Hoka Clifton after Race Review

After 19 Ridge Runs, the Hoka Clifton worked better for the Ridge Run than any other shoe I have used. That is right, on race day, I chose the Clifton over the Nike Wildhorse. Granted, the course surface conditions in 2015 were ideal – dry, but not so dry as to be dusty or loose and pebbly.

On the other hand, if the conditions were wet, muddy or snowy, they would have forced me to use a shoe with a more aggressive outsole and I would not be writing this.

My feet felt good the whole way – no blisters or battered toes. The Cliftons afford plush cushioning at the expense of a bit of performance, rebound and quickness. I did trip and took a hard fall once. Admittedly that was my fault, not the shoes. It occurred because I lost concentration thinking about how good things were going – irony.


The drawback of the Hoka Clifton, is that it is a fragile shoe. After a just a dozen or so training miles and the 20 miles in the Ridge Run, this pair is nearly trashed with limited life left in them. The rubber outsole pieces are already ripping off.

Hoka Clifton Rubber Outsole Ripping Off

Hoka Clifton Rubber Outsole Ripping Off

From past experience, gluing them back on is only a temporary fix. The welded overlays on the upper have also separated. The sole area that does not have the rubber pieces is chewed and shaved from rocks.

HHoka Clifton Sole after 20 mile Race

Hoka Clifton Sole after 20 mile Race

Deep cuts form in the sole where sharp rocks cut into the soft material. Perhaps the Challenger ATR trail version of the Clifton is more robust, but the rubber outsole pieces only cover the same area, however they stick out more on the ATRs and would probably catch and tear off even sooner than the Clifton’s.


There were a couple minor modifications I made to the shoes. In the heel area, I added a make shift rock plate. Fabricated out of a plastic Yogurt container, it fit in the shoe under the insole and was held in place with double sided tape.

Hoka Clifton with Rock Plate

Hoka Clifton with Rock Plate

In training, I noticed sharp rocks would poke me in the heel even through the thick Hoka sole. Right under the center of the heel, there is no rubber outsole and a cutaway yielding a less cushioned zone – see previous pictures. This makes the center of the heel a vulnerable spot. This thin piece of plastic as a rock plate worked perfectly.

Instead of the Hoka insoles, I used the insoles from my Nike Wildhorse shoes. The Nike insoles have a grippier surface preventing my foot from sliding in the shoe. I also added a partial insole under the metatarsals and arch to give my foot something to grip – Skecher Gorunerize .

Wish List

For smooth trails, the Hoka Clifton is a wonderful shoe just the way it is. For rocky and rugged conditions, it still works, but gets beat up quickly and has a couple vulnerabilities.

If I was to make a single change to the Clifton to make it more rock ready, I would add a thin rubber outsole with some small knobs that covered the whole bottom of the foot.

Nike Waffle Racer

Nike Waffle Racer

Think the old Nike Waffle Racer outsole. This might add a little weight, but it would prevent the need of adding a rock plate and it would add significant durability as there would be no individual rubber pieces on the sole to get ripped off.

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Top Shoe Picks for this Year’s 2015 Ridge Run

This summer, I have been doing my Ridge Run training in Hoka Cliftons and also in the Nike Wildhorse. Not sure yet which shoe will get picked for the actual race. Either one would make a good choice. The Cliftons are cushier and more forgiving then the Wildhorse on the rocky Ridge Run course. However, the Wildhorse is demonstrating more durability as the Cliftons are getting chewed up by the terrain. The Ginger Runner has some informative and entertaining reviews of the Clifton and Wildhorse. If you are looking for a running shoe, they are worth the time to view.

Clifton Review:


Clifton 2 Review: (Interesting the comment about the 2 being narrower. I saw this with a new pair of the originals compared to a used pair. After putting some miles in the new pair it eventually grew to match the old pair in width.)


Challenger ATR Review: (The trail version of the Clifton)




Wildhorse 2: (Out of the 3 versions of the Wildhorse the first is the best. You can still find them at some liquidators such as eBay for cheap)


Wildhorse 3:

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Hoka Clifton Running Shoe Review

Hoka One One got a lot of things right with the Clifton. In my experience, it is Hoka’s best shoe yet. For several years, I’ve been using Hokas for some (certainly not all) of my trail running. The Cliftons are a much different and better shoe then the Mafates and Bondis that I have used in the past. My only experience is using the Cliftons on trails, where they work really well. In my opinion, they would be a good shoe for the Bridger Ridge Run.

On the road or track, the Clifton feels mushy and unresponsive and I prefer other shoes.

What is so Good about the Hoka Clifton?

Light Weight

Without the insoles, a size 10 Clifton weighs 7.8 ounces for the right shoe and 8.1 ounces for the left. This is refreshingly light for such a cushioned shoe. Hoka’s quality control seems to be unable to match weights left to right as I have seen this in nearly all their shoes. Their heavier shoe models can have even more egregious asymmetries. A second pair of size 10s I own interestingly weighs the exactly same. 7.8 For the right and 8.1 for the left. At least there is consistency between pairs.

