How to Run a BQ Marathon

devonmcguire Running Performance, Training

There was a time not all too long ago, that had you told (little old) me I would be planning a trip to Boston to run the marathon – not as a spectator mind you, but as a PARTICIPANT -I’d likely have laughed out loud and told you you’d lost your mind.

I ran my first full marathon in 2006 and it was a disaster – trained improperly, executed the race the wrong way, and ended up injured and completely lost my running mojo. I swore to myself then that I was never running another marathon – at least for a long time. And so I didn’t.

I puttered away for the next 8 years, running here and there, pounding out a few half marathons, but never really focusing on anything – training, nutrition….what are those?! I watched friends and former training partners go onto great success, qualifying for Boston, participating in the great World Marathons, and I was the one that had a running joke about not even TRYING to qualify for Boston until I was 80, so they’d pretty much just let me in.

But then, in 2014, something changed. I wondered why I couldn’t be that person with the big goal? What was it that set these other runners apart from me? So… I signed up for a marathon and set a sub 4-hour goal. The equation was pretty simple: training + motivation + nutrition + rest = success! 

Image 4With the success of a 3:55 marathon now in my back pocket, I got a bit more ambitious and set a bit loftier goal. Applied the same basic principles and come October, voila! Ran a 3:45 marathon – another goal crushed.

I’d just proven to myself twice over in the marathon that with hard work and dedication, you can pretty much achieve anything you set your mind to.

I figured I was onto something, so I decided there and then that 2015 was going to be MY year – I was going to be the one that qualified for the Boston Marathon.  How was I going to do it? How was it that I, this girl who went from chubby teenager… To an underweight and malnourished 20-something… To a strong and healthy wife, mom and marathon runner… Was now convinced that I could actually qualify for the Boston Marathon?!!

1. Proper Training

The first big thing I did was train properly. Now, I won’t focus on this because I’m not the expert here, but I did employ someone who was: I got a coach. Now, before you balk at that (because trust me, I did initially), coaches aren’t just for elites and professionals, they are for the every person who is just starting running to those who have big goals. Getting set up on a structured plan with a specific goal in mind was a HUGE contributing factor to my success. I also do have the BEST training buddies in the world (seriously, I do), so if you can find a buddy to train with you, trust me, you won’t regret it. It’s a lot easier to roll out of bed before dawn on a cold, rainy January morning when you know you have people waiting for you.

2. Good Sleep

I also made sure to get as much rest as possible. I know, I know…easier said that done, considering everyone is on the “go, go, go” schedule nowadays, but I tried as hard as I could to get 7-8 hours of sleep every night. It did at time mean my kitchen stayed messy, or I passed up the Friday night movie date and went to bed at 9:30, but trust me, you get used to it quickly and it’s worth sacrificing the latest Transformers movie for some extra shut eye. Rest equals recovery which is paramount to consistent training and performance.

3. Eat 2 Run

Last, but certainly not least, is NUTRITION!! The amazing powerhouse of performance! I can confidently say that without following the eat2run protocol, and emphasizing the importance of plant-strong, whole-food nutrition daily, I would not have achieved the success I have. I do try and stay flexible and leave myself some wiggle room, but general principles I try and follow day to day include really focusing on whole foods – the closer I can get to the source the better. This means mostly fruits and veggies, whole grains, healthy fats and lean proteins and just saying no as much as possible to processed and packaged foods.

I always start my day with a glass of room temperature, filtered water with organic lemon juice. It’s the first thing I do every morning. The lemon water helps to slowly begin to cleanse the body from toxins built up overnight and from training, and encourages the body into an alkaline state, which is anti-inflammatory and encourages optimal health and wellness. And, as an athlete, I can really get all the hydration I can, so it’s an easy way to get one glass of valuable fluids in before I even get out of bed.

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Since I usually workout first thing in the morning, I do have the advantage of killing 2 birds with one stone: my breakfast is the eat2run fool-proof, anti-inflammatory, superfood chocolate cherry berry recovery shake.

It has the magical 4:1 carb to protein ratio recommended for post-workout recovery and is full of anti-oxidants and phytonutrients to help prepare my body for my next workout. I do reduce the liquid by about 1/3 to make it super thick and ice-cream like – this increases the satiety factor and keeps me full for several hours!

I also try and eat every few hours, to keep my energy levels high, prevent blood-sugar crashes and prevent cravings. My morning snack usually involved me tossing back a handful of raw nuts or a few chocolate energy bites.

Screen Shot 2015-06-19 at 1.15.45 PMLunch is usually a salad full of greens (gotta get your nutrient dense greens!) with as many colourful veggies as possible.

Top that with a protein source: I prefer grilled wild salmon for the amazing anti-inflammatory omega-3’s or tempeh which is fermented, promoting digestive health (so important to make sure you’re getting all those awesome food nutrients to your cells)!

Top that with a omega-3 dense olive oil dressing and you have a lunch of champions!

Screen Shot 2015-06-19 at 1.18.06 PMI do always incorporate a green smoothie into my day – usually for my afternoon snack. It’s early enough to allow for maximum digestion before an evening run (If I have one) and is a solid, nutrient-dense snack: I don’t need to tell you this again! Personally, I go for the eat2run tropical green smoothie…can’t go wrong with a green smoothie!

Dinner is where I will try and focus on my protein. Since I primarily workout in the morning, by the end of the day I’m more focused on protein rather than carbs – I do try to front load those to give myself max energy and to keep my body weight in check – timing carb intake ensures you’re using them for energy, not storing them as fat. I will usually base my meal around an organic option -I’m not vegetarian, so it’s free-range chicken, or grass-fed beef, which are higher in amazing omega-3’s and are a more humane, ethical choice. I usually side them with stir-fried green veg (again, the greens!), or sautéed kale with nutritional yeast, for an extra blast of energy-producing B-vitamins which are depleted by the stress of training).

Screen Shot 2015-06-19 at 1.16.57 PMAfter that nutritionally packed day, I’m pretty much ready for bed. Following that general guideline of training, rest, and nutrition (with the odd treat tossed in since hey…life is meant to be enjoyed to the fullest), I was ready to turn myself into a person who could run stronger and run faster and qualify for the Boston Marathon!

Sure enough, race day came along… And I didn’t just BQ, I qualified with 3 minutes to spare!! Running a 3:32 marathon and qualifying for Boston is a dream come true – one I believed for many years I wasn’t capable of. For anyone out there doubting themselves… Trust me – it can be done – just believe in yourself, dare to dream big, train smart and eat2run!

Train smart… rest well… eat2run… And run happy,