7 Ways to Hack a Boston Marathon Qualifier Time

Boston.  The oldest running marathon in the world.  It’s what separates the men from the boys.  It takes grit and passion.  I tried for years and years to qualify, but it wasn’t until the bombings in 2013 that I decided to pursue my dream seriously.

After using some of the tricks below, I was able to shatter my Boston qualifier time by over twelve minutes.  It was an amazing feeling.  I finally felt like I was a true runner.  I hope these simple habits help you achieve your dreams, too.

Sign Up for a Small Race

The world marathons are a fantastic experience, but they’re not very BQ friendly.  The large crowds will always slow you down.  Every year I tried to qualify in a large marathon was a fail.

Then, I signed up for the Space Coast Marathon in Cocoa Beach, Florida – one of the smaller qualifying races.  It was small with about 2,000 runners crossing the finish line the year that I ran.  The race allowed me to focus my efforts on speed rather than dodging other racers.

To put it in perspective, I clocked about 45 minutes faster in Florida than I did running the Chicago Marathon the same year.

Hire a Coach

Everyone has their weaknesses, and my coach served as reinforcement to my weak links. While I am very good at heading out to run, I’m not so good about pushing my speed.  Then, I had to explain to someone why I hadn’t pushed myself on any given day.  Knowing that I had someone that demanded answers helped me to stay the course when I faltered.

Additionally, it’s a good way to outsource your training strategy.

Cut Weight

I’ve run marathons with booze weight, I’ve run marathons with a low BMI.  There’s no getting around it – it just feels easier to do it when you’re lighter.

Take it from Runner’s World:

There are various formulas that predict the effect of weight loss on running speed. The effect of weight loss and run pace multiplies over distance; meaning that the longer the run, the more significant the amount of time saved. Some estimates project that losing ten pounds can result in a savings of 20 seconds per mile, so for a 5k, this means one whole minute of time, and when translated to the marathon distance, this is almost nine minutes of time saved! A PR just waiting to happen!

Speed Work

As I mentioned above, I hate it.  HATE.  SPEED.  WORK.  If I were a horse, I’d need someone to whip a riding crop at me constantly.  Unfortunately, it’s the only way to get fast.  Frankly, I think it was more important than my long runs.  Before I started doing speedwork, my times were just…average.

In my opinion, the most important speedwork is doing one mile “on” and one mile “off”.  It is a double whammy that builds up your speed and also your mental capacity for pushing your body so hard.

Run Your BQ With a Pacer

Again, I’m a big fan of outsourcing your brain power.  I’m never going to be the person that’s checking my Garmin every mile, so I ran Space Coast with a pacer.  Staying next to him kept me on target.  Towards the end, I realized I had ample time to pull back a bit.  That was pretty nice, so thanks, pacer guy!

When you’re looking for a pacer, I recommend starting with someone who’s finishing time is ten minutes below your goal if not more.  When I volunteered at the Chicago marathon, I saw a ton of pacers coming in way off their target times, so that could be a world of frustration for you.

Know the Course

I had an awesome pacer in Cocoa Beach, and he taught me the valuable lesson of “knowing the course”.  While it’s not exactly cheating, being able to take some tight turns here and there can help you shave off some crucial seconds.  When you’re trying to get a BQ, those seconds add up.

If your course has a few slight bends, run straight through them.  If you see a turn coming up, stay on the inside.  Take advantage of going downhill.  Study your course.  Running smart is the way to go.

Raise Money for Charity

If all this seems too daunting, the other route to Boston is through charity.  You’re automatically guaranteed entry, but keep in mind that each charity has a minimum donation.  That information can be found on the marathon’s website.

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