Hoka Clifton Mens 10 Right 7.8 Oz

Hoka Clifton Mens 10 Right 7.8 Oz

Hoka Clifton Mens 10 Left 8.1 Oz

Hoka Clifton Mens 10 Left 8.1 Oz


Compared to the say the Bondi B, the Clifton actually flexes at the ball of the foot. This is a welcome change from the board like feel of other Hoka and thick soled shoes. It helps relieve the pressure on the back of my heels when going uphill. After the steep terrain of the Bridger range, my feet are less beat up when using the Cliftons as compared to most other shoes.

Snug Fit

The fit is a bit narrow and snug. The narrowness is the source of complaints about the Cliftons that I have seen in other reviews. The upper is thin flexible and cloth like. For me, the compliant upper requires a snug narrow fit to keep the shoe from being sloppy. The combination works.


Although not as stiff and thick as other Hoka models, the Clifton still has a huge amount of padding in the sole and offers protection from all but the biggest baddest sharpest rocks. The thin upper doesn’t offer much shelter from rocks hitting the sides of your feet. Fortunately, I have not had any run ins in that regard.

Fairly Stable

Shoes with a thick sole like the Clifton scare me because they tend to be unstable and prone to ankle twists. The Clifton is more stable than I expected. Perhaps the soft flexible shoe adapts and conforms to uneven terrain, rocks and debris in the trail helping the stability.

Modifications I’ve Made:


The stock insoles are very thin. This makes them very lightweight at 0.4 ounces. A more typical insole is close to 1.0 ounce. They are so paper thin that they tend to shift and wrinkle. Hoka uses double sticky tape to try and keep them in place. My preference is for a more built up insole giving my foot something to grip so I replaced the insoles.

Hoka Clifton Thin Insoles with Tape

Hoka Clifton Thin Insoles with Tape


The Clifton’s tongue  is very thin offering little padding between the laces and instep of the foot. My remedy was to replace the stock round laces with some flat laces that spread out the pressure and are more comfortable.

Hoka Clifton Modified with Flat Laces

Hoka Clifton Modified with Flat Laces

Heel Loop

Perhaps the heel loop helps with putting the shoes on and off. It looks like a potential hazard to catch on a rock or debris so I cut them off.

Hoke Clifton Heel Strap

Hoke Clifton Heel Strap

The Clifton 2

When I heard that Hoka was replacing the Clifton with the Clifton 2, I went out and bought another pair of the original Cliftons. I’ve been burnt to many times by shoe manufactures that bring out a revision and change the shoe in a direction not to my liking. Even Hoka is guilty of this. For example, the orginal Bondi was a great shoe, but with every revision it seems to get worse; at least for me. Skechers has evolved the revolutionary GORun into an conventional (unremarkable) shoe as they revised it with the GORun 2, 3, and 4.

Now that the Clifton 2 is out, from what I hear, the only changes are to the upper – that it feels and performs the same. Good, I’ll be able to still get a shoe I like a year from now. The Clifton 2 has a beefier upper with more overlays and a thicker padding on the tongue. This added a bit of weight (about 1 ounce heavier), but it should make it more comfortable and protective.

Here is a recent review of the Clifton 2 and comparison to the original Clifton.

Does the Hoka Clifton Grows Wider with Use?

When I got my second pair of Cliftons, I noticed the new pair was significantly narrower than my old pair. They were the same size, the same color, from the same store (Schnees) and have the same manufacture code. They even weigh the exact same amount. So they should be identical. But the sole width on the old pair was a full half of an inch wider at the ball of the foot than the new pair.

Hoka Clifton Old Shoe Wider than New Shoe

Hoka Clifton Old Shoe Wider than New Shoe

Studying and inspecting the shoes for differences, I came to the conclusion that my old pair had squished out and widened with use. This is the only explanation that I can come up with. Has anyone else had this experience? They certainly have developed more of a pronounced rocker sole as compared to the new pair.

Hoka Clifton gets Rockered With Use

Hoka Clifton gets Rockered With Use

It was back last fall that I got my first pair. Since then, I have used them in 2 trail half marathons (Disco Dash, Arizona Trail), 2 trail 12Ks (Lewis and Clark, Prickly Pair) and have probably another 70 miles of trail running in them. I do not run on the roads or treadmill or track. They still feel great. In fact they feel softer, more comfortable and more stable than the new pair. I took the new pair out for a 7 mile trail run. They seemed to have widened a little. Perhaps the old pair is only 3/8 of an inch wider now. It will be interesting to see if they actually do grow with use and eventually match the width of my first pair. Maybe the runners that think the Clifton is too narrow, need to try a used pair that has been pre-squashed.

Hoka Clifton Used Left Wider than New Right

Hoka Clifton Used Left Wider than New Right

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Louis Zamperini Unbroken, Bob Hayes

Bob Hayes is the oldest person to have completed the Bridger Ridge Run. Bob is a World War II Veteran. Given that World War II ended 70 years ago, you figure Bob has to be at least in his late 80’s. As time has marched on recently, there are less and less World War II Veterans still alive let alone as active as Bob. Bob is still running strong – competing in many races every year.

