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March 29, 2017

BQ or Bust - Why I Decided To Chase An Impossible Goal

Before April of 2016, I didn’t know what a Boston marathon qualifying (BQ) time meant. I had no reason to care. You see, I’ve always had a tough time identifying as an athlete. Athletes ran fast and I ran for fun. (Who knew you could do both?) But after the New York City Marathon in 2015 where I broke 4 hours for the first time (a feat that felt absolutely impossible), I started seeing myself differently.


Fast forward to April of 2016 when I got to spectate my very first Boston Marathon. I stood on the sidelines, screaming for my friends, and feeling a little too proud of my funny race day signs.


Later that night, I went to grab dinner and drinks to celebrate my friends who ran. My friend Kim asked me why I didn’t want to try to BQ. I’d had a few beers and without editing myself, I told her that I didn’t think I’d ever be able to take myself seriously enough to run a Boston Marathon qualifying time. I wasn’t an athlete, I was a fun runner.

I couldn’t shake what I’d just said, that I would never be able to run a BQ. After I ran my first traumatizing marathon, I promised myself that I would attempt anything I told myself I wasn’t capable of doing. Normally when I catch myself, a rush of adrenaline surges through my body and I passionately set out to make impossible possible. But this time, I just felt defeated. I didn’t walk away afraid of trying and failing. I knew I would fail and I didn’t even want to try.

I’m going to jump ahead here and spoil the ending. I did end up convincing myself to try for a BQ and I gave myself 6 months to do it. (I filmed the entire experience in a daily vlog called BQ or Bust if you’d like to watch me sweat and cry.) That fall, during the Chicago Marathon I didn’t BQ. I finished in 3 hours and 41 minutes, 6 minutes shy of my goal but disappointed isn’t a word I’d use to describe my finish, my race, or my training.


I really underestimated just how much training for a marathon could change my life.

Yes, the six months of training was really, really f*cking hard but it was hard in ways I didn’t expect. The physical stuff adapts. I had the help of an amazing human being and Sports Psychologist named Dr. Bob and the second he told me to stop choosing to suffer, and to take the pressure off of myself when I saw times I didn’t think I was capable of running, everything changed. He gave me the gift of no regrets, no excuses and I applied it to just about every aspect of my life.

Because doubt and the fear of failure are two things that I am constantly struggling with. No regrets, no excuses helped me redefine what it means to actually fail because failing is inevitable. But that’s the beauty of the journey. Sometimes you hit it, and sometimes you don’t. As long as you continue to fight with everything you have at that particular moment in time, failure isn’t an option because that’s all you can do.

Despite the fact that I missed my goal by 6 minutes, I ran the strongest I’d ever run in my entire life. I proved to myself that I wouldn’t quit when the going got tough. And I finally saw what I’m capable of when I show up every single day and give my personal best effort. I felt like I won and I knew I had to try again.


Today, I’m four weeks away from the London Marathon and my second attempt to qualify for the Boston Marathon. The good news? I feel strong as hell. The bad news? The flight to London was expensive. (OK, there’s no bad news!)

Where I used to panic about a particularly scary workout, now I slap a smile on my face, remind myself no regrets, no excuses, and I set out to see what happens. I’m still having a hard time trusting that I can run certain times but I finally threw “fast” out the window and replaced it with strong.

Fast doesn’t make sense to me. When I set out to run fast, I feel panicked and out of control. But when I run strong, I get to do what I do best, I get to have fun. I get to remember why I’m pushing myself and why I started running in the first place. I remember running my first half marathon and almost quitting at mile 11. I remember crossing the finish line of my first marathon and the day I broke 4 hours. Big, giant milestones that showed me what I was capable of when I was brave enough to set an impossible goal and then put in the work to make it happen.

It’s difficult to put into words just how grateful I am that I decided to run towards this “impossible” BQ. 11 months ago, I would never have imagined that I’d be running in a sports bra, feeling strong, and believing in myself the way I am today. It’s been the most physically and mentally exhausting 11 months of my life but this time, it’s different. I’m not afraid.


I know my strength and I know what I’m capable of.

People always say to set realistic goals. I say, keep them impossible. Realistic is a safe bet, shoot for the moon and give it everything you have. You may never achieve whatever it is you set out to do, but at least you had the courage to try.

No regrets, no excuses.

Boston 2018, see you there?


Get in Here, We Love You



Beth | March 29, 2017 at 8:54am


I love this post, and I absolutely love Kelly Roberts! You are an inspiration, Kelly! I cannot wait to watch you run strong as hell in London and then again in Boston! Keep kicking ass!

Malinda Ann Hill | March 29, 2017 at 9:55am

It took me 12 attempts to BQ

It took me 12 attempts to BQ and I'm grateful for every step it took me to finally catch the unicorn!

