The BQ(Q) – Roger S

Roger has a textbook story of training for Boston. Lots of miles, lots of speed work, and lots of shorter races before tackling the marathon. It definitely worked for him. He ran a 2:35:49 his first time out. Check out the solid base building, and strong speed efforts, Roger describes below. I know I could learn a lot from this approach.

Name: Roger

Sex: M

Age (at the time of first BQ): 25

Height: 5’9

Weight (at the time of first BQ): 136 or so

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

Denver Mile High (now defunct, but similar course to Denver Rock ‘n Roll). 2:35:49. I drank too many beers the night before, which was kind of dumb but I wanted to invoke Frank Shorter who supposedly drank a pitcher or 2 the night before winning Gold in Munich. The thing is, I didn’t account for the fact that my start was at 8 AM and his was late afternoon. So I was a little fuzzy the first hour or so.

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

I had been training for about six and a half years. Ran cross country and track in college but not in high school.

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

Maybe 15,000 to 16,000 or so

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


Approximately how many races did you run in that year?

10 or 15 in the year prior, but just 2 in the 3 month build up.

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 just went by feel and by what I knew. Totally self coached since college and I did not refer to a training guide. I had done some high mileage running in college but was very inconsistent in races. I had matured a lot as a runner the year before, and something of a breakthrough in the half marathon the previous October. Took it fairly easy through most of the winter (50 miles a week or so), and got into serious training in February, 3 months before the marathon. I built to average of 60-70 miles a week and held it for 8-10 weeks, peaking at maybe 75-80. I did a weekly long run (16-20 miles) and about 6 weeks out started doing long reps at 5K to 10K effort. I think the most I did was 4X 1 mile at 10K pace. And in my long runs (not all of them but every other week) I would run at about 10 miles at an easy pace, and then the rest of the way at a hard effort, more or less goal marathon pace. No gels, no water, just run. I also did a mid-week 12 miler or so. Other days were 6-10 miles, mostly easy effort.

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

Completely solo. It was my first year in that town and I didn’t really know any other runners.

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

A little bit. In December and January I cross country skied once or twice a week with a college ski team (sometimes up to three times) and did a couple of 10-15K races in January and February. I think this helped with strength and endurance.

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

As I said above, starting 6 weeks out a weekly session of reps, usually 800s, 1200s, or 1 mile (and maybe up to 2X2 miles) at 5K-10K effort (didn’t do these on the track, just by time) with roughly half to two-thirds the recovery time. So if it was 2.5 min reps, I’d take 1.5 min recovery, 5-6 min reps then recovery would be 2 to 3 minutes.

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

I ran back in the era when we were told to ‘respect the distance.’ That is, be prepared. All my marathons have been under Boston Qualifying time but I still haven’t run Boston. Maybe some day.

On The Low Cost Of Running Fast

One of the great appeals of running is its low barrier to entry.  If you’re not getting out the door and running, in all but the most extreme cases, it isn’t because you can’t afford it.  High tech wicking clothing is nice, and replacing your shoes every five hundred miles is recommended, but to experience the joys of running all anyone has to do is head out the door.

These low barriers to entry create the opportunity for a wide array of people to enjoy the sport recreationally, and for individuals from extremely impoverished localities to compete on the world stage.  There are a host of reasons why West Africans dominate distance running, but the amount of money invested is not one of them.

There are many reasons why Wilson Kiprotich holds the world record for the marathon (2:03:23, suckers). What his father does for a living is not chief among them.

This weekend I saw this point illustrated up close at a track meet in Red Hook.  The meet drew participants from all over the greater New York area.  There was a team there from Park Slope with matching black and white singlets, a tent, and a slew of coaches and there were kids there from the South Bronx in basketball shorts being followed around by a moms armed with nothing more than a bottle of water. Everyone lined up together and, by and large, the fastest kid won — no matter what he was wearing.  In one heat of the 100-meter dash I watched, a kid blew away the competition while wearing beat up trainers and the free polo shirt given out by a charter school.  In very few other sports is that possible.

