How I Qualified for the Boston Marathon (11 Minute PR)

  Jun 5, 2017  |  #Food and Travel

Hi and good morning! I hope you all had a great weekend! My sister and her boyfriend were in town visiting so we spent a lot of time out and about that I’ll share later this week! In the meantime, let’s talk about running and the Boston Marathon.

A few announcements, too! Head on over to Nicole’s page today where I’m sharing one of my favorite recipes! And Happy Birthday to my #1, Ed!

Ogden Marathon Race Recap

Thank you all for your comments and encouragement on last week’s marathon recap post. I’m happy to share a little bit more about my training cycle for those of you who have asked.

I ran my first marathon last November in 3:41.57. Nearly 6 months later, I ran my second marathon in 3:31.05. That’s a pretty substantial difference – and I think I took some key things away from my first marathon that I was able to put to use for my second.

So, what was different?

Boston Marathon, Marathon Training, Race Recap

Well firstly, I think it’s a totally different mindset doing your first versus subsequent marathons. I certainly had a little more confidence going into my second training cycle, and didn’t stress out as much about missing a run here or there, or shortening a long run. But, here are some of the things I focused on that I think made a big difference, in no particular order.

Find a group to run with

Though I only did this a handful of times, I really feel that it has so many benefits. Aside from socialization (running alone sometimes can be isolating), group runs certainly helped my confidence and pace. Plus, you learn things from other runners, and learn more about yourself.

Work on your core

I did make an effort to do more core work in this training cycle. I tried to include some exercises 4-5 days a week. And not even long or intense exercises. My favorite core workouts are 4-6 minutes long. I actually hate core work so if it’s long, I know I won’t do it. Short and sweet is effective for me!

Eat at any sign of hunger

The week before the marathon, I was eating like a madwoman. And it wasn’t an increased appetite from increased running or calorie expenditure. I obviously had my lightest taper week, and only ran 2-3 days that week. But, preparing my body for what it was about to experience was paramount – I wouldn’t let my body feel any sign of hunger. I nourished hunger, even if it meant 3 breakfasts like I had 2 days before the race.

If you need encouragement or understanding of why hunger is important to listen to, read this post.

Boston Marathon, Marathon Training, Race Recap Boston Marathon, Marathon Training, Race Recap

Don’t forget about FAT

Yes, we all focus (and maybe overly focus) on carbohydrates and carb-loading the weeks up to the marathon. But, it’s important not to forget about the healthy fats too. Not only do they help with inflammation in the body (hello, running causes inflammation in our cells and muscles), they are another macronutrient our body will draw from when it runs out of fuel and glycogen (carbohydrates). Plus, it tastes pretty good too!

Boston Marathon, Marathon Training, Race Recap

Recovery time

I took two days off a week, completely, and included one day of cross training where I’d do hot yoga, cycling or elliptical.  It was too much stress on my body to do more than 4-5 days of running per week. Each person is different but there’s no magic number of days you HAVE to run per week. Time on your feet is very important too, so engaging in other exercise counts.

[Tweet “Want to qualify for #Boston? Recovery and rest time is vital! #bostonqualifier #BQ #Runchat”]

And, foam rolling, epsom salts and the running stick should be your best friend (all affiliate links)! Recovery food is important too!

Boston Marathon, Marathon Training, Race Recap

Seek out supportive partners/friends

Obviously, you are making sacrifices in your training cycle. You want to have people in your life who understand these sacrifices (they don’t necessarily have to be runners).  You shouldn’t feel bad about the time you are committing to reach your goal, so people who understand that are paramount. Surround yourself by those people who lift you up!

Be consistent with your speed work and mirror the course

I did longer and harder tempos/speed work than my first time around. I still don’t think I did enough speed work, I guess that’s one thing we can always self critique as runners. But I did do some longer workouts (like this and this). I also found it helpful to do some speed work that mirrored the course, which was mostly downhill. I practiced some downhill running so I could practice keeping my arms relaxed and leaning forward.

Boston Marathon, Marathon Training, Race Recap, Speedwork

Don’t do much the week of the race

This is the ideal time to rest and taper, and make sure you do it. People have different views on tapering, but I think I ran 8-10 miles the week of the marathon. To compare, most of my weekly training had me between 30-40 miles per week. The final week, I did all of my runs at a 9-9:30 pace. My goal marathon pace was 7:50-8:05ish per mile.

I didn’t taper as much in my first marathon, and I think I was a little more active the week of. Clearly, the extra rest served me well.


Obviously, always a big one. I’m a pretty good water drinker and probably drink about 11-12 cups a day, plus the water I get through food. But the week of, I drank sooo much water that I was peeing multiple times throughout the night. I actually had a hard time adjusting to altitude and no matter how much water I drank, my pee was very concentrated, so I knew I had to do better. Sorry for the TMI, but this one is super important. If you’re not hydrated, your cells aren’t getting the nutrients they need and you’ll have a hard time feeling good.

This post discusses more tips on hydration during the warm, summer months.

If you’re shooting for a time goal, try to stay with the pace group.

