How I Finally Qualified for Boston (after 25 years, 7 marathons, and 25 lbs lost)
My training and fuel for the day I finally qualified for the Boston Marathon. A goal that has taken 25 years of running, 7 prior marathons, and 25 lb weight loss.
My Running History
I started running 25 years ago, when I got married. My new sister in law’s ran every day, and I saw how much they enjoyed it, so I decided to give it a go. (also see, “Why I run, and it’s not about weight loss”)
I found I really liked running as a chance to be alone think.
For 20 years, I would run casually, whatever paces I felt like that day. I never trained with intention, I just would lace up my shoes and go. Which was awesome, and exactly what I needed while raising kids.
About 5 years ago, as my kids started leaving the house, and I had a lot more time on my hands, I decided I wanted to set some running goals. Like many runners looking to “up their game”, I decided I would try to qualify for the Boston Marathon.
The qualifying times are split into age and gender. For me to qualify For 45-49 year old women, that meant I needed to run a qualifying marathon in 3 hours 50 minutes. The full list of qualifying times can be found here.
Finish times of my prior marathons:
- 𝐒𝐭. 𝐆𝐞𝐨𝐫𝐠𝐞 𝟒:𝟓𝟐 (2001) my first marathon.
- 𝐒𝐨𝐉𝐨 𝐌𝐚𝐫𝐚𝐭𝐡𝐨𝐧 𝟓:𝟐𝟖 (2010) Even worst than the first.
- 𝐒𝐭. 𝐆𝐞𝐨𝐫𝐠𝐞 𝟑:𝟓𝟏 (2018) SO CLOSE!
- 𝐎𝐠𝐝𝐞𝐧 𝐌𝐚𝐫𝐚𝐭𝐡𝐨𝐧 𝟒:𝟐𝟏(2019) Got worse.
- 𝐁𝐢𝐠 𝐂𝐨𝐭𝐭𝐨𝐧𝐰𝐨𝐨𝐝 𝟒:𝟓𝟕 (2021)
- 𝐒𝐭. 𝐆𝐞𝐨𝐫𝐠𝐞 𝟒:𝟏𝟗 (2021)
My times were so inconsistent. It was clear I had no strategy.
How I Prepared to Qualify for Boston
Tired of being disappointed about not being able to get that BQ, I did a few things differently this year. I was tired of ‘waiting for it to happen’. I knew something had to change if I wanted to get different results.
So, I signed up for a local run that was also a Boston Qualifying run. I chose the Utah Valley Marathon. Part of the route is only 3 miles from my house, so I could run to the course and do my training there whenever I needed to.
Here’s why I think this race was different, and how I hit that BQ by 17 minutes, and a full 45 minutes faster than my last marathon.
- I practiced my nutrition plan consistently. Every long run I would do the exact same thing. Trying to get my gut used to the food when I was out for a long run. Stomach distress caused me to lose a lot of time in prior years. My ritual was, 1 hour before run, a banana. 30 Minutes before run, eat a Honey Stinger Salted Caramel Wafer. Then every 5-6 miles during the run was a Salted Caramel Gu.
- I increased my strength training. I have already been lifting weights for the last 2 1/2 years, but I added curtsy’s with weights, and kept increasing weight on my squats and deadlifts.
- I got a training plan from Coach Kris Smith that I stuck with 100% that included speed work. This was the first time in all my running I had speed work planned into my week. And it was HARD!!! In fact, it was so hard, I almost always wanted to quit during the workout. But I never did.
- I practiced the course. Mentally, this was a game changer. Since the course came down Provo Canyon and ended at Center St. Provo, I would park at Center St. (the finish line), and run up the canyon and back down again, ending my run at the finish line. This helped my mental game so much because I knew every elevation change and every landmark. I never ran from the starting line, because that’s all on the highway, but I at least got the last 10 miles, over and over.
- I bought carbon plated shoes! On a recent trail run, the girls were talking about Carbon plated shoes (this was just a few weeks ago). I had never heard of them before. While they aren’t cheap, I literally bought some that week. I REALLY think these helped me.
- I drove the full course, from start to finish. Since I never ran from the starting line, I wanted to see the elevation changes for the first 13 miles. It’s kind of hard to get a good visual from the online elevation maps, so I went to see it.
- I reduced fiber but increased my carbs on Friday. I actually got up to 500 grams of carbs for the full 24 hours before the race. This is significantly more than normal. I usually have 150 grams of carbs in a day.
- I took an Imodium.
- And I’ve lost 25 lbs. With less weight you have to carry, the easier it is to run. (more about my weight loss here) I really think being lighter helped my pacing tremendously.
