The Anatomy of a BQ with Thomas Bailey
By Jesse Specs Spellman I Photos by RCS Images
Twenty Four. What does this number signify? Well if you follow Thomas Bailey aka Tommie Runz this number means a personal marathon record which also means a qualification into you guessed it The Boston Marathon. Tommie is one of the most consistent runners in the game as he is always working to improve on his previous races. He’s also what I like to call a run geek, meaning he breaks down his races to the smallest details with the goals to improve for the next or as I like to call it progress and patience which leads to improvements – IF you’re putting the work in. This month we head to Detroit to chat with Tommie and talk about his BQ, the anatomy of a BQ, his process, his company Chip Time Running, and the club he runs with, WeRun313.
MSM: As I came across your Instagram a few months ago, firstly what drew me to you was the goals you created for yourself in qualifying for Boston. But what also stood out was your run experience which doesn’t seem as heavy, 26.2-2x, 13.1-4x, and 5k-6x. Usually, when I see runners gunning for a BQ it’s usually with runners that have been running for years. For our readers to give us some insight into your run/journey and experience. It still feels fairly new.
TB: You’re absolutely right, it is very new. I would say I started running in the spring of 2018, but I actually ran a 5K in 2015 with my sister in Savannah, GA. She’s the reason why I ran that 5K as I just kind of wanted to support her and also see if I could do it. I hated every minute of it, so in my mind at the time…this was a one and done thing! Then after going sober in Jan. 2017, hitting the gym lifting weights for a year, went vegan in Feb 2018…a client of mine knew that I was going down this fitness journey and said “Hey you’re fit, you should do this half marathon with my company and raise some money for a great charity called Move For Hunger.” I, of course, said yes because I was trying to get more business from him at the time, and also at that point in my life I was just trying to say yes to things that seemed positive and we’re moving me forward down this road of health and fitness. So I “trained” for it, but didn’t even know what training really meant at that point. I thought that people just go outside, run a couple miles and try to do it again day after day after day. Needless to say, that plan didn’t pan out as well as I would have hoped. Not knowing any better, I randomly aimed at running 1:25:00 for my first half marathon. Shortly into the race, I realized that was NOT going to happen so I just tried to sustain a pace that felt ok. I ended up running 1:49 and that may seem great but that 19 minutes difference…I’m telling you felt like I was gonna die! BUT the fact that I didn’t die in that process and managed to cross that finish line standing…felt incredible. I loved that feeling of while in the journey of life and fitness, you can do these races that from the start to finish line, there is a completely separate little journey within a journey. I was hooked!
MSM: Before your first 5k was running for you something that was consistent where it was a lifestyle?
TB: Running life prior to 2018 was completely nonexistent. I mean, I ran that 5K in 2015, but that was probably a total of 50 miles including training and the race. Before that….nothing at all.
MSM: We all start with our first run, essentially a jog just to get some cardio but I find that it’s always the same story with us runners when we first start running. It usually starts with simply getting that cardio in at the gym, then we usually find that run buddy which then presents the challenge of running a race which as we all know leads to that rabbit hole opening up even wider. What made you get into marathoning?
TB: The marathon became a thing for me in early 2019 after running a 25K trail race. At that point, it was the longest distance I had covered. I wouldn’t say I ran it “fast” at all, but I talked to my sister after and she said, “You should totally try to qualify for the Boston marathon!” My family and I lived in the Boston area for six years or so, so we have that connection to New England and that city. We know from experience how much that marathon means to the city. When she said I should go for it, I was super hesitant, because at that point I didn’t even have thoughts of running a marathon at all and didn’t even know what the process was to qualify. So we did some research and found out that in order to qualify for Boston my standard for my age group by the time of Apr 2021 race, would be 3:05. Even though I had not proved it yet…I figured I had time to work and get much faster but I thought it was within reason. So I dove in headfirst!
MSM: As marathon runners, we all know about the 6-star goal with the most difficult race to get into being the Boston Marathon, hence why it’s called the unicorn. To qualify you either have to be all in because if you’re not then kiss that BQ goodbye before it even happens. What was that moment for you? Where you knew it was a possibility.
