Thanks to Doug O from my running club the Prospect Park Track Club for responding to the questionnaire. Doug’s give a great overview of what it was like to qualify for Boston back in the late 80s when everyone was fast. Thanks again Doug!
Name: Doug O
Age (at the time of first BQ): 28
Weight (at the time of first BQ): 140-145 lbs.
At which marathon did you get your first BQ? What was your finishing time? Tell us a little about the race.
The 1987 NYC Marathon. My finishing time was 2:57:02. This was my second marathon. The first was the 1985 NYCM. That year my finishing time of 2:55:52 wasn’t a BQ, because the standard was 2:50! The two races were similar. I went out too fast (like 2:45 pace which I thought I could handle) and paid the price after mile 20/21 heading back into Manhattan. Somehow I still managed to break 3 hours. However, when I hit the wall in 1987, I knew what was happening and managed to hold on to the end.
How long had you been running when you ran your first BQ? Did you run in college or high school?
12 years – I began running as a sophomore in High School in 1975 when I went out for the spring track team. That season I ran the 440. Then beginning the next fall I ran cross-country and moved up to the mile and two mile for indoor and outdoor track. After high school I ran cross-country and track for four years at Bates College. I was not a top competitor in college, but my personal times improved significantly thanks to the higher level of training.
What was your approximate lifetime mileage at the time of your first BQ?
I guess somewhere between 18 and 20,000 miles. In college I was running 50-70 miles/week all year round and kept it up afterwards.
How many miles did you run in the year before your first BQ?
At least 2,000. At the time I was recording my workouts based on time rather than distance because there wasn’t an easy way to measure routes. There was no GPS or online maps – just paper maps!
Approximately how many races did you run in that year?
13, including a half-marathon, a 30K, and the marathon. The other races were all in the 5K-10K range. The 30K was a month before the marathon. While I was feeling confident after a strong race on a hilly course, I may not have had enough time to truly recover for the marathon itself.
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. Looking at my running calendar from 1987, it was consistent high-mileage weeks beginning about 16 weeks before the race, along with at least 6 runs of 17 miles or longer. Back then I ran everything at a fast pace of 7 to 7:30/mile. I took very few rest days in that time period.
Did you run with a running club or utilize a coach?
I did speed workouts with Bob Glover’s running class. Everything else was on my own. I may have had Glover’s NYCM training schedule that lays out an 18-week progressive program to follow.
Did cross training play a role in your training? If so, how?
No! All I did was run.
Did speed work play a role or specific workouts play a role in your training? If so, how?
I did weekly speed workouts, but the only workouts targeted for the marathon were the long runs. Looking back I don’t think they adequately prepared me for what happens physically during the last 10K of the marathon. I went into the marathon thinking it would “just” be a longer version of other races I had done. Surprise!
Any other thoughts you would like to share with those of working towards a BQ?
My first BQ time was much better than my first Boston the following April of 1988. I found it difficult to return to marathon training so soon after New York, so I didn’t approach the Boston race with as much discipline – in fact I waited to the last possible moment to enter. As a result I wasn’t well prepared and ended up running 3:17. Then I didn’t attempt another marathon for four years! Now a BQ run in the fall of 2013 makes you eligible for Boston in 2014 and 2015. It’s good to have the option.
Just to show that nothing is a given, here’s another story about my next BQ attempt. I really wanted to run the 100th Boston in 1996 (I’m from suburban Boston), so I decided to complete a spring marathon in 1995 to qualify. My first attempt at the Hyannis Marathon in March 1995 was a failure – it’s a two-loop course and I fell apart on the second loop after running the first loop with people who were just doing the half marathon and I missed the standard by 8 minutes. But I managed to return to training quickly and decided to give it another try 8 weeks later at the Long Island Marathon. My intention was to run only as fast as I needed to qualify. Even so, as I got to the last few miles in Eisenhower Park I was starting to lose it physically along with my minimal time cushion. As I made the last turn before the finish line I saw the clock hit my BQ time of 3:15. I was crushed! But a few days later my deflation turned to elation when I found out about the BAA’s 59 second grace period (note: unfortunately this grace period was eliminated when the standards were tightened a few years ago), so thankfully I made it in. The 100th Boston was great – the weather was perfect and everyone was in a happy mood. Due to the crowds I just ran to enjoy the experience. At the end of that race I felt better than any other marathon I have run.
The available guidance for marathon training, hydration and nutrition is far better than it was in the 1980s, so now it’s much easier to train smarter and to prepare properly for a BQ attempt.
I was fortunate to be able to run a total of three BQs without stretching myself to the max. That’s no longer true for me now: My last marathon was Boston in 2006. Since then age and injuries have slowed me down, and today running a marathon – let alone a BQ – would be a challenge. But you never know: if I’m patient and consistent in my training, it could come within my reach. It can for you too!