The Allure of a Boston Qualifier

The Allure of a Boston Qualifier

BQ: An acronym for a Boston Qualifier, which is a time that allows you to register for America’s oldest and greatest marathon, the Boston Marathon.

Those two letters invoke excitement, anxiety, determination, and triumph in runners. Over the past few years, the Boston Marathon has spiked in popularity, leading to earlier registration periods, tougher qualifying standards, and the chance of not all BQ times making it into the Boston Marathon due to too many runners for not enough spots.

Boston Marathon logo
                      Image Courtesy of Wikipedia

Part of this increase in popularity came after the 2013 bombings. When the bombs went off on Boylston Street, it roused a sense of solidarity within the running community. Many runners sought to qualify for the 2014 and 2015 Boston Marathons and to embody the spirit of Boston Strong: unwearied, unbroken, united.

As I’ve trained for the 2015 Portland Marathon with the goal of qualifying for the 2017 Boston Marathon (a 3:35:00 or faster for my age group), I’ve reflected repeatedly about why I’m pursuing such a big goal. I know that “why” is going to be very important during the last 10K of the marathon, and there’s even been workouts where that “why” has made the difference between holding the pace and easing up.

Qualifying for Boston is a definitive marker of being a “fast” runner. There are plenty of runners who are fast and never BQ, whether out of personal choice not to run a marathon or being more gifted at shorter distances. I’m a competitive, goal-oriented person; I want to BQ because it serves as one of the ways to define me as a fast runner in the world of distance running. For me, a BQ is part of a stepping stone for bigger goals in distance running.

If I’m going to run a marathon and a BQ time was within reach with the right training and luck on race day, why not try? Part of the allure of the BQ is that it is a reachable goal for many runners, unlike an Olympic Trials Qualifying Time standard (2:43 for women in the marathon) or  the qualifying time for the American Development Program at the Chicago Marathon (sub 3:01:00 for women).

The Allure of a Boston Qualifier

Along with that, qualifying for Boston sets a tangible, challenging goal for me to work towards. I like to set challenging goals for myself: they teach resilience, patience, determination, and perseverance. In graduate school, I got in my mind that I was going to graduate a semester early (Dayton had August graduation for my program). I was able to coast through my last semester with no classes, no revisions, only a simple two-hour oral defense. I worked my butt off the entire two years by overloading courses and completing the writing and editing of my thesis in three months, and it was worth it in the end to finish my work early and achieve the goal I set for myself. I thrive on challenging goals. Even if I miss them, it’s better for the spirit to charge headfirst in pursuit of a goal, even if I have to try several times. You never know when the hard work will pay off and you will succeed, and good things come to those who work hard. 

Part of the allure of the BQ for me was the training itself required to reach such a goal. A year ago, running 60 miles in one week sounded unfeasible to me; just this past week, I completed my second 60 mile week of training. Even if I don’t run a BQ on race day (because a lot of variables can occur during a marathon, especially one’s first marathon), this training cycle has still helped me grow immensely as a runner and realize just how much I can achieve when I set my mind to it.

I also really want to travel to Boston and, as a West Coaster, the Boston Marathon is one of the best reasons to take the 5+ hour plane ride to one of our country’s oldest cities. I’m a history geek, and both the history of Boston itself and the specific history of the Boston Marathon will surely entrance me once I arrive there.

I also want to drink the Sam Adams 26.2 Brew. Is that a bad reason? I’m just kidding, although I do I love Sam Adams beers.

Congrats to all the runners who are registering for the Boston Marathon this week! 

[Tweet “The Allure of the BQ via @thisrunrecipes #fitfluential #sweatpink”]

Questions of the Day:
Have you qualified for the Boston Marathon? What motivated you to achieve that goal?
What are some of your big running related goals?
What motivates you through training?

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26 Responses

  1. This is definitely a goal for me as well, although I have decided to focus more on enjoying the process and staying healthy this time around, with less emphasis on my finishing time. I think runners end up putting so much pressure on themselves with specific goals that it can be a huge let down if something goes wrong. Part of me wants to qualify before I turn 35, because then the qualifying time gets easier and in a way that makes me feel like I’m taking the easy way out. But of course I would be just as thrilled to qualify at any age!

