Runner’s Guide to Going From Beginner to BQ!

This is the fifth post in my Running Tips for Beginners series.

Today I’m excited to share an interview with Megan from Meg Go Run about dreaming big and planning for a BQ (Boston Qualifier)! Megan has run Boston twice and I have no doubt that in any given year she could BQ again if she really wanted to.

Then there are people like me who are never going to BQ and that’s okay. Our purpose in life is to raise money for charity and earn our way into prestigious races that way ;). However, if you’re dreaming of going from beginner to BQ this post is for you!

How many times have you run Boston?

I have run Boston two times. The first time was in 2009. I was 27 years old and qualified with the Philadelphia Marathon in 3:38:56. Talk about cutting it close with only 64 seconds to spare!

The second time was 2014. I qualified with the Harrisburg Marathon in 3:28:07. It was one of those magical days where everything clicked!

How many attempts did it take for you to qualify?

Luckily, I was able to qualify on my first try each time. However, running hasn’t always been sunshine and roses! Last summer I quit marathon training (I had the hopes of BQ’ing again) because I was so burned out!

What kind of training plan did you follow when getting ready to BQ for the first time?

The day Megan BQ’d the first time at the Philly marathon. 

I did long runs on Saturdays and speed work on Wednesdays. Other than that, I just did whatever mileage I felt like on the other days. I can’t remember if I cross trained on the elliptical or not, but I do remember that I didn’t take any rest days. (However, I do NOT recommend that! My exercise habits were borderline unhealthy at the time.)

I had never done speed work before, but my running group was organizing workouts at the track so I would go to those once a week. I’d do whatever workout our “coach” had planned… 400s, 600s, 800s.. it was mainly shorter stuff.

At first I didn’t notice my overall running pace getting faster but after about a month and a half, I did notice that running faster was a little more effortless! It was the first time as a runner that I ever attempted to get faster.

Did you do strength training while preparing for your BQ races?

The first time I did not. Back then, all I did was cardio. The second time I BQ’ed, I was doing full body strength training two times a week. Strength training was one of the biggest things that contributed to my second BQ. That and cutting out all the “junk miles” I was doing.

If so, what kind of strength training did you do and why?

I originally started strength training because I knew it would make me a more well rounded athlete. I was also trying to get myself out of a horrible cycle of doing 2 hours of cardio a day! All that running and spinning was making me slow and sluggish. I had very little muscle.

Strength training made me stronger, faster, and completely changed my body composition. I didn’t go into strength training to get faster, it was just a happy side effect!

Did you do any other types of cross training?

For the second time, I just did running and lifting. I was alternating my long runs each weekend with a hilly 9 mile course and a hilly 15 mile course. Each week I was getting faster and faster at these hilly courses and I realized that I was in pretty good shape to PR!

I also cut out so much of my junk mileage I was stuck in the cycle of doing. Leading up to my BQ, I was probably not running more than 35 miles per week.

What is the Boston course like? Hilly? Flat?

Boston starts as a downhill in the beginning but then it gets hilly during the last third of the race.

What kind of specific running workouts should a runner do to prepare for Boston?

To prepare to qualify, I would do speed work and possibly tempo runs if they work for you. To prepare to actually run the Boston course, do some hills!

How fast should you run a half marathon or marathon before you can start thinking about BQing?

I think you should start thinking about it whenever you want to! If you recently ran a marathon or half, you can use that to access your starting point.

Any other thoughts/advice for a beginning runner who has the goal to someday BQ?

Do what works for YOU. There are so many plans out there and people have had massive success on every single one of them. The key is finding which one will work for you.

Last summer, I quit marathon training because I was so burnt out from the high (for me) mileage and too many speed/tempo workouts. If I had just thought about what had worked for me in the past, I would have never chosen the plan I did.

Thank you Megan for sharing your best Boston tips with us! If you love running, murder mysteries, cats and/or puzzles please go check out Megan’s blog right now! 

Do you have any questions for Megan? If so leave them below! 

If you’ve run Boston before, what are your top tips for someone looking to BQ for the first time?

Do you have dreams of someday running Boston? What’s your plan to get there?!

Do you have any topics you would like to see covered in the Running Tips for Beginners series?

