After the terrible events of the Boston Marathon last month, many non-runners kept asking me: were you there, did you run the race, when are you going to do it, and the questions went on and on. The quick and easy answer is No, but I would begin to explain why and lose them. Well obviously I did not run in the Boston Marathon last month, and even though I would like to some day, I probably will never “qualify” with my time. That is right, you cannot just sign up for the Boston Marathon like any other marathon, and run the race, you have to “qualify to run” it. Also, even if you qualify for the race, this still does not guarantee you a spot in the race as the BAA (Boston Athletic Association) gets hundreds of thousands of qualifying applications each year, but the race is capped at 25,000.
For me personally, I typically only do one marathon a year, and it is usually the Walt Disney Marathon in January. It is usually done for fun with a friend, and we are not caring too much for a time, only to complete it. Just as a reference to use int the calculations I will expound upon further below, my best time for a marathon is 4:54:17. Secondly, my focus is on half marathons, so I just do not do enough training (yes I would have to run much more than I already do) to train for Boston. Marathon training just takes a lot of time to train, and removing time to dedicate to family, church, etc., to which I prefer not to commit to. Thus my reasoning behind probably never qualifying for Boston.
So how do you qualify for the Boston Marathon?
Any runner dreaming of running at Boston marathon must show proof of finishing a marathon at a time lower than the time for his/her age group. Runners are grouped in ages, so as you get older, your time to qualify gets a little higher. Little typically means you get 5 more minutes with each older age group. Here are the qualifying times for the 2014 Boston Marathon.
If I refer you back to my best time above of 4:54:17, I can qualify when I am around 80 years old! Based on the qualifying chart, I would have to be under 3 hours 10 minutes to “attempt” to qualify for the Boston Marathon!
However, let’s say you want to qualify for the Boston Marathon, here are some tips for getting your best time.
1. Pick a qualifying marathon race that is on a flat course.
This is pretty common sense, but the flatter the course map the faster your time will be. The Walt Disney World Marathon is a pretty flat course and is a good course to qualify. However, some of the best qualifying times come from courses such as Amsterdam Marathon, Berlin Marathon, Paris Marathon, Portland Marathon, & Baystate Marathon.
2. Hard, Quality Training
As I said above in the intro, marathon training takes a lot of time and effort. By just doing 20-30 miles a week like my marathon training plan typically covers, will not cut it for trying to qualify for the Boston Marathon. You practically have to forget everything else but marathon training for 3-4 months to get in the required hard & quality training needed.
3. Speed Work
You hear about speed work talk from runners committed to getting Personal Best times in races. This is essential when trying to qualify for the Boston Marathon. Terms like Fartleks, Yasso, and Track Times will become part of your normal vocabulary during this time.
Here is where they lose me! As anyone who knows me, I love to eat, and it is typically not the best for marathon training. This does not include sweets like Krispy Kreme Doughnuts & Cupcakes so I am out! I run so I can eat these items! To run well you must eat well. Food is the fuel that drives you momentum. A healthy diet for an active marathon runner is one that is high in carbohydrates, low in fat, and sufficient but not excessive in protein. That translates to about 60 percent of your calories coming from carbohydrates, 25 percent from fat, and 15 percent from protein.
5. Hill Training
In the southeast, especially Charleston SC, this is a joke. We have one hill, and it is called the Arthur Ravenel Bridge. We do not have the necessary hills here to do hill training, which is highly recommended. Although the Boston Marathon and hopefully your qualifying marathon is relatively flat, hills actually help build up your legs, lungs, etc. for endurance.
Some call it, recovery, others call it rest, repair, growth, adaption, or even non-running-training. The most important element of training that many marathon training plans ignore is structured rest to make the most of the structured work. Every plan must include the correct balance of work and rest. It is in this rest time that our bodies respond to the loads we have placed on them. If there is no recovery then there is no improvement. A good training program recognizes this and does not leave recovery up to chance. The quantity, quality, purpose and timing of each of the training sessions are optimized to ensure that there is just the right amount of recovery to rebuild the body before the next load is introduced.
So if you have what it takes, hit the road, lose your life for up to 6 months, and qualify for the Boston Marathon if you think you have what it takes! Good luck in your endeavors, I am here to support you!