Tips for Qualifying for the Boston Marathon

The Boston Marathon


Some things in life come to us by sheer luck. Qualifying for the Boston Marathon is not one of them.  It takes dedication and hard work to make it happen. As I embark on my training for Boston I’ve been reflecting on how I got to this point. I hope to repeat the great experience I had at my first marathon where I  qualified – the Erie Marathon, September, 2014.  I thought I would share with you some of the reasons that I think made it possible for me to qualify.

1. I waited until I was ready.  So many people jump into running with the idea of running a marathon as their first race.  When I started running I really didn’t have a desire to run 26.2 miles.  I couldn’t see myself out on a course for hours.  As I became a stronger and raced longer distances the idea of racing 26.2 became more intriguing. Still, I wasn’t interested in tackling it until I was pretty sure I would qualify.  My first half marathon at the BAA Half in October, 2013 went well. My finishing time was 1:56. Based on the McMillan calculator I knew I was getting close to being ready. (My current qualifying time is 4:00 based on the qualifying standards).  Last January my coach and I discussed running a marathon. He felt based on my half performance and level of training at that time I should be ready by the fall to run a sub-4 hour race.

2. Choose your marathon wisely. I spent a lot of time researching marathons on the website On it you will find just about every marathon in the country complete with unbiased reviews. They also have a couple of charts that list which marathons for the previous year had the highest number of Boston qualifiers and the highest percentage of Boston qualifiers. I knew I wanted to run a fall race and I knew I wanted it to be small. The race that best met my criteria and would give me the best chance to qualify for Boston, 2015 was the Erie Marathon.  People, this little race (2500 runners) is the best kept secret! It is fast and flat with one of the highest percentages of BQs and so well run. I’ll write a review on it soon.

3. Choose a plan and stick with it.  I often read where people choose a couple of plans and try to mix them. It doesn’t work. Plans are designed by coaches with specific philosophies in mind and based on how the body adapts to training. Rest/recovery days are just as important as tempo runs and long runs. For me, I chose to go with coaching and I love it (Ryan Warrensburg of Zap Fitness). I didn’t have to worry if I was doing the right work out or running the right paces for my intervals. I would wake up and look at the work out for the day and go. Also, my coach pushed me harder than I would have pushed myself. I’ve learned through working with Ryan that he knows me at times better than I know myself.  He has been key in my success.

4. Commit yourself to your training.  One of my mantras I use when I’m needing some motivation to get out the door is , “Ain’t no one gonna make that PR dream come true but you.”  You’ve got to do the workouts. You’ve got to put in the miles. No excuses.

5. Train like the elites and keep your easy runs easy.  My coach often emphasized the importance of keeping my easy runs and long runs slow.  It’s important to building the aerobic engine that you need to power you through 26.2 miles.  I train 5 days a week. 4 of the 5 days are easy runs. One day is committed to speed work. Two days a week I’ll finish an easy run with strides. In the days to come I’ll post more about my training.

6. Commit to the process.  Making it to Boston requires more than just putting in the miles.  It means proper nutrition and hydration, adequate sleep, core work, foam rolling  and stretching, and even journaling. Keeping a log of everything about your training will help you pinpoint mistakes when bad workouts happen (which they will.) Journaling about what you take in during a run, what works and what doesn’t,  will help you plan your race day nutrition.

Motivational poster I made for my marathon training. I posted my daily workouts. Helped me staycommitted and focused on the goal- a BQ!
Motivational poster I made for my marathon training. I posted my daily workouts. Helped me staycommitted and focused on the goal- a BQ!

7. Mental training.  Lastly, it takes mental toughness to make through the rigors of training for the marathon as well as racing it. I developed a handful of mantras that would help me through the tough points. I also did a lot of visualization of the race course, the finish line, and the Boston finish line. These images fueled me when I was feeling like giving up. There is a lot out there on this subject. I found the book, “Elite Minds,” by Dr Stan Beecham, to be particularly helpful. Jeff Galloway also has a great book on this subject, “Mental Training for Runners.”

So by no means do I think that I am an authority on the subject of qualifying for the Boston Marathon! These are just some thoughts of what I think helped me to qualify. Everyone is different and there are many ways to get there.

Have you qualified before for Boston? What tips do you have for someone who is attempting it?

5 thoughts on “Tips for Qualifying for the Boston Marathon”

  1. Mary, this is such a great post; you obviously prepared yourself well and did all of your research to ensure you could accomplish this goal! I’m not sure that a BQ will ever be a possibility for me, but these are definitely excellent tips that any runner could benefit from – no matter where they are in their training. Thanks so much for sharing the great links and information!

  2. BQs are really hard. Lots of people try only a few can do it. Unless you are one of those crazy gifted runners you have to dedicate yourself to the Goal.
    My tip is that dedication. Make the Goal important in your life. Figure out how to fit your runs in, everyday. Don’t skip workouts, don’t make excuses, figure it out. Work hard – it is worth it. If your successful you get in a really exclusive club, the “I have a BQ club.”

    1. Totally agree with you! I am not a gifted runner. It took a lot of hard work and dedication to get my BQ. No excuses is key!

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