Coriander’s 2013 Goal: Running a Sub-4 Marathon

All smiles after setting a 19-minute marathon PR at Akron! Imagine how excited I’ll look when I shave 11-plus minutes off that PR!

I started running three and a half years ago. In that time I’ve run tons of races, ran longer and longer and gotten so much faster than when I started. As one of Salty Running’s resident ultrarunners, most of my 2013 goals naturally have to do with running further. But there’s one running milestone that I’ve always wanted to achieve: run a sub-4 marathon.

2013 is the year for a Coriander marathon finishing beginning with a 3! Here’s why.


2012 was a great year for my running career, but otherwise, I am glad we’re finally saying goodbye to it. It was one of the hardest years of my life as for the majority of the year, my boyfriend was stationed in South Korea for his last year as an active-duty Army officer. The more I look back on it, the more I’m starting to realize the direct effect his deployment had on my running. It seems crazy, but his absence affected everything from what races I chose to run to the time goals I set for myself. Shortly after he left, I ran my first ultra and decided I should go farther and train for 50 mile and 100K races. I threw myself into training as miles on the road and trails and time spent on my yoga mat were the only ways I knew to cope with the way I was feeling about life and him being away.

I peppered my training for my first 50 mile race with a lot of shorter tune-up races: one 50K, three marathons and one half marathon. The half was the Capital City Half in Columbus, the day before I ran the Flying Pig Marathon in Cincinnati. I ran the Cleveland Marathon a few weeks later and finally set a marathon PR: 4:30:02. A 34-second PR at one of the hottest spring marathons. These tune-up races were all within a 3 week span!

I’ll admit now that I was probably overtraining and was very burnt out after the 50 miler last June. ย So much so, my 100K training didn’t get off to a great start. I only ran two races while training for Oil Creek: a 50K and the Akron Marathon. I PR’ed the marathon at Akron and ran a 4:11. It felt easy and was for sure, the best marathon I’ve ran so far.

My boyfriend and me after the 2011 Chicago Marathon, a few weeks before he left for South Korea for 11 months.

But I wasn’t working at it. I never do speed work and just kind of run however many miles I feel like or have time for that day. In 2013, I want to give training some real effort and make those miles more than just time on my feet for a 100 miler. Running a sub 4:00 has always been my marathon goal since before I ran my first half and it’s something I know I can do if I put in the work. I have a huge spring training season planned with my Grand Canyon trip and first 100 miler. I’m targeting a fall marathon to really put the work into. I want to actually do speed workouts twice a week instead of just saying I’ll do it. I want to run my longer runs at a harder pace and push myself just a little harder. I need more quality out of my running, not just quantity. As of now, I’m not sure which marathon yet, but I’m hoping for a year filled with fun and speed. I’m really looking forward to running because I love to do it, not because I’m running away from my problems.


Anyone else looking to go sub-4 this year? If you’ve already achieved the sub-4 goal, have any advice?ย 

Trail and 100 mile ultra runner who still loves a good road marathon every now and then. Lifetime Northeast Ohio resident that dreams of the mountains out west, but loves CLE too much. Sometimes a vegan, sometimes does yoga, always loves a good craft beer and post race donuts.

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  1. Awesome – good luck! Do know what plan you are following? I like the plans in the Pfitzinger Avanced Marathoning book and I’ve heard the Hansen’s new book is good. To maximize your likelihood of success, I would read up on the various types of speed work and add them strategically in your training. Plans vary, but usually you do tempo work for one cycle, VO2Max work (fast stuff) during another cycle and marathon pace miles at various times.

  2. Good luck! I just broke the 4 hour mark a couple of months ago using the Own It plan from TLAM. My first time (consistently) doing speedwork training for a full and my highest mileage cycle so far. I did 2 20 milers and one 21 miler.

    I have faith that you can do it!

  3. Good luck with your goal! I would also like to break the 4 hour mark this year. It would be a big jump for me but it’s been over 2 years since my last one, so I think it may be achievable. I think the biggest key to success is finding out what works for you– everyone is a bit different and we all respond to different training in slightly different ways. I have been training for shorter races the past 2 years and have been able to figure out what works for me training for those distances– hopefully it will carry through to the marathon.

    1. Thanks Meaghan! My spring training is definitely going to be a lot of trial and error with speed workouts to find what works and what doesn’t and what I can stick to. Good luck with your training this year!

  4. Coriander, good luck with the goal. I hadn’t heard of the Advanced Marathoning book Mint suggested. I may check it out.

    I have been using the Hanson’s Less is More Plan, making a few adaptations of my own.

      1. I used the Hansons half plan two years ago and really liked it. I worked on my training plan for the next few months today and added in some of their speed workouts!

    1. Yes, I’ve used it in preparation for 3 marathon. I find the Speed & Strength sessions are a good indicator of how close I will come to holding my goal pace and whether I need to make some adjustments. Even though the plan has a 16 mile long run as the maximum, I still do at least two 20 or 22 mile runs with friends who are roughly in the same training cycle.

      1. Thanks for the feedback. I need to check it out. I know my coach incorporates a bunch of their principles into my training, but frankly don’t know enough about it. I too do at least 2 20 -23 mile runs too (usually on my own though).

  5. I can’t imagine how hard it would be to be without your significant other for 11 months (especially all the way in South Korea)! I know that I use running to deal with stressful times in my life too, but I definitely need to remember to not overuse it so I get overtrained. I am confident a sub-4 is in your this year!

  6. Good luck Coriander! That is my 2013 goal as well. I was super pumped after a great Columbus Half so I used the rest of the fall to work on my base and I’m currently following a base Hanson marathon plan from Jeff Gaudette. That plan ends in February, after a trail race series and I’ll most likely pick up the TLAM Own it plan to get me through to the Flying Pig in May. I don’t think Sub-4 is too much of a stretch for my first full, but I always aim high and don’t let myself get too disappointed if I fall too far from that mark.

    I know exactly how it is to throw yourself into running in order to get away from loneliness and stress. I did that when I became a single mother. Your blog and your posts on Salty are very inspirational. I know you will achieve your goal ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Hi! I just came across your site by googling sub 4 marathons. We are both in similar situations! My current PR is 4:13 and I just did my first ultra too! I would also like to do more speedwork because I have a good running base mileage already, very good with endurance. I also started pushing the pace on my long runs. I’d love to follow you on your quest for Sub 4 this year! I think it’s within reach ffor you! ๐Ÿ™‚