2013 is the Year I’m Qualifying for Boston!

After an indulgent vacation, it’s time to get down to running business!

In 2012 I accomplished my biggest running goal so far – a completed marathon.  I went on to complete two more marathons and astounded myself with a PR of 3:47 in the Salt Lake City marathon.

It was and is an amazing feeling, especially since over five years ago I weighed over 200 pounds and couldn’t run a step.  But the 3:47 PR made me think that maybe I could do better.

Like Boston better.

Like many runners, the Boston Marathon is my version of the Olympics.  Registration requires a qualifying marathon time in a certified race and that makes what would have been an amazing race even more desirable.  I don’t have a chance of winning ANY marathon outright (maybe in my age bracket), but qualifying for Boston means that I might be good.  It’s as close to the Olympics as I’m going to get.

I am hoping to qualify in the Windermere Marathon on May 19th in Spokane, Washington.  I chose this race for a few reasons – some logical and some purely sentimental.  Windermere is supposed to be a fairly flat race, and therefore an excellent candidate for a qualifier.  An added bonus is that the race director, Tasha who blogs at Healthy Diva, is a good friend. Having the support of someone that I adore and totally look up to will be awesome!  Spokane is also where I was born – so I’m pretty sure that there has to be some sort of cosmic forces in place that will help me to qualify in my birthplace (I didn’t say all of my reasons were rational).  Plus my favorite uncle will be there cheering me on.  He’s overcome amazing odds in his life, and I MUST not disapoint him.

To qualify, I need to run a 3:35 (to see your qulifying time, check out the Qualifying Standards).  Only 12 minutes off of my current PR. With all of the other physical and psychological forces in my favor at Windermere, qualifying should be easy, right?

I wish.

Boston Marathon Heartbreak Hill 1
Heartbreak Hill, you and I have a date in 2014! (Photo credit: Stewart Dawson)

12 minutes total means a little less than 30 seconds faster per mile.  That means 8 minute miles instead of the 8:30 minute miles I ran in Salt Lake City. For a self-titled “slow” runner, that’s pretty fast.  It’s going to take a lot of running, focused training, and a huge focus on recovery.  In the next few weeks, I’ll go into more specifics regarding my training plan, racing weight, and recovery methods – but here are the basics:

1.  I’ll be following a 19 week training plan (longer than the typical 16-week plan because I will build in a mid-plan recovery week).

2.  Each week (my running weeks begin on Saturday) will follow the same basic plan:

Saturday: Long run

Sunday: Recovery Run

Monday: Cross-train

Tuesday: Speedwork, evening easy run

Wednesday: Recovery Day (Yoga)

Thursday: Hill training, evening easy run

Friday: Tempo Run (moderate intensity)

3.  Every other long run, I will increase my mileage by two miles and follow those long runs with a deep-tissue massage.

4.  Ice baths after every high-intensity run (speed and hill) and long runs.

To establish a baseline and measure my progress, I will run the Yass0 800’s marathon time predictor workout (I’ll be back to talk about this one soon!) four times in my training cycle weeks 1, 7, 13, and 17.  I plan to run, work, school, sleep, eat and repeat!

The idea of qualifying for Boston is irresistable – and it’s so important to me that it’s literally my only real “resolution” in 2013.

I can’t wait.

If you’ve qualified for Boston, what tips do you have for me?  If you haven’t, do you want to?

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Ultrarunner, adventurer, academic, and feminist. Running Across the USA in 2021. I write about ultrarunning, adventuring, and the intersection of endurance athletics and life.

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  1. That is a great goal! I look forward to watching your training progress. One comment, however: I think you should consider more than one recovery week. Most plans have a 2-3 weeks hard then a cut back week to give you some recovery time; repeat until taper time. I am convinced that one of the things that helped me improve this year was giving myself more structured recovery time during training.

    1. I don’t know that most plans do this. Some do, some don’t and I don’t think it’s necessary for everyone. I have never taken a cutback week mid-training cycle in all the plans I’ve followed and with all the coaches I’ve had. That’s not to say I couldn’t stand to recover better, myself. I just wanted to note that I don’t think the cutback week is a necessity for everyone.