Leslie | March 29, 2017 at 10:37am

Go get it! You can absolutely

Go get it! You can absolutely do it. I am just like you - I ran my first marathon in 4:31 and said "Never doing that again!". Then a few years later I started getting faster at 1/2s and got the bug to try another marathon. Ran a 3:54 and realized a sub 3:40 BQ was do-able. Ran a 3:39:31 on my first "real" try for a BQ and got to submit for 2017 (I didn't get in since I only had a 29 second buffer). Then six months later ran a 3:31 - giving me an 8 minute plus buffer for 2018 (which should get me in!). You can get there! Aging into the 35+ age group also made it feel more attainable :)

traci finley | March 29, 2017 at 11:16am

me, too!

Kelly, you sound JUST like me! I could have written this post! It was when I broke 4 and thought, oh, well, that wasn't too bad, that I started thinking about the BQ. It took me 3 marathons and three years to get it. I ran Boston for the first time last year. I won't be there in 2017 but have a BQ with 5+ minutes to spare for 2018. It is possible and it is LIKELY if you just keep pushing! You can do it! God knows if I can, you can!

Victoria Knight | March 29, 2017 at 12:12pm

I need to print a few copies

I need to print a few copies of this and post them on my fridge, bathroom, closet, calendar, in my car and in my purse! Your attitude is so healthy, strong and infectious. I need to adopt it! Thank you for your inspirational posts! Best wishes to you!

Michelle Ostien | March 29, 2017 at 5:14pm


Literally related to everything you said. 100%. Kelly, your mentality is on point. It took me two years to qualify for Boston and I finally did on my 3rd marathon attempt. It was the hardest and most rewarding thing I have ever done and I just hope that I will make it to the line healthy a few weeks from now. It does not feel real even now. I am so excited for you and know you are absolutely going to CRUSH London. Trust in your training. Know that you have supporters all around you. Know that your hard work is going to pay off. You are in the right place and know what you have to do. I am going to share this story with my other running friends and track/cc runners I coach as well because THESE are the stories that change people's lives and make them believe anything is possible. I know you will be at Boston 2018. Go get it~we are all rooting for YOU!

Nicole | March 29, 2017 at 5:27pm

This is insane! I read your

This is insane! I read your comment and my jaw dropped. Same story, same exact times for my first two marathons, years apart. About to do my first true bq attempt and have just bumped up to the 35 age group. Wow! I hope that I continue to follow in your footsteps!!

Kenia | March 29, 2017 at 5:46pm

Wow! I just screenshot like

Wow! I just screenshot like the whole article. I needed this so bad. Because of you I now run strong instead of "fast" ;)

Gretchen | March 29, 2017 at 6:40pm

Have a great run Kelly! Enjoy

Have a great run Kelly! Enjoy yourself!

Brittani J | March 29, 2017 at 6:57pm

I'm so inspired by your

I'm so inspired by your mission because I am chasing the unicorn too. I ran 3:57.35 my first marathon then ran 3:34.21 on my second, a BQ but only by 39 seconds. So now I'm chasing sub 3:32.00 so I can have over a 3 min buffer for 2018. Let's keep pushing and we will get there! #runlikeagirl

Sue | March 29, 2017 at 8:25pm

BQ or Bust

YES! This is just what I needed as I'm training for my first half. No regrets! No guilt! I'm going for it and am going to have fun along the way. Who knows, I may give Boston some thought.

Meghan | March 30, 2017 at 2:55am

Thanks - just what I needed!

Read this on the bike bc I am sliding into Boston held together by kt tape. Always feel pressured to run fast but I like the mantra of "run strong." Yes. We learn something from every training cycle when we give it are all - not matter the circumstances. Get After It in London!!

MRunner26.2 | March 30, 2017 at 6:50am

I did it and so can you!

Kelly, I just want you to know you CAN DO IT!! I ran my first marathon in 2006 with a goal of 4 hours and I finished in 5:20. I swore I would never run another full again. I have since ran 28 half marathons and then this last year I was challenged by my boyfriend to run another full. So, I thought if I am going to run this why not try to hit a BQ time. Before this year never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I could hit a Boston time. But, once the thought was in my mind and then I trained and trained and in September of 2016 I qualified with a time of 3:41!! 15 minuted faster than my required time. I am going to be lacing up my shoes in Hopkinton in two short weeks and I am still pinching myself!! Train Hard, Run Strong!! No Regerets! No Excuses! Good luck in London! You can do it!!!

Caitlin | March 30, 2017 at 10:44am


GREAT POST! Thanks for sharing! I would love to BQ, maybe I need to change my mindset

Alex Conner | September 5, 2017 at 11:39am

This was an amazing story

This was an amazing story with so many encouraging words of wisdom. I am currently training for my first Marathon and I have been seeking lots of advice. To BQ would only be a dream for me but stories like yours are inspiring. Never stop sharing your story because you never know who it might inspire. :)