    1. I really, really think that you’re going to BQ soon. You’ve done so much to stay healthy and strong! And think of all those race recaps where people hit an amazing goal because the stress and pressure wasn’t there! I really think you’re going to surprise yourself at Route 66 with an awesome time. I know what you mean though about specific goals being a huge letdown – I’ve definitely been there!

  2. I only ran one marathon and no, I didn’t BQ… far from it! But I have several friends and training partners who have, including one who I ran with when she was trying to BQ. So I’m super proud of them. My goal is to run a sub-20 5K… ;). I’m at 21:52 right now so I have a ways to go. I also want to run a half in under 1:40 (closer to this goal right now).

    What motivates me… well all my friends run and train and we’re all pursuing goals. Even when I run alone I know I’m not really alone and that they are chasing after a BQ, or a sub-20 5K, or some other goal as well.

    1. A sub-20 5K is SO fast! There’s a lot of runners who BQ and still can’t reach that time in the 5K, and you’re so speedy you will hit it! A sub-1:40 half is going to be my focus after this marathon – I just like training for the half more! Having a community that supports and shares goals is definitely a great motivator – one of the things I love about running blogs!

  3. I think it wasn’t so much about feeling “fast” as the fact that for some reason, qualifying for Boston was just in my reach. It was a benchmark to be “in.” I didn’t train my days away hoping for it, but I knew that I could get it with the right race. I remember when Alex asked me if I would run Boston if I qualified, and I told him, “sure, because, well, it is Boston, I guess” but until I qualified, I don’t think I really grasped how much it meant to do it. ANd now I can’t wait for the end of this week!

    1. I totally get what you mean by overwhelming – there’s days where even just a marathon sounds overwhelming to me. I know you’re going to BQ – you really have had such a strong training cycle! And hopefully I’ll be seeing you at Boston in 2017 – fingers and toes crossed! 🙂

  4. This is interesting to me at the moment because my family (as in my closest cousins) were politely picking on me yesterday for not ever running a marathon. They have both run the New York City Marathon as has my dad but I don’t have the interest which no one seems to understand! I love following all of my fellow running friends train for these races and quality for Boston but I don’t know, I reach 13-15 miles and I am satisfied. For now. lol

    1. I was adamant a year ago that I wasn’t going to run a marathon, so I totally get what you’re saying! Honestly, part of the reason I choose the Hansons plan was to not run over 16 miles, because 13-15 is that sweet spot for me as well. Personally, I’m excited to focus back on the half after I get this marathon thing out of my system – people don’t give that distance enough credit!

  5. This is seriously an amazingly inspirational post. I qualified for Boston the first time in 2013 and ran my first Boston last year. It was a miserable day weather wise but I can truly say a life changing experience. I did not have my best race by any means and certainly not my fastest time, but being able to experience “BOSTON” was unlike any other marathon I’ve ever run. I get to register today for this April (woohoo!) and am so excited and feel very blessed to be able to return to such a magical race. I think now my biggest goal will be to complete an ironman in the next two years. Running wise, I’d really like to break 3-hours in the marathon, but I think that will take extreme focus and very hard work so I would like to try for that in the next 2-3 years.

    1. Thank you so much, Jamie! I’m so excited for you that you get to run Boston again – hopefully there’s better weather this year! And an Ironman? Look at you go! You’ll do amazing at that because of your swimming background. A sub-3 is a ton of work, but I really think you’ll be there soon because you have that focus and dedication.

  6. You have worked so hard and so diligently, I have no doubt that you will nail that BQ with room to spare on October 5th!! I can’t wait to hear about it.

    While I’m not nearly as close as you are at the moment, it is also a goal of mine to BQ one day for many of the reasons you list: I love to challenge myself, I love to conquer the hard training work, I love goal-setting, and I know that it is within reach so why not go for it? These things were what motivated me in my last marathon to work my butt off to shave 15 minutes off my time. However, I think there is sort of a dark underbelly to this as well. I agree with what Lisa said, that it often results in runners putting excessive pressure on themselves and losing sight of the big picture.