      1. It may not be a necessity for everyone, but I think it is very wise. I think too many runners run themselves into the ground too much and that negatively affects performance. I think that was one of my main problems during 2008-2011.

        1. It’s definitely not something that everyone needs, but I think I definitely do. I have to pay very close attention to recovery or I get injured.

          Also, several of the newer running books I’ve read recommend a recovery week as a part of a larger training cycle.

  2. Sounds like a great plan, I’m sure you’ll make it happen. I’m dying to run Boston but taking a year off Marathons to build strength with the hope of coming back in 2014 with some speedy times!

  3. Took me ten years for my BQ. I ended up getting mine after I stretched my longest run to 23 miles, stretched my taper from 2 weeks to 3, did more speed work, but also took more rest days, and ran a smaller marathon. I cried and cried at the finish (then again, I tend to cry every marathon finish, as if they are showing Terms of Endearment at the finish line). The obsession for a BQ can be a setup, since its a bizarre thing to finish a marathon and feel like a failure to a small degree. *(One year when I was trying for a BQ in chicago, I saw a runner who was running strong with the words “Boston Bound” taped to his back. Yep, he sure was, fleet of foot and running strong. Then I passed him, myself not very close to a BQ, as he walked that defeated zombie walk, even more bonked out than I was, but still with the “Boston Bound” taped to his back.)

    There was a point where I really thought I was going to my grave without accomplishing the huge goal I had, but I did finally nail it, and you will to. You just need everything to come together. If you do it on your first try, then where’s the fun in that?

    1. Such a great comment – I love your story! I wanted to cry at my last two marathons, mainly because they were so tough at the finish! I believe I’ll probably cry if I qualify this year too!

  4. Good luck! I’m glad to have another Salty seeking Boston… hopefully we can both reach our goals. (Although I’m aiming for 2015 unless I suddenly get crazy fast.)

    1. Lady – if anyone can qualify for Boston, it is you! I still remember (and use) the tips you sent me for my first marathon. You are totally my running inspiration!

  5. I did my BQ run with a 20 week schedule that allowed for more quality work and more, longer long runs (3 x 20 and a 22) than I was used to, but it also had extra rest weeks built in and low overall weekly mileage (<45). I come from a swimming background, and I had had success there with the low yardage, high quality, long taper trifecta (Believe it or not, it's even more taboo there than in marathon training!), and I found the same approach works well for me in running. Not only was the race a huge PR and a BQ, but I even-split it and loved every minute! Listen to your body, and you'll be great! Best of luck and enjoy the miles!

  6. Windermere is going to be your race, I just know it! I am using a fairly similar training plan, but I need to remember to take care of my body at the same time. I will need to make more of an effort to stretch, take ice baths and get regular massages and chiro adjustments. It isn’t just about putting in the miles, you need to treat your body kindly too.

  7. We have the same PR and similar goals and stories. 🙂 I was also about 200 lbs just a few years ago. I’m the mother of five, who lost the weight ( about 80 lbs) and has found my calling as a long-distance runner! I ran a 3:47:22 at Redding Marathon in January of 2013.

    I need to shave those last 2 min and 22 sec to qualify for MY age group (old, geezerly, over 40 lady here!) 😀 I plan to do that at the Famous Potato Marathon in May here in Boise, Idaho. For, me, that would be kind of sentimental, too. I watched my own Mom run a marathon (her only) the year she was 40 – at The Famous Potato! It would be way cool to have that be “the” race where everything came together! I did the same race last year in 3:48, so I feel pretty good about it.

    Since I’m also an ultra runner (my next 100 is in 4 weeks) and really enjoy pushing myself on both roads and the trails, I find it hard to settle into a “typical” marathon program. I did use the guide from Advanced Marathoning by Pfitzinger for the Redding race, though I really didn’t adhere strictly to it (as I made an impulsive decision based on how well my training was going and signed up for the race about 3 weeks before I went.)

    In general, I have found that running about 45-55 miles per week most weeks (with a peak of about 75-80) and a taper of two weeks work well for me. I also pull back when I sense my body has had enough and push harder than the training might call for when I feel good – trying to let my body dictate what I do more than the schedule.

    Running beyond the marathon distance has improved my endurance so much (and I should add that many of my miles at those distances (mostly ultras) are much slower than BQ pace and involve a great deal of hiking up steep inclines instead of running them!!)! I used to only train up to 20 miles before a marathon. Now I train beyond that. I also started doing more of my long, road runs at marathon goal race pace!

    I was able to knock out a 16 miler and a 20 miler slightly faster than BQ pace before Redding and I could feel the difference during the race. It felt comfortable instead of painful and I was smiling and high-fiving people for the first 20 miles, which was a huge change to my past marathon experiences where I wanted to die!!! (Some of that, too, might be more experience at proper fueling and hydration during a race, which are areas I was pretty awful at for the first 4 marathons — Redding was my 6th.)

    My final tip is to learn the course and study it, read other Garmin stats from the event, etc. I ran The Famous Potato last year in 3:48. My Garmin stats showed it was fairly flat (less than 200 of gain) and the course was 26.2 (which is not typical of a certified course since they are usually slightly long.) Redding had over 650 of gain and the course measured 26.5. That little bit of difference cost me a BQ. My Garmin showed I ran an ave pace of 8:34 – which was fast enough for Boston, but had I realized I’d need to run an extra 3 tenths of a mile I would have known to push a bit harder to achieve the final goal – 3:45:00 on the course as it is. It was a good lesson!!! Know the course and play out the race as strategically as you can! 🙂 I feel pretty good about my chances at the Potato given it’s flatter and measured closer to expected distance!

    I’m really excited to have bumped into your blog and see that we are on the same mission! I have a passion for Boston and ache to be there in 2014 too!! I actually ran the entire course on a vacation three years ago during September. It was what I cared about more than any other touristy thing to do. I really long to be there as a qualified runner! I’m struggling through a calf pull injury that just happened on a 22 mile training when when I slipped on black ice two weeks ago, so my training has come to a screeching halt. I’m eager to get back to doing what I love so much — running miles and chasing my Boston dreams!!!!

    Best of luck to you!!!!!

  8. Hey Cilantro,

    Stumbled across your blog and realized this marathon you are running to qualify for Boston is next week. If your healthy now and have done fairly well with your plan, I am sure you will kill it. I just qualified last weekend at Ave. of the Giants. My way to Boston did not happen the way I intended, which would have been qualifying last May at Eugene (I blew up at mile 23- I failed to pop enough gu into me later in the race- then it was to late). Do not make that mistake – Keep your calorie/sugar level all the way thru, drink plenty of gatorade or salty drink. Stay on top of that and don’t let negative voices tell you anything. I recommend doing some visualization. Go over it in your mind- stay low the day before- take a nap (might be hard to get perfect sleep the night of). Light stretching eat good carbo loading late lunch thru dinner. Have everything ready the night before- you don’t need to stress on anything the morning of. Remember- always, always think of yourself as a badass runner. Show off your ability without going over your pace splits. It is important to stay calm through out the beginning stages- let your heart rate drop after the rush of the first few miles of the start. Go out a little faster than race pace (10-15 sec per mile) the first couple, then drop it back and feel your heart rate drop. Finally, don’t over thank everyone, every time you get claps or cheers- save your energy- you have many races to be a considerate and an appreciative runner (your qualifying is most important in this race): it sucks, I know- you feel like an asshole for not thanking people- go over board on your next race or better yet volunteer yourself. My getting a qualifying time came by my desire to try again after the tragedy in Boston. I have been running Ultras (trail running) immediately after failing in May of 2012. I have not been doing speed work or fast flat turn over on roads for a year now; running tons of hills and long difficult terrain. Last year my Bart Yasso times suggested I would qualify by 20 minutes (did not happen), then I started training for Ultras and by the seat of my pants jumped into this marathon believing I could do it. Have a good plan, stay true to it and believe your a freakin’ badass. Now go get it!

    1. There is not crystal ball. All you can do is train consistently and be patient and you will improve leaps and bounds, but it happens over time and not necessarily exactly when you want it to or even linearly. If anyone tells you differently they’re lying and probably trying to sell you something!