Monthly Archives: November 2017

Running A Sub Four Marathon – Running, Racing and Training

I’ve had a few, but too few to mention.  If there was a pop song about my quest for the sub-four-hour marathon that would be a key line in the ballad.  In the world of marathon running a sub-four-marathon to some is a routine benchmark.  To others it’s a goal still on the horizon.  To me it has always been a waterline of marathon success.

I ran my first marathon in April of 2005.  When I began my marathon journey I believed it would be a fair bet to say one marathon would be enough.  17 years later with 23 finishes I’ve run four, sub-four-hour marathons.  I’ve read that less than 1% of the population have completed a full marathon.  That got me to wonder what percentage have run a sub-four?  It took me eight years to reach this milestone, running 3:56:57 in 2013 at the Niagara Falls International Marathon.

What I’ve learned running seven sub-four-hour marathons.

Niagara Falls Marathon, 2013 – 3:56:57

City of Oaks Marathon, 2016 – 3:56:06

Myrtle Beach Marathon, 2017 – 3:53:47

Outer Banks Marathon, 2017 – 3:59:22

Clearwater Distance Classic Marathon, 2018 – 3:54:12

Cleveland Marathon, 2018 – 3:58:57

Atlantic City Marathon, 2018 – 3:52:28 – PR

  1. Pace is key.  When I look back at my successful sub-four-hour times my pace was very steady and predictable.  In reviewing the data from the race what I saw was a steady pace with no high patches and no low patches.  This proved to me that a steady pace wins the race and runs a successful sub-four-hour marathon.
  2. Make effective use of the aide stations.  During a 26.2-mile race you need to take advantage of the aide stations but what you can’t do is waste a lot of time in the process.
  3. Have something left in the tank to fight for at the finish.  Somewhere around mile 18, I normally can tell if I have fight left in me.  I believe this is different than hitting the wall.  To me, hitting the wall means that a finish may be in question.  Comparing my four sub-four finishes with when I came up short, finishing was never an issue, fighting to the finish was.  A successful sub-four meant I had fight left in me at the end.
  4. Never give up on the dream.

Want to run your best race, check out my book – 26.2 Tips to Run Your Best Marathon (or any race for that matter.)

[Tweet “Brian aka @cledawgs breaks down lessons from running a successful sub-four-hour marathon”]

What I’ve learned coming close, but did not get to open the sub-four-hour champagne.

Windermere Marathon (2014) – 4:04:05

Air Force Marathon (2014) – 4:07:08

Cleveland Marathon (2017) – 4:04:06

  1. I tried to run too fast.  In some cases, I did not watch my pace, I went out to fast or I fell in love with a faster finishing time.
  2. I failed to run my race, and my plan.  At some point in the race I got caught up in the number of people passing me.  I began to believe I should be able to run with this person or that person and I ended up running their race and not mine.
  3. I could not stop the bleeding.  Once I got off target, I could not get the ship righted.  Once I started giving back time to the clock, I simply could not stop the bleeding, things either got worse or the got no better.

A sub-four-hour marathon is not a judgement of your marathon ability.  We each bring our own value to the race.  Some run to BQ, some run to finish and some run to get what “they” value as a benchmark time.

Outer Banks Marathon – Running and Racing 26.2 Miles

Outer Banks Marathon 2017

When I signed up for the Outer Banks Marathon, the first thing that came to mind was the ocean front, wind and sand.  When I left the Outer Banks (OBX) after running the 2017 edition of the marathon what came to mind was that this race had it all.

 ( Would I have enough fight in me on my birthday?)

NOTE: In all transparency, I was provided a free entry into the Outer Banks Marathon as a ambassador.  But my feelings and thoughts about the race have not and will not be influenced.

This race had it all…

The expo/packet pick up were both well organized.  I arrived on site early Saturday morning to cold and blustery winds with the Saturday races already in full effect.   I was hoping the weather would take a turn for the better as I unloaded and headed for the expo.  I was at the expo all day talking to runners and pushing my books, Running to Leadville and 26.2 Tips to run your best MARATHON.  To be 100% honest, I never heard one complaint.  Other than the harsh running conditions on Saturday everyone was happy and the excitement for marathon morning was in the air.  The expo had a great mixture of running and area related goods.  The traffic was steady all day I enjoyed meeting new and old friends while talking with a bunch of eager runners.

 (Thank you to everyone who stopped by my booth)

This race had it all.

[Tweet “Brian @cledawgs reviews the Outer Banks Marathon and his new book 26.2 Tips to run your best MARATHON”]

Roads:  The majority of the race was run on the roads around and within the Outer Banks.  Prior to the race I dreaded the idea of endless miles trying to survive from one-mile marker to the next.  The road sections of this race were not bad at all.  In fact I found them rather entertaining as did a few runners around me who commented that because of the race they got to see parts of the OBX that they normally don’t get to see.  The road sections took us to the sound side, through some golf courses, around some sand dunes and along residential sections with some wonderful beach houses.  All and all I would say the variety of environments helped make the miles pass quickly.