TB: I can’t say that I knew it was a possibility or knew that I could do it, per se, I just figured why not you know? Why not just go further down this rabbit hole of running and figure out how fast I can get over a long distance. I knew for sure that I couldn’t do it by myself and couldn’t do it with the type of training I was doing. I actually wouldn’t even call that training…the type of running I was doing. So I took the next step and linked up with the coach, Melissa Johnson-White. It actually took a while before I really thought that I could do it. That’s not to say that I ever stopped trying or working towards it. I just kept putting one foot in front of the other, one day at a time, and worked to get ready for my first marathon. When I ran the 2019 Detroit Free Press my intention was to run 3:15, so I was not trying to qualify for Boston, but I figured in my first marathon if I can run 3:15 then with proper training as I continued with my coach I could possibly get that down to a sub 3 hour marathon. When I ran The Detroit Free Press Marathon in 2019, I finished 3:13:30. The fact that I hit the 3:15 mark and actually surpassed it by a little gave me great confidence to know that I could continue down this road and get faster. I just knew that it would take an insane amount of dedication and patience to get to my goal, but I was ready for the ride.
“On the accountability side I’m very tough on myself when it comes to reaching a goal. So on the accountability side for me, it is more of an internal push. Often you have to run alone so you have to hold yourself accountable. What does come from external sources is the fact that my family, my wife and kids, are watching me. I’m out here running hours on top of hours each week, that is time away from them. They’re watching my dedication and they miss me when I’m gone, but I need and want for them to understand and see that no matter what the goal…make it a big goal, work to get there, push yourself to be the best you can be”.Thomas Bailey
MSM: The anatomy of a BQ alone is a feat, by that I mean the training is where it matters. As a runner, part of me feels like you have to have tunnel vision when it comes to training for Boston. Even when it comes to scheduling other races. It feels like you have to just have that one race to pour all your energy into. Give our readers a peek into that process for you and how you chose the Glass City Marathon.
TB: It was actually pretty simple and I tried to find out which course was the flattest or fastest course near me and plan it around when I need to get the qualifying number to be able to register for the 2021 Boston Marathon. I knew I couldn’t do the Detroit Free Press again for the following year, because the Free Press is too late in the year and misses the registration deadline for Boston. So I needed something in the spring. Then I heard about the Glass City Marathon from Justin at RunDetroit. Got signed up for GCM 2020 and was 100% ready to run that race and run sub 3 at but it was canceled due to the pandemic. Switched my sights to a race in the fall that would have been in time for me to try to run and qualify for 2021 Boston, but I caught a stress fracture in my left tibia and was not able to run. The injury had me out from July 2020 to November 2020. Luckily I was able to use my registration for 2020 GCM to run this year’s race on 4/25.
MSM: I started running in 2016 my first marathon being NYCM which to me I’ll just say I did horribly. Most will say I did great for my first one but knowing what I know now I did nowhere close to what I needed to do to run well. I’ve heard the same expressions from other runners that have gotten better and faster and it’s usually a simple process RUN. Weekly mileage should be pretty high but never close to race pace. What was your formula as you prepared for Boston?
TB: In preparation to qualify for Boston and all of the training I’ve done so far with Melissa has been through Luke Humphrey Running which is the Hansons Marathon method. It’s definitely a high mileage approach, but about 80/20. I would say I am easy running 80% of the time and 20% of it is more tempo and hard runs. The bulk of the training is a lot of easy running to get time on your feet. Easy running seems counterintuitive because you feel like you want to push, you want to get close to marathon pace more often. Sometimes you want to feel like you went out there and crushed it on every workout and every run but in order to maintain a high mileage which is necessary to sustain in the marathon, you have to be able to hold high mileage. In order to do so, especially for runners at our stage of running, we need to have a huge portion of the running be easier on the body. You literally want to be out there and feel like at the end of a run you didn’t really work hard. If you can do 8-10 miles easy and just feel like you went for a walk in the park…that’s where it’s at. Then you can turn around the next day if you have to and run a workout at 5K pace or 1 mile pace intervals and really push the pace.
MSM: Okay you went through the entire process, the thought (inception), the training (the miles), and now THE RACE (the execution). You made it through this intense training cycle with the high weekly/monthly mileage. Now we’re at race day, what was your race day prep and execution as you prepared to run. What were those final thoughts at the start line?
TB: Race day prep started the night prior as I got caught up on Instagram for entirely too long. Didn’t go to sleep until about 12:30 or so. Race start time was 6:30 in the morning so I had to wake up at 4-4:30 to make sure that I was there on time so I could do all the prerace stuff I needed to do. My family was with me so I woke everybody up. Listened to some music in my earbuds while I was getting ready. Threw on my gear to make sure I looked fresh in a mirror you know because you gotta look fresh out there! I hopped in the car and headed over to the start. Did a couple of miles shake out run, did some strides with the fellas. Did a little bit of stretching like the normal routine. Then Joe, Lance, and I headed over to the marathon start line. I’m definitely one of those people before races that gets really quiet because I just want to be locked in by the time I start. As for the start line, normally I am thinking about everything! I’m thinking about pacing, fueling, doubts, etc, but this was the most structured or intense training segment that I’ve ever done. So I had this weird sense of like…it is what it is…I’m here now…I’ve done everything in my control. So by the time a made it to the start line. My head was clear, practically zero thoughts. Just waited for them to say go. Just in the zone…no thinking…ready to run.