Sure, I know that at higher levels of racing larger incomes can draw better coaching, better cross training, and better equipment.  But to see these kids come together from such divergent backgrounds and race, and to have the fastest kid (not the most privleged kid) win was a refreshing break from the growing income disparity we see in New York and a nice reminder of what a wonderful and equalizing pursuit running can be.

Race Autopsy: Brooklyn Half Marathon 2014

Unless you’re a pro runner with some writing chops, who runs in exotic locales against the best runners in the world, like Dakota Jones, or Sabrina Moran, odds are your race report is tedious and uninteresting to just about everyone but you. Your mom may say she enjoyed reading it, but she’s lying.

Still, race reports serve a purpose. By setting down the details of what happened, we can assess what went right, and what went wrong.  We can learn, and hopefully, we can improve. This is of little consolation to the reader (who should probably just stop here), but it can be of help to the writer.

And so, here’s my dull, boring, and not very good race report for the Brooklyn Half Marathon.

In a nutshell, it wasn’t a bad race, but it wasn’t a great one, either.  I’d trained as best I could given a gimpy foot and a five-month-old baby.  I averaged around twenty miles a week for the two months leading up to the race focusing on miles, not speed. I got in a half dozen thirteen-mile runs, but did no speed work.  I choose to focus on miles because speed work often results in me getting injured.  And this year, more than any racing goal, I wish to remain injury free.

I started the race with good pal Joe. Joe’s an old friend and fellow aging amateur jock. He and I took totally different approaches to our training. He ran, I think, one 13 miler in the lead up to the race and did very few runs in double digits.  He did, however, do much more speed training than I did.  I was worried he was going to blow up at the end. I was wrong.

We took the first half easy. We cruised down Washington, up Flatbush, around Grand Army Plaza and back down Flatbush at a comfortable 8:30ish pace chatting about running, getting old, and the changes we’ve seen in the County of Kings.  Joe and I have both lived in Brooklyn for the better part of fifteen years and it is hard to imagine the Washington Avenue of 2000 playing host to 20,000 runners. In some ways, I miss the old days, the old Brooklyn of cheap rent, danger, and diversity; in other ways, I don’t.  Its great to see Brooklyn celebrated by such a huge crowd of runners, but its important to remember all the people who can no longer afford to live here or run in some dumb ass race.

Still, it was 8 am on a Saturday morning and Brooklyn was glorious.  The crowds for this race are never big, but those who came out were great: conga drum players, weirdos with ukuleles, and dozens of members of my running club, Prospect Park Track Club.  After we’d entered Prospect Park, an older PPTC member shouted at us “PPTC! Go Get ‘Em! This is Your Park!”

And it is; and we did.  We dropped the pace to low 8s as we circled the Park and headed out onto Ocean Parkway at mile seven.

This is the second year in a row I’ve run this race.  Last year, I went out much faster, at just under 8 minutes per mile.  By the time I hit Ocean Parkway, I was barely holding on to 8-minute miles. This year, I felt fresh and ready to go at the same pace at the same place in the race. I couldn’t tell if I was running smart, or too conservative.

One day, I’ll figure this whole racing thing out, but this wasn’t that day.

Somewhere around the 8-mile mark, Joe dropped me. He was feeling strong and picked it up.  He ran low sevens and a high six* for the last part of the course. I just didn’t have that extra gear. I got the pace down to high 7s, but didn’t have the legs for anything faster.  I finished feeling strong, but not fast, in a time of 1:49:08.  Joe finished in 1:45 something.

So, what went wrong? Why did someone who ran significantly less mileage than me beat me so handily? There’s probably a bunch of reasons:  Little Dude was up half the night and I started the race exhausted; my foot has been giving me some problems; I’m older. Etc, etc, etc. To me these sound more like excuses than reasons.  They’re also all factors I cannot control. The one factor I can control? Speed work. Joe did much more of it than I did and it appears to have paid off.

Lesson learned.  If you want to run fast, you have to train for fast.  It isn’t like this is new information, but seeing Joe pull away really put it in stark relief.  This next cycle of training will include consistent mileage, hopefully more than the last cycle. However, just as importantly, it will include regular speed work.  In the past, I’ve gotten hurt doing speed work, especially short intervals, so I plan to stick to hill work and tempo runs.  No need for 400 repeats when the distance I’m focusing on is 13.1 miles.