I settled in with the 3:35 pace group and stayed with them for the first 7-8 miles. That helped me figure out what pace I wanted to maintain and helped me realize I felt good doing that. The pace groups are great if you’re aiming for consistency in your running.

Boston Marathon, Marathon Training, Race Recap, Speedwork

Choose the right course

I would tell everyone to pick a down hill course if you’re trying to qualify for Boston! Although too much down hill can be killer on your quads and require a lot of energy, a net downhill course definitely helps. The last 4-5 miles were all downhill, so I was still maintaining the same pace with less effort, and it really helped.

Boston Marathon, Marathon Training, Race Recap, Speedwork

Obviously, nutrition plays a big part too. I’m a big proponent of recovery foods, and nutrient timing, one thing I work with all of my running clients on. I’ve spoke about my nutrition during the race before, but I’m a big proponent of Huma gels and Honeystinger chews (taste like candy) and rely on them the most.

Most importantly, I think remaining calm and being prepared can bring you a long way. And realize what you are capable of is probably more than you think. If you do the work, eat well, rest well and hydrate well, your body will thank you.

How I Qualified for the Boston Marathon

You May Also Like:

What’s your favorite way to recover?

If you’ve qualified for Boston, what’s your top tip?

This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for your support!

37 responses to “How I Qualified for the Boston Marathon (11 Minute PR)

  1. These are great tips Sarah. I especially like the recovery aspect and eating a lot while you’re tapering. I am in recovery mode now and the soreness makes foam rolling a bit of a shit show. Still doing it though 🙂 And my appetite is on FIRE

    1. I am a huge fan of the power of food, clearly 🙂 My appetite is always so much higher when I’m resting or tapering, it seems to be the body’s way to catching up.

  2. This is so helpful. I never thought about eating at any sign of hunger. I really would like to follow as many of your tips as possible for the next marathon training, as I think, hopefully, that I’m almost ready to start training for marathon #3 in a healthier mindset than I’ve had before. 🙂

  3. great tips! I have never trained for a marathon but half marathon training makes me hungry! At least 2 breakfast hungry! 🙂 Congrats on that race. I went from 2:25 to 2:12 last year on my half and I am still happy about that! Thanks for linking up!

  4. There’s a huge difference between a first and second marathon. You have some knowledge but you don’t know it all. In fact, I don’t think you can ever know it all for a marathon. Or any race for that matter. Your avocado toast looks amazing. I think I need to recreate that asap!

  5. I’m a fan of brown rice, as they’re healthier. To me, the taste is the same as with white rice, not much difference. Love your selection of breakfast, though!
    I haven’t done a marathon, but will use this post as checklist when it comes. Thanks!

    1. I can definitely see how it can be a source of anxiety too. I’m still working on trying NOT to focus on pace so much 🙂 Thanks, Kelli!

  6. All fabulous tips! I hope to need to use them one day. I think when I first started running one of my big mistakes was with fat. I knew I needed carbs for recovery, but 10 years ago people weren’t raving about fats.

  7. Hey Sarah,

    Congrats!! I am so happy for you! Pumped to have another UMass-educated RD on the course in April! I’m actually going to use that trip home to knock the bridal shower off the to-do list (one of my non-New Englander bridesmaids will be running too, and pretty much everyone else lives up there) before I get married in July 🙂

    As for your tips, a few really stand out to me:
    – Run with people! For my first marathon, I actually trained at UMass by myself and had no idea what I was doing. Once I moved to NOLA for my internship and started running with people I realized what a huge asset that is. There are days when running isn’t at the top of my list of “wants” but chatting with my friends is always up there
    – BE CONSISTENT WITH SPEED WORK. It’s definitely possible to get fast without this (especially in someplace hilly like Amherst) but it happens a whooooole lot quicker if you hit the track. Combining track with the friends is huge, because speed work is the devil
    – Rest! There is a reason it took me 4 years between my first two marathons. I got too excited, wouldn’t rest, and got injured…a LOT.

    Again, congrats!! Planning on catching the game on Saturday before the race, you should join/we should catch up for snacks!

    1. Hey Lauren, Congrats to you too!! You rocked it. I would LOVE to meet up and catch up in person! I need to take a trip to Amherst soon – can you believe I haven’t been there in like 8 years? I bet it looks sooo different. So much fun ahead!

  8. Congrats on your new PR!!! I guess my main tips for running a BQ are:

    1) Take the pressure off yourself! Just do your best and take what your body gives you that day.
    2) Speedwork and specific workouts. Shake it up!
    3) Core Work – like you mentioned. Planks are so helpful.

    I found that whenever I went into a race not worried about a certain time, a new BQ usually happened 🙂 Less pressure the better. Running is fun, let’s keep it that way!

    1. I feel the same about less pressure and not stressing. And shaking up speedwork is so important, otherwise I get bored and dread it. Congrats to you for your BQ!

  9. Ahh I loved reading this and am still so excited that you qualified for Boston! I love your balanced approach to running, healthy eating, desserts, etc. & seriously look forward to your posts (and need to comment more because I always enjoy them!)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *