5’6

Weight (at the time of first BQ): 125

At which marathon did you get your first BQ? Napa Valley Marathon  

Tell us a little about the race. It was amazing weather for the race: low to mid 30’s at the start and low wind. I started out slower than I wanted for the 1st mile because of the crowd of people, but hit my stride by mile 2. From there on I just zoned in on what I had been doing in training. I took gels at miles 6,13, and 19 and rotated between Gatorade and water at aid stations. I averaged around 7:50 pace up until mile 22 when an excruciating side cramp killed some of the fun. From then until the finish it was all I could do to just keep moving along. I’m not proud to say that I did walk about 100 feet somewhere around mile 24 but I picked it back up and continued on, hitting my goal of a first marathon BQ at 3:30:40!

How long had you been running when you ran your first BQ? Off and on since middle school- 13 years-ish

Did you run in college or high school? No

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? Not sure- about 500 miles total since I began training for the race

Approximately how many races did you run in that year? Just the marathon and a 5k about 8 months prior

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 Hal Higdons novice 2

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

Did cross training play a role in your training? If so, how? I teach and take many Pure Barre classes which is a fantastic low impact cross training for running

Did speed work play a role in your training? If so, how? No, the only speedwork I did was some tempo runs

Any other thoughts you would like to share with those of working towards a BQ? Set a realistic goal, but let yourself dream a little. Do the training and trust what you’ve already discovered your body can do. Growing up as a dancer, I view a race as a performance. Follow everything you did in rehearsal, just throw in that extra level of sparkle and passion, and if you screw a few things up, there can always be another performance.Boston Qualifier Questionnaire Art

Stefanie B’s story of qualifying for Boston Marathon in her first marathon

Name: Stefanie B

Sex: Female

Age (at the time of first BQ): 23

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

Weight (at the time of first BQ): 103

At which marathon did you get your first BQ? NYC Marathon 2013

Tell us a little about the race. I qualified in my first marathon, and had no expectations. My main goal was to finish, but to run sub 3 hours was icing on the cake. I was coming off of competitive college training, and was still being coached by my previous college coach. I knew I was capable of a good time, but still did not have a goal in mind since it was my first marathon. Marathon morning was freezing (in the 30s’) and extremely windy so conditions were not the best. My most memorable memory will always be how my shoelace came untied within the first mile of the race – I will never forget that! (and yes, I had to stop and tie it…was only the first mile of 26!).

How long had you been running when you ran your first BQ? 10 years (since I was 13)

Did you run in college or high school? Yes

What was your approximate lifetime mileage at the time of your first BQ? I have no idea, haha. Basically ran 30-40 mile weeks during High School. When I went to college, I was consistency running 70-80 mile weeks.

How many miles did you run in the year before your first BQ? Again no idea, but I was still doing at least 60-70 mile weeks since I was still being coached my my college coach.

Approximately how many races did you run in that year? Maybe somewhere between 8-10. I did several local 5ks races, and a half-marathon leading up to my 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, Basically followed my college coaches plan and philosophy which was based on Jack Daniels. He believed in running minutes (not miles), and of course incorporated tempos and interval training.

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

Did cross training play a role in your training? If so, how? I did not cross train much during marathon training since I was running high mileage weeks.

Did speed work play a role in your training? If so, how? Yes – at the time I still wanted to keep my times fast for 5ks, so my coach would give me speed work at the track as well (i.e. 400s, 800s, etc.).

Any other thoughts you would like to share with those of working towards a BQ? It is a very great accomplishment, and you should celebrate when you qualify. Unfortunately for me, I have yet to run a Boston Marathon since I injured myself after my first marathon, and almost injured myself prior to Boston 2015. I had to cancel Boston 2015, and so now I am looking at Boston 2018. My advice to you is to train smart, eat right and listen to your body.

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How Lauren D qualified for the Boston Marathon

Name:  Lauren D

Sex: Female

Age (at the time of first BQ): 30

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

Weight (at the time of first BQ): 135

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

Tell us a little about the race. Sugarloaf Marathon was my second marathon; I ran my first at Baystate in October 2016 and I think I was just on the verge of 3:35 at that point if everything went perfectly, but I had a tough day (chest cold and then nausea/vomiting) and finished walk/jogging in a disappointing 3:48 and change. After that race I put in a TON of work for Sugarloaf, had a decent but not 100% perfect race day, and all the work paid off. I toed the start line perfectly healthy, nutrition strategy was on point, and I paced the race really well (1:46:36 first half, 1:46:05 second half). The first half felt easy even with the big climb in miles 8-10, the last 5 or so miles were torture in the sun, but I knew if I kept moving I’d have the BQ at that point so I just got it done. I slowed a little in the last few miles but had enough gas left for a hard kick at the very end.