MSM: The finish (The accomplishment) 2:48:43 a twenty-four minute PR! What did that last half mile feel like, even more so as you were running that race at what point did you know that you had it in the bag?
TB: It’s really funny that you ask it that way because I didn’t know that I had it in the bag until like 25 miles or so. I mean I knew that I was running at the pace required and planned, but I wasn’t thinking about the finish time much during the race. I was more so in the moment, mile by mile. Step-by-step, breaking that thing down to the moment that I was in. I wasn’t thinking about the grand total you know? I had my watch set in lap pace so I never saw the elapsed total time until I got to a little after 25 miles. I mean I knew I was running well so I felt positive at about mile 22 or 23 like I felt like as long as I stay there, at that pace, I’ll be ok. However, at the same time at 22 or 21 even I definitely didn’t know, like it was not a guarantee I was going to finish. There were still a ways to go and a lot of crazy things could happen in the last 2, 3, or 4 miles, but at mile 25 I was certain I was going to finish this thing and I wasn’t gonna slow down at any point between now and the finish. I finally took my watch out of lap pace and saw that with under a mile left my time was I think 243 something, so I knew that I just needed to stay at that pace. At that point, I KNEW I’d finish a little under 2:50 personal target. That’s when I knew 2:50 was for sure happening so I shifted to another goal which was let’s see if I can get 2:48 something so I had to push at the end to close out strong.
MSM: Rewinding back a bit where we mentioned the who and why you decided to go for a BQ. As we train, one of the most difficult things that we struggle with at times is simply consistency. In order to be consistent, there must be accountability which usually comes from others. The cool thing about the training is that your accountability came from your run family, the We Run 313 crew. Who were some of the members that held you down during training and kept you accountable?
TB: When it comes to the crew, my consistent running mates were Aaron Barnette, Joe Robinson, and Lance Woods. Running with them throughout the training was amazing for the camaraderie, company or community aspect of running. When you’re training for a race like a marathon distance and you’re running a lot of miles a week which can get to be cumbersome. So it was nice to be able to meet up with people that share a goal to PR a race. It also helps to take your mind off of the big picture and just enjoy running.
On the accountability side I’m very tough on myself when it comes to reaching a goal. So on the accountability side for me, it is more of an internal push. Often you have to run alone so you have to hold yourself accountable. What does come from external sources is the fact that my family, my wife and kids, are watching me. I’m out here running hours on top of hours each week, that is time away from them. They’re watching my dedication and they miss me when I’m gone, but I need and want for them to understand and see that no matter what the goal…make it a big goal, work to get there, push yourself to be the best you can be. When there’s nobody to run with and there’s nobody to push you, hold yourself accountable. Go put in the miles, do the homework, do the practice…DO THE THING. Friends and things are cool to help with accountability but I have to be honest, I’m so grateful for my friends, but if they decided that they didn’t want to run anymore, my internal push is what would keep me going. Also, who I want to be and look like to my kids and the lessons I want to teach them about turning a dream into a goal is what keeps me accountable.
MSM: For our readers/runners that are looking to visit Detroit when/where can we link up with you for a run?
TB: Easily, hit me up on IG @tommie_runz. And of course, I run with the club, WeRun313, a lot. They run on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Check them out on IG or werun313.com for more info.
MSM: How did you link up with the WeRun313 crew while on your run journey?
TB: In 2019, I followed one of the guys that runs with them on Instagram and he posted a picture with like 150 young black folks out there running so I immediately wanted to find out where this is and wanted to at least go down and check it out. So I went to 2 mile Tuesday in August 2019 and ran with the group. That’s when I met Joe and he invited me to run with them on some of the Sunday runs. Since I was in the early to mid stages of my first full marathon training segment…I figured it would be cool to link with some folks on these long runs and the rest is history.
MSM: You’re not only a pretty consistent runner but you’re also a business owner and you host a podcast. Tell us about Chip Time Running?