Bob Hayes, Oldest and Youngest at John Colter Run 2014

Bob Hayes, Oldest and Youngest at John Colter Run 2014

He still demonstrates an infectious enthusiasm for participating in life. Besides his passion for running, you will find him dashing off after a run to make sure he gets back to the Missoula area in time to go dancing.

At 29 seconds into the following video, you catch a glimpse of Bob dancing across the screen left to right. Of course he is wearing a race t-shirt. In this case, a dark green long sleeve.

For the last 30 years, Bob with the help of his sons, has been hosting a race on his ranch in Evaro Montana. The Evaro Mountain Challenge. Some spring, find a reason to journey to Western Montana and check it out.

Over the years, I have had the honor to get acquainted with Bob. He was the minister at my most recent Wedding – a dozen or so years ago.

Bob Hayes as Minister at Wedding

Bob Hayes as Minister at Wedding

And nearly every year, I have had the good fortune to have been able to purchase from Bob some quality beef from his small herd of cattle.

Bob Hayes Kip Sikora Photo

Bob Hayes Kip Sikora Photo

So why am I writing this. As a reminder, that there are some treasures of humanity in this world, like Bob Hayes. Remember to take the time to appreciate and learn from them while you have the chance.

Louis Zamperini

Besides both being in World War II and runners, what does Louis Zamperini have to do with Bob Hayes. Well they kind of look alike, old Bob and Louis.

Bob Hayes

Bob Hayes

Louis Zamperini Photo Credit US Army

Louis Zamperini Photo Credit US Army

Louis Zamperini Photo Credit Peter Weber

Louis Zamperini Photo Credit Peter Weber

Unbroken: Great Book, Good Movie

But what inspired me to write this piece was Bob’s Christmas card from last year.

Bobs Christmas Card Front

Bobs Christmas Card Front

Bobs Christmas Card Back

Bobs Christmas Card Back

In it he mentioned the book “Unbroken” the biography of Louis Zamperini. Interestingly, I had just finished the book the day before I read Bob’s card. It is a tremendous book. Louis’ life and experiences are such a wonderful example of the human spirit’s will to live, endure, survive, fail, forgive and triumph over challenges. Running the Ridge and preparing for it are great exercises in endurance. Although compared to what Louis had to endure, Running the Ridge barely scratches the surface of the concept of endurance.

The movie Unbroken based upon the book came out last year. It is a good movie with beautiful cinematography, but it falls a little flat. It could have been a great movie. It could have been an inspiring timeless masterpiece. But it fails to capture the real essence of Louis and the transcendence of Louis’ spirit that got him through World War II and beyond. Unbroken the movie left out or treated lightly some of the most important aspects of Louis’ life. Such as Louis’ experiences of visions of the heavenly hosts, his bargaining with God and his promise to God if God helped him survive. It left out Louis’ conversion and miraculous healing of PTSD and alcoholism after the war and his act of forgiving his Japanese prison camp tormentors.


Scientific materialists get a little queasy when talking about God, spirit and the intangible. But it is these non-material spiritual aspects of life that give life depth, nuance, mystery and love. Without them, we are just biological robots, intelligent animals marching through a life that has no consequences beyond its limited physical existence.

There is much debate as to why Angelina Jolie left some of the spiritual parts of Louis’ story out of the movie, weakening its message. The standard explanation was the movie was limited in time and it just did not fit in. After preliminary screening of the movie with Louis right before Louis died, Angelina stated that “Louis was OK with leaving those parts out – if people wanted to know the whole story, they could read the book. This way, the movie was not preachy at all.”

For the most part, popular media and Hollywood prefer to ignore at best and ridicule at worst in its treatment of religion and spirituality – especially the Christian religion. So it is understandable that the movie makers of Unbroken chose to leave out some of Louis’ important spiritual experiences. Perhaps they thought it would have broader appeal and be less offensive to a secular audience. Unfortunately in doing so, they rendered the movie less impactful than the book.

A Chance Encounter with Louis Zamperini

A dozen years or so ago, I was in southern California visiting my youngest daughter. She was preparing to move to Hawaii to go live with her brother. If you are on a budget, you can’t take much with you when moving from the mainland to Hawaii. So one of the preparatory steps was to have a yard sale and sell as much of her stuff as possible. As I was standing around trying to be helpful and not look bored with the yard sale, I noticed an older gentleman who was out for a brisk walk. I could tell he was not interested in buying anything, but for some reason perhaps just curiosity as to what was going on, he saw the yard sale and zeroed in on me. Perhaps it was because I was the only “older” person there. Or maybe because he realized I was a peripheral part of the goings on and chatting up me would not take anyone responsible away from the sale proceedings.

Attracting the attention of strangers is not new to me. For some reason, from harmless panhandlers, to street wackos, to TSA agents, to muggers, to predatory kidnappers (yes) I seem to be the first to get singled out and attract attention. I’ve never figured out why. My looks, my size, my posture, my energy? Over the years, out of self-preservation, I have learned to be a bit guarded and distrusting of other people.

