How I Got My BQ

Sorry for being completely MIA this weekend and not posting my comparisons between my first and second marathon. I was totally hit out of nowhere with either a bad stomach bug or a slight case of food poisoning. I was completely out of commission starting Saturday afternoon through today. Hence there won’t be any food pics, since I barely ate anything this weekend. Ugh!

But what I can do is finally give my comparison between how I trained for my first marathon vs. my second marathon in order to obtain the coveted BQ. So here are the main areas where I changed things up a bit and I think it helped: 

Work on Speed: For my first marathon, I didn’t really focus on speedwork at all. I was solely concentrated on logging the necessary mileage. For the Pocono Marathon,  I started incorporating some speedwork into my shorter runs. It wasn’t as formal as other runners, but I would consciously push my speed during certain runs and see if I could run the next mile at a fast pace or I’d pick landmarks and do short bursts of speed. I think I probably could have gotten a bigger benefit out of going a more formal route – running 400’s, 800’s, etc. at a specific pace. But I wanted to ease into speed a bit.

Get a Garmin: For my first marathon I trained using a regular sports watch and mapped out all my long runs on I could guestimate what my average pace was based on the total time it took me to run it and the distance, but I never knew how my speed was broken down. I received a Garmin for Christmas last year and definitely put it to good use during my training for the Pocono Marathon. I was surprised to see how fast I was actually running sometimes. I think using my Garmin gave me better control over my speed and my pace. It helped me learn how to really kick it in at the end of races as well. I know Garmins are expensive and sometimes people think runners become too attached to them. But I think if you are trying to BQ they are almost a must.  

Increase Your Mileage: For my first marathon, I based my training plan off of Hal Higdon’s Novice plan. At the end of it all, I had run 383 miles in training (including the marathon). I was running 4 days a week. For my second marathon, I upped it to 5 days a week and increased my total mileage to 540 total miles (including the marathon). I based my second marathon training plan on Hal Higdon’s Intermediate I Training Plan. I did not stick to Hal’s plan exactly – I moved some of my running days around a bit. But I think that increasing my mileage that much really helped me. Others may not need to run that much or run 5 days a week, but I needed to train my body to run harder more often.

Choose Better Food/Fuel: I didn’t really pay too much attention to what I ate while I trained for my first marathon. I started my blog last October and started training for the Pocono Marathon in January 2010. At that point, my focus on healthy eating and my plan for better eating during this training was pretty solid. I ate soo much healthier this time around. I incorporated new grains like barley, couscous and quinoa into my diet, and upped my intake of fresh fruits and veggies. I made the switch from light Yoplait yogurt to Greek yogurt (generally Chobani) and found that my foods were keeping me full longer. I fully admit that I ate whatever I wanted during the first training – candy, desserts, junk food – all that. I thought that because I was burning so many calories, I was entitled to eat as much of everything I wanted. Wrong! And this leads to my next point.  

Find the Right Weight: I weighed between 113-114 pounds during my first marathon. I weighed about 108-109 pounds for my second. I know this doesn’t sound like a big difference, but I’m 5’1 and have a petite frame, so an extra 5 pounds on me does make quite a difference. I actually gained weight while training for my first marathon. I chalked it up to “gaining muscle” and it’s probably true that I did. But I also think I gained a little more weight than was necessary for me. Going into training for the second marathon, I had lost a little bit of the weight from the first marathon. But as I started training for the second AND continued to eat right, the rest of it just kind of melted off. I wasn’t trying to lose weight – but I think it came off naturally because 108-109 is actually around the ideal running weight for me.

Use Races: I kind of went through a racing slump for a few years. I would run 1-2 races each year, but that was it. As I began training for this second marathon, I decided that I needed to incorporate some more races into my plan to get myself used to maintaining a race pace. If you check out my Race History page, you can see exactly what I races I ran from January – May.  I ran five races of varying lengths – ranging from 5 miles to a half marathon. I actually made some of these race days my long run days. So I would run the race and then tack on some additional mileage to reach my long run day total. This worked out great for most runs – but my last long run was pretty torturous.

Run Hills: Ahh the dreaded hills. Knowing that my second marathon might be a bit hilly, I tried to incorporate hills into every run I could. Central Park has some pretty decent hills, but when I would run from my parent’s house in Upstate NY, I would add some really terrifying hills to my routes. My parents and friends would ask me why I was torturing myself by adding all these hills and my answer was: to be overly prepared. Plus, the general benefits of hill training have been touted everywhere!  Training on hills improves leg-muscle strength, quickens your stride, develops your cardiovascular system and can even protect your leg muscles against soreness. Basically, it can help make you a stronger, faster and healthier runner. You know the saying – what doesn’t kill you, only makes you stronger!