    As for being seen as a “fast” runner – I’ve obsessed over this for so long and now, to be frank, I don’t think there’s anything inherently better about running faster. It’s just faster. Sure, I want to see *improvement* in my running, but I don’t want to let my desire to be a “fast runner”, whatever that means, prevent me from being proud of my accomplishments and enjoying the process no matter what my finish times are. While I do want to get faster, I want to make sure that I want it for the right reasons. I’d hate to look back on all this one day and say “what a bummer that I accomplished so much and had so much fun but I never appreciated it because I was always wishing I were as fast as someone else.”

    1. Thank you so much, Hanna! We have very similar reasons for pursuing a BQ, and I think those types of reasons have a lot of intrinsic value that’s key to succeeding. Your PR for Grandma’s was definitely a big one and shows that you have that drive and talent. You’re so right though – many of us are type As when it comes to run do put too much pressure on ourselves. One step at a time, right? You have such a healthy attitude about your accomplishments – it really is about the journey!

  7. Your determination and drive will get you there, I am sure of it! And it definitely sounds like these qualities flow over into other areas of your life! You have a lot to be proud of!! I think setting a goal that scares you a little bit can be incredibly motivating and keeps you going when things get tough. Running does not come naturally to me but I work hard at it and have improved so much. I would love to train and run a marathon and because its scares me a bit, I know its a good goal 😉

  8. I qualified for Boston in Vancouver BC in 2009 and ran Boston in 2010. Jason and I were at the end of our marriage and it was just the two of us that went together (he’s not a runner, and he missed my entire race). Then in 2011 I went to Boston with my bff Lora who ran it (I didn’t run it that year—I wanted it to be her day) and we had a load of fun that weekend. The next time I go to Boston it will be with Andrew, who will hopefully qualify one day but man oh man it’s way harder for the men to get in than the women!

  9. I qualified for Boston in 2011 and ran it in 2012 – that was back when the qualifying time was 3:40 for our age group! My qualifying time was 3:34:29 and having the extra 5 minutes to spare did help to get into the race. Whew, it was nervewracking waiting for that confirmation email!

    Boston was the experience of a lifetime and YOU CAN DO IT! Back when I qualified, I didn’t know what a BQ was until after that race. Not knowing helped me in a way because I tend to put too much pressure on myself :s Just have fun, train hard and run your best race on that given day.

    Running goals now? I’m working towards a 1:30 half and/or 3:20 full… before my husband and I think it’s time for baby #3. The baby-having years feel like I reset my fitness goals after each pregnancy!

  10. For my very first marathon I set the goal to BQ, and met that goal. That was Spring 2013 and the 3:29:15 remains my PR! I feel like I paid the price for setting that goal too early though for the mileage I was doing. I wound up feeling invincible and getting injured while training for my next marathon and have been working back since. I sort of wonder what goals I would’ve set for my first marathon if the BQ didn’t exist at all!

    I think you’re right on track for it now – it’s totally within reach.

  11. I am so close and want it so badly! However my training cycle was more lax this summer due to bigger life things so I have accepted it probably won’t happen this year and that’s okay. There’s always next year!

  12. This is such a great post – I currently know that Boston is not feasible for me (ony 2 fulls under my belt, PR 4:52 and I’d also need a 3:35!) but I also know that I’m not giving myself the time to put THAT kind of work into it. And right now, that’s okay. One day? Sure, I’d love to!

    I’m running the Portland Half, so I’ll be there in spirit cheering you on and wishing you nothing but BQ goodness!

  13. You’ve worked to hard Laura, and I wish you the very best of race day. I can tell that you’re a very determined person and you should be proud of yourself either way! I don’t think I will ever qualify for the Boston Marathon, but I would love to run a marathon in under 4 hours one day.

      1. 🙂 I totally get what you mean – I freak out whenever I leave a grammar error in a comment! My brain autocorrects my writing all the time that I’m sure I do it way more than you 🙂

  14. Hi Laura, I stumbled upon your blog while nervously googling everything about Boston qualifying :). My goal is to qualify in a marathon coming up on October 18 and it seems like I am pretty similar to you, hoping to squeak in between 3:30 and 3:33. This post made me realize I didn’t have a strong WHY to hold on to when it gets tough, so thank you for the reminder! I am going to meditate on that on my long run tomorrow.

    1. Hi, Kristin, thank you for reading! I hope this post helped you – the why is definitely something I’ve been wrestling with, beyond the “everyone else seems to run Boston” reason. I hope your training is going well and that you are building that mental strength as well! 🙂

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