Anyway, this older gentleman came up to me and seemed fairly harmless so I was only partially guarded and skeptical of his intentions. His purposeful walk and his clothes betrayed the fact that he was not a street wacko or panhandler. He looked kind of like Bob Hayes. He asked what was going on and why the sale? I explained that my daughter was moving to Hawaii. She had an opportunity to live with her older brother. He was a Naval Aviator stationed in Kaneohe Hawaii. At the mention of this, you could see this guy’s thoughts sore off to other places and times. He opened up divulging that he was stationed in Hawaii during World War II and flew in B-24s. I said my step son flew P3s – a reconnaissance plane. He now introduced himself as Louis and said that his plane went down in the Pacific and he spent 47 days adrift in a life raft. It took me awhile to process the concept of being stuck in a life raft for 47 days and if it could be true. I don’t remember what I said in reply, probably something respectful but perhaps giving away a little bit of skepticism I had regarding this fact. Besides, he was an old man, a stranger, and perhaps senile? Out of his pocket he pulled out a piece of paper that had a short write-up of his World War II experience. I glanced at it, but did not read it till later. I wanted to keep my eyes on Louis.

I introduced him to my daughter explaining that Louis had been stationed in Hawaii during World War II and had survived 47 days adrift in a life raft after his plane went down in the pacific. She was distracted by customers at the yard sale, but did acknowledge that was an impressive accomplishment and she was moving to Hawaii. With that, Louis seemed satisfied and continued on with his walk.

Opportunity Lost – Remembering

That was the end of my chance encounter with Louis Zamperini. At the time, I did not know who he was, I was not a student of track and field pre-World War II. I was unfamiliar with the story of Louis Zamperini. That piece of paper got tucked away somewhere in my files. Over ten years would pass before I thought of that chance encounter again. Last spring, advertisements for the movie Unbroken and the whole surviving 47 days adrift in a raft story was brought to my attention. There was something familiar about the story – especially the part about surviving 47 days in a raft. My memory meeting Louis was triggered. We did not talk long at that yard sale. He did not mention his running, his prisoner of war experience, or his Christian conversion and ministry. All he mentioned was his surviving 47 days a drift. If I wasn’t so guarded and skeptical, perhaps I would have recognized what a gift that chance encounter was and spent a little time walking and talking with Louis Zamperini.

However humble or grand, everyone is special and has a story. You never know who or why you cross paths with someone. Don’t let any opportunity slip away.

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Bridger Ridge Run on Twitter as @BridgerRidgeRun #BridgerRidgeRun

If you use the micro blogging site twitter.com, follow @BridgerRidgeRun for timely updates about the race. Twitter is an efficient medium for short tidbits of information and calendar oriented updates. Note, the twitter handle is not case sensitive. On Twitter, bridgerridgerun is the same as BridgerRidgeRun.

This blog contains an archive of information and advice on the Ridge Run going back several years. It will be updated less frequently than the Twitter account, focusing on content instead of time oriented notices.

It would have saved some typing to use the BRR acronym on Twitter to refer to the Bridger Ridge Run. Unfortunately the handle @BRR was taken and people use the hash tag #BRR to indicate cold. So BridgerRidgeRun it is!

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How to Calibrate or Check Accuracy of a Treadmill

Do you ever run on a treadmill(s)? If you have had to the opportunity to run on various treadmills have you noticed that running at the same pace on certain treadmills feel easy while others made running feel much more difficult?

I own a treadmill that made running always feel more difficult than running at the exact same pace outdoors or on a different treadmill. At first, I thought it might be just the deck and the cushion or lack thereof that took more energy to run on. But my curiosity got the better of me and I thought I would check its accuracy to see if it perhaps was actually going faster than the control panel indicated. We tend to have blind faith that the speed readings on the control panel are correct, but are they?

Does it really matter how accurate a treadmill is? Yes.

If you are training for a specific goal and some of your training is on a treadmill, it is important to know exactly how fast you are running.

Following is a simple procedure I came up with to measure just how fast a treadmill is going as compared to the control panel read out. It is a non-intrusive process. It only takes a few minutes. If you run on a treadmill that you do not own, such as at a fitness center, I recommend you first tell the fitness center employees what you are doing.

Materials Needed

You need the following readily available materials:

  • Light Colored Tape (that sticks well to the treadmill belt, masking tape, white athletic tape)
  • Marking Pen
  • Tape Measure
  • An Accurate Stop Watch
  • Person to Count Belt Rotations
  • Your Brain (to do some simple math)
Materials Need for Treadmill Accuracy Check

Materials Need for Treadmill Accuracy Check

Step by Step Process

Put a strip of tape on the belt near the edge of the belt near the back of the treadmill. Label that tape strip 1.

Tape Strip 1

Tape Strip 1

Put a second strip of tape near the edge of the belt near the front of the treadmill. Label that tape strip 2.

Tape Strip 2

Tape Strip 2

Measure the distance between the leading edges of strip 1 and strip 2.

