Friday, December 27, 2013

The BQ and Father Time.

Sitting and talking (and eating) with another older runner after running a 4:06 at the 2010 San Francisco Marathon,  I mentioned that it seemed pretty hopeless for me to run a 3:40 and qualify for Boston...his response was prophetic "You can age into it...".

Hmm. I looked and it turned out that for age 60-65, the time increased to a 3:55 which seemed much more doable.

Knowing that little fact later was one reason I was able to crank out a 3:54:54 at Eugene. (just barely). I was 56 at the time.

Fast-forward to "Now": I'm 58 and training for Surf City. Later in 2014 I plan to run CIM.

There, I would dearly like to duplicate my sub-3:55...I'll be 59 but I could run at  Boston in 2016 (November 2015 60th birthday) based on a sub 3:55 race after Sept 2014....that's how the BQ game works.

So, I need to duplicate my performance at age 56 when I'm 59 later this year. What do the statistics say?

The following table shows my PR time scaled back to 24 years old, and more germane, forward in time.

24,   3:19:06,   3:19:06  (ah youth!)
56,   3:54:54,     35:47   * April 2012 PR
57,   3:57:08,     02:14
58,   3:59:25,     02:16    
59,   4:01:44,     02:19   * Dec 2014
60,   4:04:08,     02:24
61,   4:06:33,     02:25
62,   4:09:01,     02:28
63,   4:11:32,     02:31
64,   4:14:07,     02:34
65,   4:16:46,     02:39  (BQ goes to 4:10 here)
66,   4:19:26,     02:40
67,   4:22:10,     02:43
68,   4:24:58,     02:47
69,   4:27:49,     02:51
70,   4:30:46,     02:57

The stats say that you slow down by about 2:15 min/year in this age range, so from April 2012 to Dec 2014 would be about 5:45 of slow down (2.5 years * 2:15 per year)

This is daunting. Fighting a 5:45 slowdown is like imagining I'd run a sub 3:50 back in 2012. Is it possible? Perhaps.

I have heard at least one person say (and you may remember him) that "anybody can BQ if they really want it".  Sorry, I don't agree. There is a huge range in innate ability..and some people even after optimal training will come up short.

For example, somebody may be born with all fast twitch fibers, or with crappy VO2 max ...and there some very unlucky people  that show NO improvement in VO2 max with training.  (Man, that has to really suck, but presumably they have some other advantages we don't know about.)

So, it's close .....working in my favor is that marathoners do improve for about 10 years and I'm only 6 years in. I've only cracked the code on how to train really hard in the last couple of years. Perhaps my improvement can cancel out my slowdown. Or, I may be lucky and slowdown less than the average person.

I won't know if I don't try. If it doesn't happen this year, I can keep trying, but my body will be getting older and the BQ times stay the same, so time is of the essence. There are some good signs: I sped up 3 minutes in the HM from 2009 to 2013. I should have slowed down by 4 minutes.

Come age 65 the BQ time ratchets down another 15 min which gives me another chance.

If I do BQ, I'll probably not be able to actually run at Boston.... it's so crowded and the fastest people in each age group are given first in line for sign up...but that's ok. Just knowing I did it would be good enough for me.

I have already made it clear to Toni that the boards need to be clear this fall:  I intend to run Chicago for fun, i.e. as a training run and then I plan to hit CIM with as much stacked in my favor as possible.  You can bet if it's a good day and I'm healthy I am going to put every last erg of energy on that course to stay sub-3:55.

(And I'll have a backup race a couple of months later in case the weather is a bust ;)


  1. I don't believe that everyone can run a BQ for exactly the same reasons as you. And I think that the person who said that was a gifted but arrogant runner. It almost implies that if you don't run a a Boston Qualifier then you didn't try hard enough.

  2. Interesting analysis. Seems like you have a decent shot at getting that BQ. I think you will be able to keep your times either stable, or drop them just enough to get that BQ. And I definitely don't think everyone can run a BQ. I know I will likely never be able to run one. You either have the ability, or you don't. Only 1 to 2% of runners ever run a BQ, so what about the other 98% of runners out there? Yes I realize that training and desire determine part of it, but there is a reason that all of us are not Ryan Hall - because some of blessed with running ability, and some aren't. Simple as that.

  3. I think you can do it. There are runners a lot older than you out there with fast times. You are motivated so that's the most important thing and staying healthy of course.

  4. This is a really cool analysis, I think you can do it! But I also totally get what you mean be it not being possible for all people, I honestly don't see a BQ in my future. Considering my first half marathon was hard at a 2:31 and it took me 4 years to go sub-2, I don't see it in the full. But that's ok, I'm happy running and meeting my own goals.


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