- I was well hydrated! This was a problem with my St. George marathon in 2021. I barely drank anything, and then I paid the price for it later! This time, I drank at every single aid station, and I drank everything in my vest. I also drank 2 bottles of zero sugar Gatorade.
And WOW!! I still am in disbelief. It felt effortless. All my prior marathons would end in EXTREME fatigue, soreness and nausea. I would have to lay on the grass at the finish line for an hour, and I spent the next several hours with diarrhea.
But at the Utah Valley Marathon, I was not tired, I wasn’t sick and my muscles do NOT hurt! I am not even exaggerating. I almost feel like I could go for a run today. Stairs are easy, and walking is normal. So, what I’m saying, is I might have been able to do that run even faster.
My Running Workouts
My new running coach created a calendar with workouts for me. The workouts consistently included:
- Two quality speed sessions per week
- Two rest days per week
- One long run
- And two easy runs.
We were able to build to about 56 miles in the highest week of running. *(Link to my strava). The speed workouts were SO HARD! An example of speed workout looked like this:
- 1 mile Warmup
- 2 x 1km @ 4:39/rep (7:30/mi) with 2min (walk) recovery
- 3 x 800m @ 3:32/rep (7:06/mi) with 90sec (jog) recovery
- 4 x 400m @ 1:38/rep (6:33/mi) with 1min (jog) recovery
- 1mi Cooldown
- (total: 6.68 miles)
or another speed workout might look like:
- 1 mile warm up.
- 8 x 800m @ 3:44/rep (7:30/mi) with 400m (jog) recovery
- 1 mile cool down.
- (total 7.72 miles)
She would program the workouts into Vdot, and it would sync with my Garmin, prompting me the next pace and distance. It was really helpful.
My long runs gradually built over the last 6 months. The longest run capped out about 4 weeks before the race at 20 miles (although I cheated and walked an extra 3 miles just because I was nervous it wasn’t enough time on my feet). The key for me during the long runs, as opposed to long runs I would plan on my own, is that I kept a 10 minute pace for the whole run.
On my own, when I’d do a long run, my paces were so inconsistent! Literally, all over the map.
My final results for my first BQ and PR:
I ran the marathon in 3 hours 32 minute s (17 minutes faster than my BQ goal), and I even stopped at the bathroom at mile 13!
- I got 2nd place in my age group! Female 45-49. But also disappointing, because the girl who got first place only beat me by 30 seconds!
- I got 35th female overall, and I think there were 1500 marathon runners.
All my running gear and essentials:
I wanted to track all the things I used and wore on this one so I don’t forget and I can try to recreate my perfect race. (all links below are Amazon affiliate links)
- Nathan running vest
- Saucony Pro running shoes
- Salted Caramel Gu
- Jet Alert Caffeine pills
- Dole Bananas
- Honey Stinger Wafers (Salted caramel of course!)
- Nathan Hipster Running Belt
- Garmin Watch
- CBD by Acrely
- Massage by Traci
- Coached by Kris Smith
- Pandora playlist I made (exactly 4 hours long)
- Ear buds (cheap, Purity brand)
- Zero sugar Gatorade or Powerade
My Pre-Race Fuel and Menu
I’m very precise in my tracking calories and macros, and so I know that I generally function on 125-150 grams of carbs per day. I’m only 5 feet tall and currently weigh 105 lbs. (getting ready for a bikini/bodybuilding show next Saturday!). So, needless to say, things are PRETTY dialed in and I have been eating very clean.
Knowing how many carbs I typically eat was extremely helpful in loading up the day before the race. I knew my muscles would suck them up like a sponge and make it available for me on race day.
Day before the race
So, the day before the marathon, I ate about 300 grams of carbs, and 150 grams of proteins.
For my carbs I ate:
- Sweet potatoes
- rice cakes (caramel and plain)
- and oatmeal
For protein, I ate:
- Chicken breasts
- Ground Turkey
- Egg whites
Race Day Fuel
The day of the run, I had to wake up extra early, so I had several things to eat between waking up and race time. Altogether I had another 100 grams of carbs. They were
- 2 bananas
- Honey Stinger Wafer
- Salted Caramel Gu
Fuel during the run
And during the run, I had another 4 packets of Salted Caramel Gu. That stuff tastes like CARAMEL dip and I love the taste so much!!
So, what’s next?
I DO want to run the Boston Marathon! I’m looking for hotels AS WE SPEAK! But first, I have signed up for a lot of half marathons and 5K’s this summer, and I can’t wait to see how much faster I can run those this year as well.. so stay tuned!
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Placing 2nd in your age group is an accomplishment.
I plan to do a half marathon end of this year. Your tips on training will be help.
Thank you Lorraine!
Which half marathon is on your calendar??