Tape Strip 1 and 2

Tape Strip 1 and 2

Measuring Between 1 and 2

Measuring Between 1 and 2

Measure from Leading Edge of Tape Strip

Measure from Leading Edge of Tape Strip

Measure to Leading Edge of Tape Strip

Measure to Leading Edge of Tape Strip

Rotate the belt until tape strip 2 moves to the back of the treadmill. Tape strip 1 will become hidden

Measure from Tape Strip 2 to 3

Measure from Tape Strip 2 to 3

Put a third strip of tape near the edge of the belt near the front of the treadmill. Label that tape strip 3.

Measure and record the distance between the leading edges of strip 2 and strip 3.

Measure from Tape Strip 2 to 3

Measure from Tape Strip 2 to 3

Rotate the belt until tape strip 3 moves to the back of the treadmill. Tape strip 1 will become visible near the front of the treadmill.

Measure the distance between the leading edges of strip 3 and strip 1.

Measure from Tape Step 3 to Tape Strip 1

Measure from Tape Step 3 to Tape Strip 1

Measure from Tape Step 3 to Tape Strip 1

Measure from Tape Step 3 to Tape Strip 1

Add the three measurements. This is the length of the treadmill belt.

Remove two out of the three of the tape strips from the surface of the belt.

Get on the treadmill and start running at the speed you wish to check.

Once the treadmill is up to steady speed, have the person who is your counter start the stop watch when they see the tape strip come around and become visible as the belt rotates.

The person doing the counting then counts rotations (each time the tape strip becomes visible) for at least one hundred rotations.

When the tape strip comes around and becomes visible for the 100dreth time, the counter stops the watch and records the time.

The distance traveled in the measured time is 100 rotations multiplied by the belt length.

The speed is distance traveled divided by the time.


My treadmill belt length is 138.5 inches. With a treadmill control console setting of 7.5 MPH (miles per hour) it took 1:42.56 (one minute, 42 and 56 hundredths seconds) for the belt to rotate 100 times.

This converts to a speed of 7.67 MPH or a pace of 7:49 per mile. This is actually 2.3% faster than then the treadmill display console stetting. So when this particular treadmill says you are running at 7.5 MPH you are actually running at 7.67 MPH.

Calculation details:


  • 1:42.56 = (60 seconds per minute * 1 minute) + 42.56 seconds = 102.56 seconds
  • 102.56 seconds = 102.56 / (60 seconds per minute) = 1.709 minutes
  • 1.709 minutes = 1.709 / (60 minutes per hour) = 0.02849 hours


  • 100 Belt Revolutions = 100 * 138.5 inches per revolution = 13850 inches
  • 13850 inches = 13850 inches / (12 inches per foot) = 1154 feet
  • 1154 feet = 1154 feet / (5280 feet per mile) = 0.2186 miles


  • 0.2186 miles / 0.02849 hours = 7.67 MPH


  • 7.67 MPH = 60 minutes per hour / 7.67 mile per hour = 7.82 minutes per mile
  • 7.82 minutes per mile = 7 minutes and (0.82 minutes * 60 seconds per minute) = 7:49 per mile


  • ( (7.67 – 7.5) / 7.5 ) * 100% = 2.3%

Other Speeds:

  • 5 MPH Treadmill Setting was actually 5.12 MPH yielding an error of 2.4%
  • 10 MPH Treadmill Setting was actually 10.22 MPH yielding an error  of 2.2%

In the case of this treadmill and given the three distances checked, the error appears to decrease as the speed increases. With some confidence you can conclude the error will be approximately 2.3% faster for treadmill speeds between 5 MPH and 10 MPH.


Once you figure out the error or correction between the actual speed and the display speed of the treadmill you can then set the speed to what is needed to achieve the desired speed.

Example :

With my treadmill, if I want to run at precisely 7.5 MPH or an 8 minute per mile pace, I actually need to set the console speed to:

7.5 * (1 – .023) = 7.5 * .973 = 7.3 MPH


The error between actual and the console display speed unfortunately is not the same for every speed setting. Other factors that can affect the error are the incline setting of the treadmill and the runner. Each runner will interact differently with the treadmill because of the weight and the way they run. As a general rule, the larger (heavier) the runner the more potential for the treadmill to slow down as the treadmill motor works harder. Also there is more potential for the belt to slip with a larger runner causing error. Other factors that can affect accuracy are the lubrication of the deck under the belt, and the stretching and wear of the belt with use.

Consequently, you pretty much have to do a calibration for each different runner and over various speeds and inclines. This is why you need to do the calibration with a person actually running on the treadmill. Just operating the treadmill unloaded with no runner stressing the machine cannot be trusted to yield accurate results.

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How to Run a 3 hour Marathon, a Just Enough Training Approach

Running a Marathon under 3 hours is a very respectable goal. As a benchmark, it indicates that as a runner you have at least a little talent and enough dedication to training and hard work to bring that talent out. There is even a blog, Cloud259.com, which has the sole purpose of helping people break 3 hours in the marathon. It is more than a few runners that are interested in breaking the 3 hour barrier for a marathon.