Set the Goal: As scary as it may seem, I think it’s important to set your BQ goal and tell people about it. Recognizing that your goal for this race is different will help you get into the right mindset. My goal for my first marathon was simply to just finish! A goal like that puts you in a different frame of mind than knowing you’re trying to qualify for Boston. Setting a specific time goal can be scary, but it also keeps you well-grounded during the race. Plus, once you’ve said that goal outloud or shared it with…umm the entire blog world – it makes you push that much harder to achieve your goal. I can honestly say that I thought about all the people who commented on my blog and gave me great BQ advice. I didn’t want to let you guys down after you’d listened to me drone on and on about wanting a BQ! I wanted to make you all proud! 

And lastly – believe you can do it!! Visualize yourself running that perfect race and finishing in the time you want. There is no better motivation than knowing you’ve put in the training and hard work that is necessary to obtain your BQ. And although the actual race may be far from perfect (mine certainly was), it will be that belief in yourself that will ultimately take you to the finish.

If you haven’t read my second marathon Race Recap, feel free to check it out – that can give some insight into what a non-perfect race can feel like. And thanks again to all who gave me advice on how to achieve my BQ.

What was the best BQ advice anyone ever gave you?!

Now I’ve got to rehydrate and get 100% better so I can do my first post-race run! I’m starting to go through withdrawal. Have a great Monday all.


17 responses to “How I Got My BQ

  1. SUCH great advice. I’m not running my next marathon for time…mainly because of the hills issue. There are zero, none, nada hills here. I don’t know how to prepare for the “very challenging” hilly course I’m racing in October! I wish I could work some hills in but I’d have to drive 3 hours to find one! I’m considering using the treadmill on incline, although that doesn’t quite cut it and certainly can’t help with holding form on the way down the hill, lol.
    But I am going to try to follow your other advice – speed work, races, eating right – so I don’t feel like I wasted my entry fee!

    • Before the weather got nice, I did do some hill workouts on the treadmill. But you are completely right – it’s not the same. Better than nothing, but definitely not as tough.

  2. I love this advice! Well… except the part about hills. But that’s only because I despise running them… 🙂

    • I totally agree – I despise them too. But the more I ran, it was really interested to see the difference in my racing. I was able to really gut out the hills during shorter races while others struggled. That felt awesome!

  3. All really wise advice. I PRd this past fall after a long drought of not so impressive times. I chalked it up to several things, many of which were on your list. I know many people can do well with lower mileage, but I found for me, the higher mileage worked best. Now I am gunning for shaving some more time off and already ramping up the miles for Nov. marathon.

    • You are soo super fast – I can’t imagine any not so impressive times for you! I agree that the higher mileage definitely made a big difference for me as well. 🙂

  4. AWESOME AWESOME post!!! I loved all your tips and totally agreed with them all! Once again, I am so proud of you!!!

  5. Great post! It is neat to see the differences in your training and how the outcome changed (BQing, that is- finishing a marathon in general is just awesome!) I hope you feel better soon, yikes. Stomach bugs are the WORST.

  6. Agree with so much of what you said, plus smart you figured it out by your 2nd marathon! It took me until my 4th!! I’m still working on adding more hills, but speed work is definitely where it is at.

    Hope you are feeling better.

    • Thanks – feeling much better. I need to incorporate even more speedwork now I think. Hills and speedwork – love it and hate it! 🙂

  7. This is a great post, and really points to how all-encompassing race training can be. You really nailed down a ton of factors in preparation, and it obvi paid off. I think I do a medium job on a lot of these things, but one that I want to work in more with my training is more REST! That’s the goal for this training cycle.

  8. i am so proud of you!!! as i ramp up my training for the nyc marathon i’m going to make “fast finish” long runs a vita component of my schedule. i.e. 14 miles at easy pace, last 6 at marathon pace (for a 20 mile long run)

  9. Congratulations on qualifying for Boston!

    Advice that I finally followed during my last marathon was to run the same pace throughout the race (I usually start out a little too fast then sag during the last stretch.). I lined up with the 4 hour pace group and the experience of continuous 9 minute miles was great. My finish time was 3:57. I wasn’t as sore as usual, which I’m guessing is related.


  10. Pingback: Finally, Here Are My 7 Links | Eat, Read, Run

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