I’ve previously documented my struggle (mental and physical) to qualify for the Boston Marathon. The closest I got was 3:45:47, about 10 minutes slower than the Boston application cutoff (but more like 15 minutes from what I’d actually need to get in). I’m several years older and wiser… although unfortunately still in the same age bracket for BQ qualifying times. And in the intervening years, I backed off the pressure, refocused my goals (hello, 50 states!), gained some weight, lost some weight, explored new workouts, changed jobs, gotten married, bought a home, and ultimately ended up with my marathon times back in the same range as they were in 2011.
So naturally, my mind wanders back to the BQ. Am I finally ready to tackle this challenge? At 30 years old, healthy, and childless, is this potentially my last, best chance? Or would I just be setting myself up for frustration and disappointment, and worst of all, would I be taking the joy out of running? So I have a plan.
As you likely know, I ran the Mississippi Blues Marathon (marathon 15, state 10) a few weeks ago and finished around 3:51 on what, for me, was a hilly and not-particularly-easy course. Going in, I didn’t have a time goal other than to finish under 4 hrs. but I ended up pushing hard once I could tell that I was feeling good enough to put up a better-than-normal-for-me time. Now I’m (supposed to be) training for the Asheville Marathon (marathon 16, state 11), which is in 6 weeks. I’m hoping to run Asheville as fast as I ran Mississippi Blues (B Goal), but my A Goal is now to get a new PR by cutting close to 6 minutes off my Mississippi Blues time. (C Goal is, as usual, to finish under 4 hrs.) Here’s where the real planning comes in…
IF I am able to run the Asheville Marathon with a PR time (despite the rolling hills and gravel and dirt paths), I am going to look for a fast course in a new state (likely Maine but maybe Oregon — mainly pulling from this slideshow for ideas) to see what my “true PR” is given my fitness at this point. I’m not going to frame it as my “BQ goal race.” Rather, I might call it my “PR goal race.” I am going to try to train well for it and push myself during it, and if I end up finishing under 3:35, that will be fabulous, and if I don’t then I hope to at least get a good sense of what my capabilities are at this moment.
Goals can be scary, and just publishing this post is scary. I thought about writing this down in a draft but not hitting that “Publish” button, so that I’d have the goal for myself but not necessarily share it with the whole world (aka the small universe of lovely people who read this blog). But I really wanted this blog to chronicle my journey — both the highs and the lows — of running the 50 states and, as I say on Instagram, “chasing my BQ.” So here it is.
Off to do a long run in prep for Asheville because I’ve skipped my long runs the past two weeks, and that isn’t really ideal for setting myself up to PR…
I think you can chase both goals as you continue to burn down your PR time and get it closer to BQ and I don’t think that now is necessarily your last chance. Of course, I am nowhere near a a qualifying time and I doubt I ever will be, but I’ll never say never. My current PR of 3:59 is not in the ballpark of my required 3:25 – and I don’t get a break on that time until I turn 50! It is definitely a challenging juggling state goals with PRs – I struggle with that as well. For example, I want my next marathon (SLC) to be a PR attempt, but like yourself, I’m in a weird window in terms of marathon training cycle, so how do you plan for that and target a PR? Guess we’ll find out! Given that you are much closer to a BQ though, I think you can continue to pursue both of your main running goals and will get there! Also, I can tell you that Eugene is very much a favorable course…I ran the marathon there in 2014 and it is a great race. It wasn’t a PR for me at the time but that was more due to lack of training and that it was held in July for that year, so heat was a factor, which won’t be the case in May. If you go with Eugene, try to stay at the host hotel if you can – just a bit more convenient, though if I recall, you will still need to take the shuttle to the start because there is no parking near the start line on campus. It looks like you have several favorable courses to choose from…you might also look at the Revel series, which I think are very much steep downhill courses with high BQ percentages.
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Good luck! You are brave for even sharing it and I am excited to follow along the journey!
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