Why put this treatise on how to run a marathon in under 3 hours on a forum about the Bridger Ridge Run? In my experience, if you can run a standard marathon in under 3 hours, you are capable of running the Ridge Run under 4 hours. See the post on how to estimate your Ridge Run Finish Time.  A sub 4 hour Ridge Run garners a heck of a lot of respect in the local community.

After many failed personal attempts at trying to break 3 hours in the Marathon using various training plans, I finally succeed by focusing on the bare essentials. My purpose in writing this post is to share what worked for me. Consider the plan presented here a “Just Enough Training Approach“. No more, no less than what is required to attain the goal.

When I finally broke 3 hours for a marathon, I was nearly 50 years old and injury prone. My training approach was to train just hard enough to be able to run a 3 hour marathon, but not train so hard that I got injured. A delicate razors edge balance between training and recovering to avoid injury. I stripped out all running and training that was not exactly specific to the goal of running a 3 hour marathon. In the end, I realized, I needed only three different focused workouts a week, affording lots of recovery days.

A Sub 3 Hour Marathon is a “Local Class” Time

3 hours for a marathon is certainly not a “world” class time, but it is a “local class” time and an ambitious goal. If you can run a marathon under 3 hours, your local community will consider you a darn good marathon runner – not a world beater, but worthy of respect.

Just for fun, below is a list of some handy, but nonbinding, definitions of the notion of athletic class in regards to marathon ability. Notice there is a 15 minute shift between Men’s and Women’s times for the same notion of class. There is also a 15 minute decrease in marathon time as the notion of class widens from Local to Regional to National finally to World Class. The concept of National and World Class is easy to define by well-defined spatial boundaries. Local and Regional are a bit harder to pin down as their spatial boundaries depend on notions of population groups and what geographic area you are referencing. For the United States, you could consider local as a city or town and regional as a state, a large city or large portion of a state.

Class                Time Men       Time Women

  • Local                3:00                 3:15
  • Regional          2:45                 3:00
  • National          2:30                 2:45
  • World              2:15                 2:30

Prerequisites before you Attempt this Training Plan

Obviously not just anyone can run a marathon under 3 hours no matter how hard or long they train. There is a certain amount of running talent and experience that is required. Here are the two prerequisites that must be in place before you attempt to train for a sub 3 hour marathon.

1. You must be able to run a 5K in under 19 minutes

2. You must have a base of consistent endurance training (running) of at least 3 to 4 hours a week for at least the past year.

The 5K is the measure of your speed, cardio vascular ability or engine. The training history indicates your body is adapted to the long term rigors of endurance training. If you do not have these two prerequisites in place, then work on them first before you embark on training for a sub 3 hour marathon.

The Three Essential Workouts

The training plan I am going to detail here is very simple, boring and repetitive. But if you stick to it, it works. It consists of just three different training sessions (workouts) each week carried out over 14 weeks. The 3 training sessions are the same throughout the 14 week duration of the plan. The only thing that changes week to week is the duration of the individual sessions. The training paces remain the same throughout the 14 weeks. A significant portion of the training is at goal marathon pace. If there is a magic formula to running a 3 hour marathon, it is to do a lot of running at the pace needed to run a 3 hour marathon. Specificity is the key to success.

The 3 different training sessions are spaced out throughout the week. You never do training on back to back days. The rest day(s) between sessions gives your body a chance to recover, rebuild and adapt to the training. Training breaks your body down, resting gives it the chance to recover, heal and become stronger. The ideal and most symmetrical workout schedule is training on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Recovery takes place on Tuesday, Thursday and the Weekend (Saturday Sunday). Later on, I will discuss what to do and what not to do on the rest and recovery days.

Remember the Rules:

  • Only Three Days of Training per Week
  • No Back to Back Training Days
  • Other than Changes in Duration, The Workouts remain the same throughout the 14 week Plan

What are the three training sessions or essential workouts?

  • Workout 1 is a tempo run at marathon race pace, MP (Monday)
  • Workout 2 is Yasso 800s (Wednesday)
  • Workout 3 is a long easy run finishing with some marathon pace, MP, running (Friday).

Let’s define each of the three different weekly sessions or workouts in detail.

Workout 1 Tempo Run at Marathon Pace (Monday)

This is the simplest workout of the three. All you do is go out and run at your marathon pace. The only variable is how far you run. The goal of this workout is to get you very familiar, comfortable and efficient running at marathon goal pace. Marathon pace will become a like an old friend. Eventually your body will naturally gravitate to this pace even when you are tired.

Choosing Marathon Pace

In regards to Marathon Pace, a 3 hour marathon equates to a 6:52 mile pace. Obviously, to run under 3 hours you must run at an average pace faster than this. So how much faster should you choose for your training? I recommend a marathon pace for training of 6:40. Six minutes forty seconds per mile. This is equivalent to the nice round number of 9 miles per hour. A 6:40 mile pace for a marathon yields a 2:54:40 marathon; a time with a 5 minute cushion under 3 hours. Factoring in the slowdowns at aid stations, negotiating turns, traffic, clothing drops, etc. this is a reasonable cushion.