Trails:  I had heard about the trails of the OBX marathon and although I consider myself an experienced trail runner, they did offer a nice little challenge.  The trails are not technical and offer a wide birth rather it was the rambling up and downs combined with a sandy surface that began to take effect on my legs.  A marathon is not meant to be easy and the trails here offered a nice break up of the road sections.  They also provided a challenge to ensure you would remember them long after the finishers medal hung around your neck.

Hills:  The OBX course is flat.  BUT add in the rambling hills of the trails then throw in a bridge crossing at mile 23 and you have yourself a “wonderful” way to spend the day.  I ran all day thinking about that bridge.  It must have been around mile 15 or so that I got my first glimpse of it like Everest larking oft in the distance.  That thing haunted me for the rest of the day until at mile 21 we made the right turn that put it right in front of us.

 (the 23rd mile Everest)

 (Pretty steady day running 26.2 miles)

I had no real goal going into this race.  I wanted to finish but I also wanted to run a sub-four-hour marathon if my legs felt good and if everything went according to plan.  At mile 21 facing “the bridge” I knew I was on pace to potentially achieve that elusive goal.  Then a thought entered my mind…if I kept up whatever pace I could, if I refused to walk, if I refuse to give into weakness I could make up for a few lost seconds climbing that bridge.  But if I gave into my weakness, if I gave into the easy path…I could never recover the minutes I would lose.  I hit that bridge as steady as I could, running and repeating to myself…“I can make up seconds, I can’t make up minutes.”  I kept my head down, my eyes on the ground, only worrying about the next step, the next stride and the next moment.  I fought off the trolls of weakness as they tried to tell me how tired my legs were, how heavy my feet felt and how labored my breathing had become.  I refused to feed the trolls and they failed to gain strength.  For every negative thought, I countered with “I can make up seconds…I’m lost if I give up minutes.”

Looking back on that segment of the race, I lost very little time on that bridge.

Fantastic finishing area and post-race support:  At mile 24 I caught back up with the four-hour group whom I had run with earlier in the day.  I lost them at mile 10 when mother nature called collect.  After summiting the bridge, it took a few minutes to get my legs back under me.  Once my legs, lungs and mind had recovered at mile 25 I did my best impersonation of Shalane Flanagan and put the pedal down.  To be honest I thought about her relentless attack at the NYC Marathon and I gave that last mile point two my best effort of the day.  I never looked back and finished the Outer Banks Marathon running 8:40s to claim my fourth sub-four hour marathon at 3:59:22.  Not bad for a 53 year old on his birthday.

The post race food, support and transportation was first class.

 (Happy Birthday to me……)

The Outer Banks Marathon had it all for me that day and I gave it everything I had.

New York City Marathon – Shalane Flanagan

Lightening does strike twice…New York City Marathon and Shalane Flanagan

In 2014 “Meb” Keflezighi won the Boston Marathon and brought the USA back to the top of the Boston Marathon for the first time since 1983.

And Shalane Flanagan won the 2017 NYC Marathon in dominating style.  In doing so she became the first US women to stand on top of the Big Apples Marathon podium in 40 years.  She also overcame so much more.

My wife and I watched the NYC Marathon on delay after a full day of chores around the house. Around 2 p.m. we sat down to begin watching the race.  At around mile 13 of the women’s race I hit the pause button and went for a run.  It was a wonderful day in our neck of the woods and I needed to get some miles in.  With a little extra pep in my step and with thoughts of the marathon looming I headed out for my run.  At that time Shalane and Meb were hanging with the lead pack. While I covered the 11-mile loop my mind was full of thoughts of how the race would turn out.

[Tweet “Brian aka @cledawgs talks about lightening striking twice and the NYC Marathon 2017”]

After returning home and a quick shower, it was time to begin watching the second half of the race.  AND what a half it was.  I won’t go into the blow for blow details about what transpired on the streets of NYC, I’ll only tell you that when Shalane made her move the noise in our home was nearly as loud as the crowd on 1st Ave.  For two-miles my wife and I cheered her on… “YOU Go Girl!  Don’t look back…You Got THIS!!!!!!!”  As the miles disappeared and her competition feel off the pace the emotions of seeing someone capture their dream was over whelming.  I could barely speak, I was clamping as loudly as I could and my hands hurt.  I felt like I was there with her.  In her moment.

When Shalane crossed the finish line of the NYC Marathon as the first US women’s champion in 40 years and with her first major marathon title…I could hardly speak and my wife asked.  “Are you crying…?”

Yes, I was choked up.  Yes, I had tears in my eyes.  And yes, I was so very happy for someone I have never met.   And in that moment is what makes running so much more than a hobby, a form of fitness, or even a sport.  The marathon reflects life….it will move you.  I may never win a marathon, but I do know what it is like to achieve a goal, to concur doubt, to overcome odds and to beat my own limitations.


Shalane did all that and made us proud, Congratulations!