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!!

Boston Qualifier Questionnaire Art

The Boston Qualifier Questionnaire – Kelly

Name: Kelly

Sex: Female

Age (at the time of first BQ): 29

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

Weight (at the time of first BQ): 130

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

Tell us a little about the race. Conditions were ideal for a BQ. The weather was perfect, in the 40s and 50s. The course is super flat, especially compared to Atlanta where I live and train and which is incredibly hilly. This was my first marathon, so not really knowing what to expect, I stuck with the 3:35 pacer until mile 15/16 when I picked up the pace a little bit. Hovered around 8 minutes until miles 23-25 when I really started to feel the distance and slowed down a bit. Hit 8:00 for mile 26 and finished in 3:33:16.

How long had you been running when you ran your first BQ? 14 years

Did you run in college or high school? Yes

What was your approximate lifetime mileage at the time of your first BQ? 5600? Total guess

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

Approximately how many races did you run in that year? 4 – 1 5k, 2 10ks, 1 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, Ran 4 days/week. 1 long run, 1 tempo/speed workout, 2 easier runs

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 swam occasionally – usually 400 yards x 4 with a warm-up and cool down, or something like that. I took an entire 9 days off in the middle of training to go on vacation to Patagonia but I hiked about 50 miles, so that should probably be considered cross training, too.

Did speed work play a role in your training? If so, how? Yes, I tried to run speedy 1 day a week. Nothing super regimented. Usually 800m repeats or mile repeats. Sometimes would just do a fartlek run if I couldn’t get to a track.

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

How Aubrey Reichel Qualified for Boston

Name: Aubree Reichel

Sex: Female

Age (at the time of first BQ): 25

Height (at the time of first BQ):  5-8

Weight (at the time of first BQ): 140

At which marathon did you get your first BQ? 2014 Veterans Marathon, Columbia City, Indiana

Tell us a little about the race. This was in 2014 – I was coming off a fairly successful (for me) final college track season and had a really good base so I took some time off and started just having fun with local road races (10Ks, 10-miler and a half) building up to the race. I was doing all my long runs at the state park on trails which helped me with my strength and endurance while also providing a softer surface for the longer miles.

The race I ran was a looped course of two 13.1-mile loops. I’d run the half before and it was a fairly small race (200 in the full, 300 in the half) but it’s USATF certified so it counts.

I went out fast for the first mile which felt comfortable so easing back to my goal pace (approx. 8-min/mile) and stayed comfortable. I took a gel every 5 miles and always grabbed a Gatorade or water at the aid stations.

The course has some rolling hills so the trail training I did helped a lot with that. The course is also pretty rural past the first two or three miles so it gave me the opportunity to enjoy running and zone out and the miles just ticked by.

The second loop, I started to tire a little bit but I never felt like I hit a wall. I think running slower on the trails helped endurance in that my 20-mile longest run took over 3 hours while I was at mile 20 during the race well before that point (I was at 23 around the 3-hour mark).

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

Did you run in college or high school? Yes

What was your approximate lifetime mileage at the time of your first BQ? Thousands. 6,000+

How many miles did you run in the year before your first BQ? 1,614 (Jan – Nov, 2014); 1,900ish (Nov. 2013-Nov. ’14)

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, Speed during the week, long on the weekends.

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 didn’t really focus on cross training during that time.

Did speed work play a role in your training? If so, how? I mixed it up as I wanted to.

If I felt really good, my mid-week runs would be a little faster or longer; long runs always had some hills; fartleks were my friend.

I threw in some interval stuff as the opportunity presented itself. I was just having fun.

Any other thoughts you would like to share with those of working towards a BQ? Train above race-pace as much as you can during mid-week runs to ensure the goal-pace feels easy come race day.

Training for a fall race worked for me because I dislike running in the heat but I did and by the time the weather cooled off, I was in really good shape and the conditions were favorable come race day.

Choosing a smaller race ensured I could sleep in my own bed the night before, eat my own food and have friends around me when I came through aid stations.

Be confident. If any sort of doubt creeps in, it’s over.

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.

How Cecilia Qualified for the Boston Marathon

Name: Cecilia

Sex: Female

Age (at the time of first BQ): 27

Height 5’6

Weight (at the time of first BQ): 142lb

At which marathon did you get your first BQ? BMO Vancouver Marathon

Tell us a little about the race. It was a beautiful day – 50-60 degrees and sunny. The Vancouver course is deceptively tough – 2 big downhills and one uphill in the first half and then a lot of curves and wind in the second half. I intended to stay behind the 3:15 pacer for most of the race, but felt great and got a little excited after climbing the hill at 6 miles so I pushed ahead of him and cruised through the half at 3:12 pace. By miles 18-20 it was becoming clear that was a mistake. The last 10k around Stanley Park were a battle as the wheels slowly fell off, and the sun and warmer temp made me feel like I was going to throw up. I held it together enough to finish in 3:18.

How long had you been running when you ran your first BQ? 15 years

Did you run in college or high school? Yes

What was your approximate lifetime mileage at the time of your first BQ? 11000

How many miles did you run in the year before your first BQ? 1500

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 More or less followed Pete Pfitzinger’s 18/55 plan from Advanced Marathoning

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 do triathlons in the summer, so I mostly did some biking and a little swimming on some rest days. I have a short bike commute to work every day also. I did less as I got more tired in the heart of the training plan.

Did speed work play a role in your training? If so, how? Yes. I did track workouts with my triathlon club, especially in the last 6 weeks leading up to the race. I also did tempo runs on my own, for longer distances than I’d ever done before.

Any other thoughts you would like to share with those of working towards a BQ? Be consistent, but don’t be afraid to mix it up or try something new and exciting when you need a change – sometimes that’s how you find a breakthrough.