Commit it to Memory:

  • Marathon Pace for Sub 3 Hour Marathon is 6:40 per Mile, 9 Miles per Hour

How far to Run

This program consists of a 10 week build up and a 4 week taper. Week 1 you will run 3 miles at MP. During the buildup, each week add 1 mile. The length of this run peaks in Week 10 at 12 miles (1 hour 20 minutes). During the taper, each week shorten the workout by 2 miles. During Race Week (Week 14) this workout is only 4 miles.

Week   Distance          Time

  • 1          3                      20:00
  • 2          4                      26:40
  • 3          5                      33:20
  • 4          6                      40:00
  • 5          7                      46:40
  • 6          8                      53:20
  • 7          9                      1:00:00
  • 8          10                    1:06:40
  • 9          11                    1:13:20
  • 10        12                    1:20:00
  • 11        10                    1:06:40
  • 12        8                      53:20
  • 13        6                      40:00
  • 14        4                      26:40

How to Warm-Up for Marathon Pace Tempo Run

The warm-up for this workout will be the exact same warm-up as you foresee you will use on race day. The idea is to simulate race day with a minimal duration warm-up and to jump right into running at marathon race pace. The warm-up consists of strides, skips, dynamic movements and some plyometric movements. Just enough movement to loosen you up, get the blood moving, wake up the muscles. Figure about 10 to 15 minutes of movement for this warm-up. Static stretching does not warm-up the body and loosen you up and is not a part of this warm-up.

Another trick to simulate race day, is to schedule this workout to start at the same time of day as your chosen race. It conditions your body to perform under the same conditions and time of day as the race. If this is not convenient, at least do it for the last couple weeks before the race.

Think of this workout (with the warm-up) as a dress rehearsal for race day.

The idea is to find yourself at the starting line on race day, confident, relaxed and ready to perform.

Workout 2 Yasso 800s (Wednesdays)

This workout is simple 800 meter (half mile) intervals or repeats at your 5K race pace. The recovery between each is the same time as the interval. This workout builds strength and cardiovascular capacity. It consists of hard fast running and will make your marathon pace running seem easy.

Take your marathon time (in this case 3 hours) and call the hours minutes and the minutes seconds (3 hours results in 3 minutes). This formula will yield an 800 meter or half mile time that is essentially your 5K race pace. This formula works just as well for a 2:10 marathoner as a 4 hour marathoner.

For a 3 hour marathon, your 800 meter time will be 3 minutes. The recovery time between intervals will also be 3 minutes. On a 400 meter track, you will run 2 laps in 3 minutes. Then easy run 1 lap in 3 minutes for your recovery (6 minutes total). Repeat this.

Over the 14 week duration of this training program, you will start at 2 repeats and build to a max of 10 at week 9 and 10. You will then decrease the number of repeats by 2 each week until you do just 2 the last week before the race.

Week   Number of Repeats     Time

  • 1          2                                  12:00
  • 2          3                                  18:00
  • 3          4                                  24:00
  • 4          5                                  30:00
  • 5          6                                  36:00
  • 6          7                                  42:00
  • 7          8                                  48:00
  • 8          9                                  54:00
  • 9          10                                60:00
  • 10        10                                60:00
  • 11        8                                  48:00
  • 12        6                                  36:00
  • 13        4                                  24:00
  • 14        2                                  12:00

It is important to be well warmed up for this workout. Use a two mile easy run, followed by some dynamic movements like skips, plyometrics etc. Take at least 20 minutes to warm-up well. This workout is short enough that you will not need to do any fueling until after you complete it.

If you want to learn more about Yasso 800’s and hear marathon training advice from Bart Yasso himself, check out this interview. This Coach Jay Johnson interview of Bart Yasso is loaded with sage advice and training tidbits. It is pure marathon preparation gold.

Workout 3 Long Easy Run finishing with some Marathon Pace Running (Fridays)

This workout consists of a long run at a very easy pace followed by some running at marathon pace at the end of the run. The idea is to develop the ability to run at marathon pace when you are tired and have been on your feet for a long time.

The easy running portion needs to be between one and a half hours and two hours in duration. The pace is very easy. No faster than 8 minutes per mile. 9 to 12 minutes per mile is ideal. Even some fast hiking on hills at 15 minutes per mile is okay. The goal is to be on your feet moving for 1.5 to 2 hours to deplete your energy, but at an easy pace that does not beat you up. The actual distance traveled and pace is not important. The total time spent moving is important.

The marathon pace portion begins right after you finish the easy running portion. The duration begins at 1 mile the first week, increases 1 mile each week building up to 6 miles (40:00) by week 6. It then stays at 6 miles until week 13. The last week, race week, it drops it 4 miles. The length of the easy running portion decreases during the last 4 weeks of the program and is eliminated the last week of the program.

