Third Time’s the Charm in Chicago: A Breaking BQ Project Update
Editor’s Note: This post is written by Eddie Phillips, one of our 2017 Breaking B.Q. Project participants. In 2017, Minneapolis Running followed the journey of five runners striving for a 2018 or 2019 Boston Qualifying mark. We covered their training, tracked their progress, and cheered them into the finish line with the hopes of lining up in Hopkinton the following year. Below, Eddie shares his story of continuing to pursue the BQ dream and his results.
In 2017 Minneapolis Running chronicled the Breaking B.Q. attempt for four runners attempting to qualify for Boston. For myself, it did not go well missing my 3:10 goal at both Grandma’s and Twin Cities marathons.
After my 2017 B.Q. attempt, I was not done; I had made a commitment to myself that I would qualify for Boston, so I went into winter training reinvigorated after running the New York City Marathon for fun. Winter 2017/18 was not kind to most of us in Minnesota and it was particularly unkind to me when I slipped on ice and sprained my ankle at the end of the Stone Arch Bridge. This effectively put me out for 4 months, with countless sessions of physical therapy and an MRI to get to the bottom of what happened.
Cheering on my teammates from Mill City Running at Grandma’s this year was full of mixed emotions. The perfect – once in ten-year conditions meant so many friends crushed their goals; I was delighted for them and so frustrated I couldn’t be out there.
I resolved that I would double down on training and with a much-improved ankle I spent time with my friend Coach Barrett and adapted his plan from 2017 to fit the Chicago Marathon and the California International Marathon that I had signed up for in 2018. My logic was that Chicago would be a fun long run and CIM would be the goal race. On the outside chance I would be ready for the BQ at Chicago, I’d give it a go. It was a 22-week plan, 13 days out of 14 on, two-speed workouts per week, and long runs with a mixture of goal marathon pace thrown in.
In the build up to Chicago, my training was going well, the dog days of a Minnesota summer meant aggressive heat and humidity for long runs and workouts – a poor man’s altitude training! With the ankle injury mostly behind me, I was clocking 55-65 mile weeks and feeling good.
I was shocked when the 2019 Boston cutoff was published, also with the wording of the BAA’s announcement which implied a change would come to the 2020 standard. I think it was 10 days before Chicago that they announced the change in the qualification standard. I had to reassess if I could run faster than 3:10. I decided to attempt a 3:07:30 at Chicago based on how the training had been going. If I felt it was too aggressive I told myself I could slow down enjoy the day and try again in December at CIM.
Race day arrived, rough conditions at the start with wind and rain blowing in off the lake. I managed to see Sir Mo Farah warming up, took that as a good omen, and headed to the corrals. About 20 minutes before the start, the rain eased off and things were looking better. I had been told by friends who had previously run Chicago that watches don’t work due to the tunnel and skyscrapers at the start. They were right. In essence, I ran the race without GPS and just looked at the last mile split time on my watch. It was an old-school way of running, it was different and definitely something I will try again rather than looking at my watch every minute. The half came quickly and I felt good. By mile 18 I was nervous that I was feeling good and something would go wrong. I can’t remember much about miles 19-24. I know I slowed about 10 seconds per mile, but I had banked some time in the first half. Finally, as I ran on to Michigan Avenue, I knew I was going to do it. I emptied the tank, nearly died on the “hill” over the freeway at mile 26, and finished in 3:07:31, a second off my goal and a whole 1 hour 2 minutes and 20 seconds after Sir Mo!
Will it be enough to make the cut with the revised qualifying standard, I don’t know – I guess I have to wait until September next year to find out.
Related: On Squeaking into Boston