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? ~6500

How many miles did you run in the year before your first BQ? 2700

Approximately how many races did you run in that year? 10 – not all goal races/100% effort, though

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, Designed by my coach – medium-long, long, workout, and 3-4 easy days.

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

Did cross training play a role in your training? If so, how? Not really. I strength trained a little but dropped it in favor of more mileage pretty early on (time constraints).

Did speed work play a role in your training? If so, how? Yes – lots of hill sprints and strides early on, a very few track workouts (mostly 10k pace or slower) in the last 6 weeks. Longer tempos at marathon pace or a little faster throughout training. Timed intervals on the road – between 10K-HM pace with recovery just a little slower than marathon pace. HILLS. I didn’t run the hills hard outside of the short sprints, but I ran a lot of them and especially tried to get them in toward the end of medium-long and long runs when I was tired.

Any other thoughts you would like to share with those of working towards a BQ? Keep working! Lifetime mileage and a healthy dose of mental toughness will get you there.

The Boston Qualifier Questionnaire – Jen S

Name: Jen S

Sex: Female

Age (at the time of first BQ): 25

Height (at the time of first BQ):  5’5.5″

Weight (at the time of first BQ): 115

At which marathon did you get your first BQ?  Baystate Marathon, Lowell, MA

Tell us a little about the race. I had no idea standing on the start line that I was going to run a BQ, or go sub-3:30, or run a 43-minute PR that day. But crazily, all three happened in one race! All I knew going in was that I felt fit and strong, and the only real goal I had for the race was for my run to reflect that. Baystate is a flat and fast course, and the weather was perfect for a marathon that day (low 50s, crisp and clear, calm winds), as it usually is during fall in New England. I felt good and strong throughout the race and ran fairly even splits (<1min positive split from the half).

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? 5000?

How many miles did you run in the year before your first BQ? <1000?

Approximately how many races did you run in that year? 8, all were shorter running races and some triathlons including my first half ironman

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, 1 tempo, 1 speed session, and 1 long run per week. Easy recovery days mixed in to bring up the mileage totals and flush out the hard efforts.

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

Did cross training play a role in your training? If so, how? Yes, I think it was a pretty big factor, in retrospect. The year I BQ’d was the first year I started doing triathlons, and so I’d done some more cycling than usual and WAY more swimming that I ever had in my life (still a terrible swimmer, though!). Tri training helped push my fitness into new territories, and if I had to distill the “secret” of making big gains in marathoning into a line or two, it’s that you just have to be overall quite fit (doesn’t have to be triathlons, just whatever effectively builds up your aerobic capacity) before starting to do marathon-specific work. The combo of those 2 things will get you quite far, in my opinion. Sounds obvious, but I’m guessing it’s not done in practice as much as it should be!

Did speed work play a role in your training? If so, how? I did longer tempos (9-11 mile range, during the week/in addition to the weekly long run) and I think they are really helpful for me. Plus they are my favorite kind of workout.

Any other thoughts you would like to share with those of working towards a BQ? Just the 2 things: 1) be fit and 2) medium-long run tempos.

Kate’s thoughtful recollections on when she qualified for the Boston Marathon

Name: Kate

Sex: Female

Age (at the time of first BQ): 27

Height (at the time of first BQ):  5’3

Weight (at the time of first BQ): I don’t believe this is helpful information for other woman to see- one’s best racing weight is very individual- I will say I was five pounds heavier and healthier when I ran my second and faster BQ

At which marathon did you get your first BQ? Loco Marathon in New Hampshire

Tell us a little about the race. It was my first marathon, and based on my race times from my previous half-marathons, my predicted finish time was somewhere between 3:40-3:45. I set a pretty easy goal- just to finish under 4 hours. However, at the starting line, I decided to line up with the 8:00min/mile pacer. Besides bonding with him and learning each other’s life stories, I kept up easily for the first half. We ran with a big group and it was so fun talking to everyone- I was having a blast. The course was two loops, so we got a new pacer on the second loop. Sadly, we didn’t get to bond as much as I started losing him at mile 16. By mile 20, I thought my chances of BQing were over but I just kept going. Back then, I did not use a GPS watch and had no clue what my pace was. At mile 23, I started getting really nauseous due to not taking in enough nutrition. I kept telling myself to just be happy about getting across the finish line. At mile 26, I see my fiance (who ran the half marathon that day). I’m so excited and I can’t wait to hear him cheer for me. The first words out of his mouth are, “Hurry up! Hurry up!” I was like “Excuse me?!!” I couldn’t believe he had the nerve to say that to me at mile 26 of a marathon! However, when I looked up at the time, I was at 3:33. He totally did the right thing. I finished in 3:33:27, -1:33 the qualifying time. He knew that if I missed it, I’d be so disappointed. When I found out later on that to get into Boston, you often need a faster qualifying time than a -1:33, I decided to run another one in May. Thankfully, I ran a 3:30:32 in Martha’s Vineyard, so hopefully I will be going to the Boston Marathon in 2018!

