Sunday, December 13, 2009

How Did You Qualify for Boston?

I've read on Marathon Mommy and several other Mommy blogs about people who've attained the awesome goal of qualifying for the Boston Marathon. That is definitely on my bucket list...I think it obviously takes natural talent, but from what I gather, a lot of people qualify because they put in the hard work. If you've qualified or know someone who has, what do you think sets a "Boston Bound" training plan apart from the rest. It is the number of miles? Quality workouts? Please spill the beans...;)


Kim said...

I am definitely one of those that did it the hard work way- not much natural talent here. I would say it is a combination of miles and speedwork. You need a plan that combines speedwork (intervals), tempo and pace runs, hillwork, and of course, the long runs. It's all about sticking to the plan and being consistent. You can do it!

Kelly(M&M) said...

Ohhh...good question!! I am excited to hear the answers.

I am still 8 minutes away from qualifying...hopefully these answers will help! Thanks for posting it Laura!

Kelly(M&M) said...

Kim, I remember when you qualified because I was very jealous. :-) We had started running around the same time (I think) and I was hoping to qualify at the same time. I was so proud of you and excited for you when you did!! So awesome!

Can said...

Boston bound this year (YAY!)... and it was sheer determination that got me there I think. =)

Back in the spring of 2008 I really decided I wanted to qualify and set a training plan for myself to do it. The problem was, I think I went a bit overboard. I was following Jack Daniel's intermediate training plan, but added in a hill running day once a week (since his plan doesn't talk much about hill training and in Utah it's a must). I was running 8 miles of hills on Tuesdays (basically running up a canyon), 10-12 miles of speed work / tempo runs on Thursdays and then the long runs on Saturdays. And then of course two other days of 5 "easy" miles during the week. When I got to the race at Top of Utah I was exhausted, and literally couldn't even run a 8:30 pace downhill. It was bad. I rested up and went and ran St. George two weeks later, but the weather was horrible and I missed qualifying by 9 minutes. I was so frustrated I ended up signing up for the Tucson Marathon in December, and started up with the long runs and tempo runs again and just had nothing in me. I went down to the race and ended up starting to throw up at mile 16, walked until mile 17 where I finally gave up and called my husband to come pick me up (we were flying out that afternoon and I didn't want to end up in the ER - which I've done before - and miss our flight). I actually ended up getting Overtraining Syndrome from the whole year's crazy running all put together.

Lesson learned. There IS such a thing as too much of a good thing. ;-)

This year I decided to try again (after a doctor-mandated mandatory month off of running) and started training again - this time I used the schedule that was in Runner's World in the late spring of 2009 (it was made by Bart Yasso... It was the Marathon Challenge article/issue) - and I tried to be sane and not throw in an extra day of hard running if the schedule didn't call for it (though I will admit to throwing in one or two extra repeats more than it called for in the Yasso 800s and the Mile repeats). Instead I tried to get some hills in during my long run, or I switched out one of the scheduled interval runs for an interval-type hill run. One thing that I think helped a lot with this schedule that I'd never done before were the mile repeats. Ouch!

In June I got the swine flu and was down with that for 10 days, then ended up getting bronchitis afterwards, so I literally didn't run, or exercise of any sort for about 3 1/2 weeks. And then I spent most of July being sick with ulcer-like pains (never did figure that one out) and not getting in as many miles as I should have. After that I basically lost all hope of qualifying for Boston that year. But I kept going with the same training schedule anyway, more out of habit than anything else, I suppose. I found a running buddy in my running group that was very close to my pace, and I REALLY think that helped, because running with her made me push harder, and she said the same thing about running with me. In each run there would be points where one of us was suffering, but we'd stick with the other one and push through it and ended up running much faster long runs than we would have if we'd been running alone. We were probably doing most of our long runs at about a 8:45-9:00 pace.

Can said...

To my surprise I ended up running a 1/2 marathon PR (on a hot day, no less) in August and started getting a bit of hope again that qualifying might actually be a possibility.

The day of the marathon (StG again) came around and I woke up that morning just knowing deep down that it was the day. I was qualifying for Boston that day, no matter what! (Like my family teases me of - my running mantra is "It's either a PR or the ER!"). And the race REALLY was not easy, but every time I glanced down at my watch I was ahead of pace and just gaining a bigger and bigger cushion. My dad, who ran Boston back in 1996, met me at mile 24.5 and ran with me the rest of the way to the finishing chute. I ended up qualifying in 3:32:33 - knocking over 17 minutes off my PR from the previous year. I was astonished.

As to what went into knocking that much off my time, these are my best guesses:

-Not over-training. I kept it reasonable and didn’t run myself into the ground. I made it to the start line of the race feeling fresh and ready.

-Interval Training. From longer “cruise intervals” to the shorter Yasso 800s - to, I think, the hardest of them all - the Mile Repeats. Make sure to throw in some Hill intervals if you’re running a hilly race!

-Hill Training. The plan I was doing did a lot of hill training early in the schedule, in order to build up some serious muscle in your legs. I think this really helped. I am still a big believer that nothing makes you a strong - and faster - runner than hills. =)

-Faster Long Runs. I don’t mean all-out race-pace long runs, but I think getting your body used to a bit faster of a pace (maybe -:30 to -1:00 off of pace is good) on long runs really helped me. I also tried to run the last few miles faster than the previous miles, teaching yourself to run hard when you’re tired.

-Running for something/ someone. I raised some money to help a little boy who had been injured a few weeks before the race. I had his picture on my pace band and when the going got tough I kept looking at his face and it kept me running. Also knowing my dad was waiting for me out on the course - and what it would mean to him if I qualified was a huge motivator.

-Custom Pace Band. I found someone online who made a Excel spreadsheet of the race I was doing and you could put in your desired finishing time and it would create a custom pace chart for your pace, factoring things in like hills (up and down) and exhaustion setting in at the end of the race. SO much better than a standard even-pace band for a race such as St. George, where there’s lots of ups and downs. You’re just not going to run an even pace in that race. This band helped me know a lot better if I really was on pace or ahead, or what pace-pre-mile I would need to do for the next mile coming up.

-Not stressing it out. Honestly, I still have no idea how I ended up qualifying when I had such a horrible training year, but I think that part of it may have been just kind of giving up a bit on qualifying that year and not stressing myself out over it, if that makes any sense at all. Getting sick for so long made me ease up my expectations of myself and just run. There’s a lot to be said for just running. =)

-Having a good race day. This is totally out of a runner’s control, but can really make or break a race. St. George this past year was perfect conditions, and my body cooperated (for the most part) that day - a dream come true. =)

Anyway... Long story short, Yes, it is possible to qualify based on hard work and not sheer talent alone. Yes, a bit of talent is needed - but training smart, and being dedicated, not stressing yourself out too much, and having a bit of luck on your side from the running gods can get you there. Good luck! =)

Laura said...

What great answers! Thanks so much!

mark said...

so i have been following your blog for quite some time now and i've been waiting for someone to do a post on shoes...
i've just started running and signed up for the moab half in march. i want to get new pair of running shoes and break them in before the race. can someone do a post for me on great running shoes??? i want peoples advice and want to know what their favortie shoe/brand is and why...

Teamarcia said...

Fascinating answers everyone. There are definitely many roads to Boston!
I qualified at my 2nd marathon. I followed the FIRST training plan so only ran 3x/week so not a ton of miles. That said the speed workout and the tempo run can be HARD. The book, Run Less Run Faster, contains race times at various distances that provide guidelines on whether a BQ is a realistic goal for you.
For me this plan plus lots of planetary alignment on race day, made my BQs a reality.

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