Making your way to Patriots Day is no easy task. But these easy-to-follow tips will help get you there.
What's the BQ Standard?1 of 9
Qualifiers of the Boston Marathon must meet the designated time standard that corresponds with their age group and gender. The qualifying times are based on the runner's age on the date of the Boston Marathon in which they are planning to participate.
Runners must run under these qualifying times to make the cut.
Tip 1: Try to Run Faster Than the Standard2 of 9
Try to beat your qualifying time by as much as you can because the registration process is done on rolling admission, meaning the fastest qualifiers get to register first. Those who beat their qualifying times by 20 minutes get to register the first day it opens. Those who beat their time by 10 minutes or more get to register on day three. Runners who have beat their time by 5 minutes or more can register on day four.
If the field size limit has not been reached, then everyone who has beat their qualifying time by less than 5 minutes can register during the second week of registration. Boston will then accept the fastest applicants in their age groups and gender until all remaining spots are filled.
Tip 2: Choose a BQ Course That Plays to Your Strengths3 of 9
If your goal is to qualify for Boston, the first thing to do is pick a good marathon to attempt your qualification. There are many marathons that can be used as Boston qualifiers, but not all marathons count as a qualifier. If you are not sure if a marathon is a Boston qualifier, contact the race director and ask.
Choosing a fast course makes a big difference. Pick a marathon course that plays to your strengths. If you like a few rolling hills, find a course with some small rolling hills or even a downhill race that is a Boston qualifier.
Flat courses are also great for Boston qualifiers because you don't need to train on hills a lot, but doing some hill training will help your strength and endurance even on flat courses. Pick a time of the year during which you like to race. If you do well on your long runs and workouts during the winter, pick a late winter or early spring marathon before the weather gets hot and humid.
Tip 3: Train at Goal Race Pace4 of 9
The next thing to do is to figure out what goal pace per mile you need to qualify for the Boston Marathon. Once you figure that out, start adding goal-pace miles to your training. Do this in little segments at first until you get used to it.
Start by doing 3 to 6 miles at goal-marathon pace as your run on any given day. Once you get used to that pace, start adding goal-marathon pace miles at the end of your long runs. For example, if your weekend long run is 16 miles, try doing the final 8 miles at or close to goal-marathon pace.
These miles will be difficult, but getting your body used to running goal pace at the end of long runs will provide the precise physiological adaptations necessary to run at this pace, and will build confidence. For most marathoners, marathon pace coincides with 79 to 88 percent of maximal heart rate or 73 to 84 percent of heart-rate reserve. Start these goal-pace long runs comfortably and gradually pick up the pace during the first half of the run, then run your goal marathon-pace miles at the end.
Many runners make the mistake of doing all of their long runs at one to two minutes slower than marathon pace, then find it difficult to run goal pace come race day. You have to get your body used to running goal-pace miles before race day.
Tip 4: Run Slower to Get Faster5 of 9
Slow down your easy runs. Most runners make the mistake of doing easy runs too fast. I like to call them "recovery runs" because the purpose of them is to enhance muscle recovery from your hard workouts. These runs should be noticeably slower than your harder workouts. The optimal intensity for recovery runs is to stay below 76 percent of maximal heart rate or 70 percent of heart-rate reserve.
On a pace basis, recovery runs should be no faster than two minutes per mile slower than half-marathon pace. Going too hard on recovery runs means your body will be more tired than it should be the next day; this will affect the rest of your training.
Complete recovery runs on flat courses and grass or trails that are not very technical. The softer surfaces will also speed the recovery process.
Tip 5: Don't Just Run6 of 9
Adding some light strength training, core-strengthening exercises and foam rolling will also help your training. You can do simple strength training at home using your own body weight and no gym equipment. Exercises should include: reverse lunges, body-weight squats, push-ups, and ab work such as leg lifts, bicycle and back extensions. "When your core is strong, everything else will follow," says McMillan Elite professional running team coach Greg McMillan, who has also coached many non-elite runners to achieve BQs.
Foam rolling also helps the muscle recovery process.
Tip 6: Complete Tempo Runs7 of 9
Tempo runs are another key training element to help you achieve your qualifying time. Tempo runs are steady-state runs where you run 2 to 3 miles easy, then go straight into your tempo pace without a break. Finish your tempo miles with a cooldown of 1 to 2 miles of easy jogging. Tempo runs improve your lactate-threshold pace, which leads to improvements in your marathon pace because these runs make marathon pace feel easier. Tempo runs are usually done at 15K to half-marathon pace, but you can also run them at 10 to 30 seconds per mile faster than goal marathon pace.
Tip 7: Training With Others Holds You Accountable8 of 9
Training with a group of people with similar abilities or who are a little faster will make you a better runner. It will also make it less likely for you to skip runs on days you aren't feeling it because you will have people waiting on you.
Finally, believe in yourself! Tell yourself over and over that you can and will qualify for Boston.