A week from today, they will run the 112 th Boston Marathon . It is the Super Bowl of marathon running. Or the World Series. And with its strict qualifying standards, many of us have never known what it feels like to run Boston, arms raised, crossing the finish line on Boylston Street.
And that includes me. To qualify for Boston, I would have had to run a previous marathon in 3 hours, 15 minutes. That's a 7:26 minute per mile pace. I've never kept that pace up for a 10K, much less the two marathons I've run.
But, I know somebody who has.
So, today, I thought I'd start Boston Marathon week blogging with a question and answer session from one of my co-workers, Tom, who qualified for the 2007 Boston Marathon with his marathon time in the 2006 Austin Marathon. When I first started running four years ago this month, I used to ask Tom a ton of questions about running, shoes, hydration. I just knew he was born a runner. But turns out, Tom had to work hard to make it from his first marathon to qualifying for Boston.
Here's my interview:
When did you start running and how often did you run in the beginning?
I started running when I was about 13 – two miles a day at first and longer during the summers. In college my long runs ranged from about 10 to 15 miles. After college, my weekly mileage dropped to about 15 miles a week. By my 30s I was up to 30 to 40 miles a week and 60 during marathon season.
What were your training paces in the beginning?
Probably about 8 minutes a mile. I remember putting in a lot of miles at the same pace – I hardly ever did speed work.
What was the single most best advice you got when you first started running?
The only way to get faster is to run more – or something along those lines. The idea being you get better at running by running more, which, for me, has been the case.
When was your first marathon and what was that experience like?
Fort Worth in 2002. It was hot and windy. I was so fixed on running at a certain pace that I blew up around the 22 nd mile – I had about a 15-minute mile at the end and ended up finishing in 4:45. I ran too fast at the beginning and paid for it in the end. Even though it was awful, I was hooked.
How much time did you shave your first marathon to your second?
About 20 minutes. This time, I started way too slow, plodded for too many miles and was running at a 7-minute pace for the last four miles. I felt like I was getting a better handle of the marathon and how to run it.
What's most important? Long runs or high weekly mileage?
Lots of miles, tempo runs and runs at marathon pace. For me, putting the miles in gives me the strength and endurance to keep my pace. I also gained confidence by running the last few miles of long runs at marathon pace – or as close to it as I could.
What was Boston like?
A couple of things struck me. The whole whole city embraces the marathon. It dominates the TV news, the newspapers and the talk on the streets. Runners are everywhere -- on the airplane, at the hotel and at Red Sox games.
On Sunday, you’ll start to see street signs reminding motorists of closures for Marathon Monday. At the start line in Hopkinton , there are no bands, slick promotions or confetti cannons – which seems to be the normal setup at most marathons these days.
Because everyone is placed in a corral according to his or her time, everyone around you is running at about the same pace. So there’s not the jockeying for position that you’ll see at other marathons. There aren ’t any walkers or joggers clogging the course or 2:30 marathoners in the back trying to to pick their way to the front.
For most of the course, you’re running through small towns while locals line the street to cheer you on – it’s very simple and low key. It seems like there are people along the course every step of the way.
A good part of the course runs downhill until Newton. The bad thing about Heartbreak Hill is its location, 20-something miles into the race. But after that, the crowds are deep and their loud cheers really help carry you to the finish line.
Tom J. Age at 2007 Boston Marathon: 41 Time: 3:34:49 Pace: 8:12 Splits 5K: 23:55 10k: 47:41 15k: 1:11:40 20k: 1:35:59 half: 1:41:12 25k: 2:00:30 30k: 2:26:30 35k: 2:53:52 40k: 3:22:13