TB: I started Chip Time Running in May 2020. I started it because of how volatile things were at the time and still are in America. May was like the beginning and first big spike of the pandemic. Also at the same time, a huge amount of attention was being put on race in America and the injustices that were continuing to take place after all these years of fighting and thinking it should be better. So with that sense of insecurity that came with the pandemic in regards to people losing their jobs, loved ones, and lives I had the realization that I can’t pass my job as director of my day job to my kids. I don’t own that. And then also being a Black man in America with Black kids I needed them to see their dad take a chance. I needed them to have a reason to have the privilege of feeling and knowing in their hearts that they can do anything they want. That they can see opportunities, take chances, and turn their dream into a goal. So many young Black kids don’t have the privilege of seeing someone step outside of the norm and do something scary in a positive sense. I mean I believe that’s where privilege comes from and white privilege to be specific…centuries and centuries of having visible and tangible proof that as a young white kid you can do anything and literally be anything you want to be.
Yes, there are some systemic road blocks for people of color, but if at an early age more of our Black kids see business professionals, doctors, lawyers, physicians, entrepreneurs…chess players, whatever…no one will have to tell them that they can do whatever they want to do in life. They will inherently know. No shade but we need more than Barack Obama, Oprah, Jay Z, Michael Jordan, you know, the outliers…. we need more normal dads and moms that did a thing!
MSM: How can we keep up with the latest drops from Chip Time Running? Anything dope that we can look out for in the future?
TB: Follow me on IG, personal account @tommie_runz and company account @chiptimerunning. On Chip Time’s account you can request to be in my “close friends” to see exclusive drops and new stuff first. Also, on the website www.chiptimerunning.com there is a subscription newsletter that we send alerts about brand new runwear before everybody else can get to see. I have some race/summer gear coming out soon in the next month or so that is super dope
MSM: The RUN EAT SLEEP Show a podcast that discusses everything running. Tell us about some of your guests that you’ve spoken to over the past few months. Who are some of your favs that you’ve had on your show?
TB: I’ve been really blessed to have some pretty cool people on the show so far. I think that if I had to list off I wouldn’t say my favorites, because I think that would be unfair because I’ve had so much fun with so many different people for different reasons, but I think the ones that were huge standouts have been Sarah Hall, Keira D’Amato was so fun and awesome, and Abdi Abdirahman. The Abdi conversation was really cool, because I have obviously had some very competitive people on the show, but he’s the first person that I could almost feel the competitiveness through the camera. I could see this intense competitiveness and I can even tell he was trying to not sound like that. Like he was trying his best to sound like a modest individual that is just out there because he loves running and I believe he is modest and loves running, but he had this killer instinct that just kept coming through to me and I was just like “this is dope”.
MSM: Here’s the million-dollar question, with all this running and training in the end we are also everyday people, we work, we have families and we sleep lol. Where do you find your balance?
TB: Balance is a tough question, I asked people about balance often on my show and the thing that I’ve noticed is it’s a constant and evolving effort to balance. There’s going to be days and weeks that are extremely heavy on the family aspect or extremely heavy on the running side of life or extremely heavy on the work. I think the balance is more macro than the everyday thing because to run a company there’s gonna be days that you need to be on grind mode! Same thing with running, but I think it just takes an effort to look at the macro to make sure that you’re taking all the efforts to be balanced in the grand scheme of things. Which just like marathon training and running….it takes planning and thoughts of the bigger picture to plan and make sure you get your runs in. It’s a constant effort.
MSM: As we’re approaching the finish I must ask what is your inspiration. Where does Tommie find his inspiration? What is it that keeps you going run wise and from a personal standpoint?
TB: I’ve been thinking about this more and more lately and I think that it comes down to…well I’ll start here. Originally I thought it was freedom, which is the driving factor of all the decisions I’m making in my life right now. A sense of freedom and ownership over my time and effort. But when it comes to running and then personally as well I am driven by winning. Not necessarily beating anyone else but just winning or succeeding in a thing and down to the day by day things as well. Boston is the goal but Glass City had to be done before Boston and then before Glass City had to do well in a random run workout on a Wednesday or whatever. Before that a long run on a Sunday and all those things I just feel like I have to win. In that part of it winning or succeeding means defeating the lazy version of myself or the one that wants to quit. If I can overcome whatever version of myself then I’ll take that win and that’s what keeps me going is the constant grind to win the day. It’s all just another form of self-improvement and in the long run, hopefully, a sense of freedom and ownership comes along with it.
MSM: What does the future hold for Tommie Runz? After Boston what is next?
TB: Hmmm…not really sure about what’s after Boston, but this year… I’ll be working on speed, getting the weekly volume up while training for speed still….shorter races, then half marathon in the fall then roll into training for Boston in April 2022
MSM: I must say you have inspired my Brother to go for this BQ attempt in the near future and Mid Strike will make sure to head out to Detroit to get in a few runs with you and the squad. Any last words that you’d like to share for our readers?
TB: Pick a dream. Start doing the thing. Turn your dreams into goals. RUN EAT SLEEP REPEAT.