13 comments

  1. Lisa @ Mile by Mile

    While I would love to BQ someday, I feel like these set backs are really getting in the way! I’ll be bumped into the next age bracket soon (in 2018) so that will help a lot! Although I think I will always want to run a sub 3:35 just to say I did it… I have no idea what plan I will follow next time I run a marathon, maybe I will work with a coach again since that helped me to PR last year.
    Lisa @ Mile by Mile recently posted…February 2017 Stridebox ReviewMy Profile

  2. Megan @ Meg Go Run

    Thanks for interviewing me, Kristina! 🙂 I’m going to send this link to my mommy!!!!
    Megan @ Meg Go Run recently posted…Friday 5 – CRAZY DREAMS!My Profile

  3. Schlub

    I’m loving this series. Great job Meg.

    Boston is one of those epic goals that most runners have. I’ve transitioned to trails pretty much full time but there is still that lingering feeling to get a BQ and even a sub 3hr marathon. With my last half marathon being such a success, that really brought the idea back again lol
    Schlub recently posted…BC Pacing Recap and FootageMy Profile

  4. Susan

    Yay, Megan! Such a strong runner. Are you going to try to BQ again? I think you should!

  5. Kerry

    Yay! Megan you are my hero! I want a BQ some day, but I really haven’t done any real work towards it since Colfax. This post makes me want to try really hard and see if I can nab one this year at one of those crazy downhill courses in Utah.
    Kerry recently posted…Wasatch Trail Runner SeriesMy Profile

    1. Megan @ Meg Go Run

      I want to but I need to have the proper motivation. I don’t have it right now! I think I will need to make my goal to BQ, NOT PR. TO BQ now I need a 3:40… probably a couple min to spare.
      Megan @ Meg Go Run recently posted…No one calls me Meg!My Profile

  6. Hanna @ minimal marathoner

    Great post! I’m in the minority of runners who has never felt the burning desire to BQ or run Boston, although my ultimate goal is to get my marathon time down into that range. It’s encouraging to see that you were able to run fast times by just doing what works for you and cutting back your mileage to suit your needs. There’s this notion in the running world that the only way to BQ is sell your soul and work yourself into exhaustion, but I believe it’s possible to get faster while taking a healthy, balanced approach to training. Kudos to you, Meg!
    Hanna @ minimal marathoner recently posted…Re-committingMy Profile

  7. Ana

    Thank you for this interview Kristina and Megan! What an amazing accomplishment!!

    I have almost no interest on running Boston, but if I ever run it, I want to do it as a guide for a blind person. I saw an article about an organization that Scott Jurek has, to help blind runners run the race.
    Ana recently posted…Friday Five 2.24.17My Profile

  8. Lisa @ TechChick Adventures

    Yeah Meg! This is ideal timing because I’m giving away a book about Boston on my blog today! I qualified for Boston 2015 & 2016. It was a hell of a lot of work! It definitely doesn’t come naturally for me. I want to run Boston in 2020 because the marathon will be on my birthday again!!
    Great pictures!
    Lisa @ TechChick Adventures recently posted…Boston fever – a giveaway!!My Profile

  9. cheryl

    Thanks for doing this interview ladies! This was interesting how Meg BQ’d without excessive mileage. That is great to know. (I think I am taking tomorrow off…just kidding). I have felt for a long time that the excess pressure of the high mileage is making me WAY too stressed out, especially when my mileage isn’t that high!
    cheryl recently posted…A different kind of workoutMy Profile

    1. Megan @ Meg Go Run

      Cheryl, I am not an expert but I feel like I KNOW excessive mileage is NOT for me. I think it can be done w/o logging 50 miles week after week…
      Megan @ Meg Go Run recently posted…No one calls me Meg!My Profile

  10. Nathy @NathyCure

    Running the Boston Marathon is a dream that I look so far away right now. Event though I would like to qualify my current goal is to be able to finish half marathon and then a full marathon.

    However, this post was really interesting! Thank you so much!

    1. Megan @ Meg Go Run

      Cheryl, I am not an expert but I feel like I KNOW excessive mileage is NOT for me. I think it can be done w/o logging 50 miles week after week…
      Megan @ Meg Go Run recently posted…No one calls me Meg!My Profile

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