After the race we gathered with our partners and my kid for a celebratory beer.  As the loser, I was buying.  We’re already looking at some fall halfs — Joe will be buying the beer then.

Little Dude, Joe and I post-race. LD be all "damn dude, you smell."

Little Dude, Joe and I post-race. LD be all “damn dude, you smell.”

* One of the great things about training now-a-days is the ability to slice and dice not only your own running data, but also that of your training partners and friends. Joe and I both use Strava and it was easy to consult his log when writing this thing up.


What is there to say about Meb?  Three years after Nike dropped him he has the run of his life.  Just incredible.  Sure the East African mafia would never had let a younger runner get that far out front, and sure Ryan Hall and the other Americans helped Meb by not pushing the pace.  But Meb still ran his heart out in a smart, and gutsy,  race.  The man is an inspiration to old dudes everywhere.  Lets hear it for Meb!

I’ve written about Meb a number of times. You can read some of those posts here, and here.

Race Autopsy – The Brooklyn Half Marathon

I ran an actual honest to god race a couple of weeks ago.  It hurt, but in a good way.  It wasn’t the best race of my life, but it was better than expected.

In the last couple of years, the Brooklyn Half Marathon has gone from a sleepy outer borough race with a few thousand participants to a huge, twenty thousand strong, spectacle.  The Brooklyn renaissance raises all ships, including New York Road Runners which made a huge effort to promote this race, and its part in bringing business to Coney Island.  Along with the size of the race, New York Road Runners has changed the course of the race — but don’t worry, it’s still kind of dull.  This year, the race started on Eastern Parkway and Washington Avenue, ran down Washington to Empire Boulevard, over to Flatbush Avenue, up the Flatbush hill to Grand Army Plaza, a loop around the Plaza, back down Flatbush, then a loop through Prospect Park and out Ocean Parkway to Coney Island where you finished with a hundred yard section of the newly rebuilt board walk.

I have run every inch of this course before, some of it many times.  I’ve done hundreds of runs through Grand Army Plaza, and thousands of miles in Prospect Park.  This was my home turf.  I wanted to do well.  But what is “well” for a guy who has struggled all winter to get in the miles?  When I work up at five thirty in the morning, I wasn’t sure.  And when the gun went off at seven a.m., I didn’t have much of a race plan.  A friend from my running club asked me what my goal was at the start – I said I hadn’t a clue. I knew I’d take it easy through the first couple of miles, see how I was feeling in the park, and take it from there.  Not very well thought out, I know.

A bad photograph of the start.

A bad photograph of the start.

Those first miles were easy and peaceful. I cruised along at about an eight minute pace.  Though the New York Marathon brings out crowds in the hundreds of thousands, I think all total there were probably about a thousand spectators for this race.  That was fine with me.  fewer people screaming meant I wasn’t feeling as pushed by the crowd to pick up the pace.

It was easy to run my own race, not worrying about the splits. I tried to run by effort and enjoy the small pleasure of running through my neighborhood with twenty thousand other people.  Soon, we were at the six mile mark and I was hearing some cheers from my teammates in the Prospect Park Track Club.  I looked down at my watch, did some quick math, and thought, if I can keep the pace right around eight minutes, I might just PR.

So that’s what I set out to do.  I broke the race down into small bit. I told myself to hold the pace for just the next five minutes, the next half mile, the next mile, getting stride by stride closer to the finish.  It hurt, but I tried to keep at it.

Unfortunately, willpower didn’t make up for under training and I let the pace creep up a little bit closer to 8:30 at the end.  I crossed the line in 1:47:11, forty six seconds shy of a P.R.

Oh well.

This was actually a better performance than I was expecting.  My fitness isn’t as bad as I thought.  There is still hope for a fall marathon PR.  Now the real work begins (again).  I know where I stand and I know where I need to go.  Time to execute.


Postscript – After the race I went to bachelor party that started at one p.m. and went until three in the morning.  For those keep track at home, that’s a 22 hour day.  One hour and forty seven minutes of it spent running; fourteen hours spent carousing.  Needless to say, I felt like death the next day.