Week   Long Easy Time           MP Distance    MP Time         Total Time

  • 1          1:30:00                        1                      6:40                 1:36:40
  • 2          1:30:00                        2                      13:20               1:43:20
  • 3          1:40:00                        3                      20:00               2:00:00
  • 4          1:40:00                        4                      26:40               2:06:40
  • 5          1:50:00                        5                      33:20               2:22:20
  • 6          1:50:00                        6                      40:00               2:30:00
  • 7          2:00:00                        6                      40:00               2:40:00
  • 8          2:00:00                        6                      40:00               2:40:00
  • 9          2:00:00                        6                      40:00               2:40:00
  • 10        2:00:00                        6                      40:00               2:30:00
  • 11        1:40:00                        6                      40:00               2:20:00
  • 12        1:20:00                        6                      40:00               2:10:00
  • 13        1:00:00                        6                      40:00               40:00
  • 14        0                                  4                      40:00               40:00

No warm-up is needed for this workout. Consider the long easy run a long warm-up. The last week, week 14, this workout becomes identical as the temp marathon pace workout, so practice the race day warm-up just like the session.

This workout is long enough that you will need to hydrate and fuel during the workout. I recommend that you just drink water during long easy portion. Then after a mile into the marathon pace portion, you can start taking in calories if needed to avoid bonking. Take in enough calories to avoid slowing down and not being able to maintain marathon pace. The purpose of not taking in calories during the easy portion is to condition your body to use stored fat as a fuel and spare glycogen (muscle sugar). The idea is to avoid the adrenalin response to stress associated with fast running that kicks you into using muscle sugar (glycogen) instead of fat.

Workout Recap

This program consists of 3 different workouts each week over a 14 week period. The first 10 weeks are a gradual build up. The last 4 weeks are a fairly steep taper. The total training time begins at about 2 and a half hours of training the first week, peaks at just over 5 hours at weeks 9 and 10 and tapers back to under 2 hours for week 14, the week of the race.

Other Recommendations

There are many other important topics for running a successful marathon – such as fueling, activity on recovery days, choosing a marathon, what to wear. There can be a lot of variation of personal preferences on these subjects. I’ll just give a few brief recommendations based on my preferences and experiences.


Running a marathon at your full potential requires adequate hydration and fueling. During the race, strive to take in 16 to 24 ounces of liquid each hour. Obviously, drink more on hot days, less on cold days. Your drink should also contain enough fuel so that you will get 100 to 200 calories per hour. My preference is to have my fuel in my drink as that is an easier way to get my calories than eating a gel or food.

Drinking and fueling efficiently (time wise) requires practice. Personally, I gave up trying to get enough water or sports drink from cups at aid stations. I find it nearly impossible to drink enough from a cup while running. Notice that the top runners that get special treatment at big city marathons have their own fuel and hydration bottles pre stashed at aid station. If they grab a paper cup of water, it is usually to dump it on their head to cool off. As a general population runner, you can’t expect to have your own bottles waiting for you at every aid station. So what can you do? I recommend that you carry a small 10 to 16oz water bottle the entire race and drink on the run. You will need to stop and refill it every half hour or so at aid stations. You can either carry it on a waist belt or try one of the hook shaped bottles that you tuck into your running shorts.

Hook Style Water Bottle

Hook Style Water Bottle

What to do on the Rest Days, Tuesday, Thursday and Weekend (Saturday, Sunday)

Rest days are for letting the body recover and adapt to the training. These are low stress days. This does not mean just sitting around doing nothing. The body needs to move every day. Just don’t stress the body with too much challenging activity, especially running. Moderate walking, hiking, biking, yoga, golfing, swimming, dancing even a little weight training and stretching are appropriate as long as you do not beat yourself up. The three training days a week will already beat you up enough. You don’t need any more stress. If you do run on the rest days, run very easy on trails and soft surfaces. This means avoid the track, treadmills and roads.

Using this Program for Goal Times other than 3 Hours

You can adopt this program easily to other marathon goal times. All you have to do is change your marathon goal pace and your 800 meter interval times. For example, if your goal is to run a sub 4 hour marathon use 9:00 per mile. Run your 800 meter intervals in 4:00 with a 4:00 recovery. Everything else remains the same. Since you will be running slower, you will actually spend more time on your feet running during the workouts, but you will cover the same distances.

What Marathon to Enter

  • Pick a well-established marathon that has the basic amenities.
  • It is essential to have an accurate certified course with all the miles marked accurately. Pace teams are a nice bonus.
  • Choose a venue that is flat and low elevation. Pick one that has a history of cool and dry weather conditions.
  • Avoid marathons with gimmicky sales pitches such as a fast downhill course, scenic, winding, undulating, part trail, etc.

Meeting these requirements usually means a fairly large city Marathon such as Chicago, Houston, Portland. Some well-known marathons such as New York and Boston have a reputation for being challenging producing slower times. They may not be the best choice for trying to hit a goal time. Do a bit of research and Internet searching for a marathon that has a reputation for fast times and reliable weather conditions.

Doing a quick search for a flat, fast, cool, sea level marathon turned up this possible candidate that I was unaware of. Newport Marathon in Oregon. I’m sure there are plenty others.

Newport Marathon, Newport Oregon

Newport Marathon, Newport Oregon



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