How long had you been running when you ran your first BQ? 13 years

Did you run in college or high school? Yes

What was your approximate lifetime mileage at the time of your first BQ? I have no clue. I didn’t get a GPS watch until Christmas 2016! But a lot!

How many miles did you run in the year before your first BQ? Not many. I took a break from racing for a bit to focus on graduate school but was still running for fun.

Approximately how many races did you run in that year? two 5ks, two half-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

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 and I believe it is key to running injury free. I almost never run more than 4-5 times per week. A sports medicine doctor years ago gave me the advice to never run every single day as your knees need a break. I take at least one day completely off, and cross train at least 1-2 days every week. I attend cycling classes and an interval training class at the Oak Square Y in Brighton, MA which are a lot of fun and tough workouts. Spin class mimics running since you incorporate sprints and hills into the workout. Interval training basically a strength and cardio mix- very challenging but a lot of fun. My fiance is a weight-lifter so he has gotten me doing the bench press, overhead press, deadlift, and pull-ups (I avoid squats due to fear of hurting my knee). We also have an elliptical in our apartment which I use quite a bit.

Did speed work play a role in your training? If so, how? Yes, but not as much as it should have. I tried to do a tempo run once a week or some form of fartlek, but I didn’t follow a training plan so often my runs were just for distance. For my second marathon, I incorporated speed work in 1-2 per week, and believe it helped a lot.

Any other thoughts you would like to share with those of working towards a BQ? Take care of your mind and body. Running a marathon is so much a mental game as well as a physical one.

Make your miles matter. I’m a PhD candidate in Theology. During races, I like to dedicate each mile to a person or group of people, and pray for them at that part of the race. Or sometimes I do a mile in memory of someone special who has passed away. Thinking of certain people often gives me courage in the middle of the race, especially toward the end.

A lot of things seem counter intuitive and you really have to trust the experts. Tapering before a race can be hard, but your body needs it. Its so tempting to do more than you should, but you have to resist. Make sure you are taking in enough nutrition. Finally, always take the time to recover after a race. I learned this the hard way. I tried to cross-train like a maniac right after my first marathon and ended up with a knee injury that put me in physical therapy and left me unable to run at all for a month. Second time around I took two weeks off, and when I went back, I felt totally fine!

The BQ(Q) – Lauren

Name: Lauren

Sex: Female

Age (at the time of first BQ): 30

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

Weight (at the time of first BQ): 134

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

Tell us a little about the race. I trained really hard for the Baystate Marathon in 2016, but I got sick just before race day and had a really bad run. I channeled that frustration into this training cycle and into my race plan for Sugarloaf 2017.

I aimed to feel awesome through 13.1, coast down the hills and still feel pretty good and maybe be slightly ahead of pace through mile 20, and then just hang on until the end from there. Gels every 6 or so miles, carb load the day before, breakfast and coffee at 4:30 for a 7 AM start – I only took 3 gels but that was plenty. The last 4 miles required a lot of grit and concentration, but I still managed a slight negative split. Time was 3:32:41.

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? 6600

How many miles did you run in the year before your first BQ? 2700

Approximately how many races did you run in that year? 10

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, Hudson/Pfitz inspired – adjustable schedule, weekly medium-long and long runs. Average 62 mpw, peak of 75 miles.

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

Did cross training play a role in your training? If so, how? I had cross-trained some in the past, but this cycle was just straight-up mileage.

Did speed work play a role in your training? If so, how? Yes. I did something other than an easy run (either a workout of some type – tempo or intervals – or hill repeats) every week. I think the mileage (endurance) was the most important component, but building stamina and a little bit of speed is always helpful if you can handle it.

Any other thoughts you would like to share with those of working towards a BQ? Keep working. Run a lot. Don’t look for shortcuts because there aren’t any. Run smart – back off when you need to. Keep easy runs REALLY easy. Take a long view of training. Missing a day or two won’t hurt you, but pushing through a workout or a long run when you shouldn’t can have major consequences.

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!!

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