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.
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).
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!
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?