4:30 or Bust: A Quest for Marathon Mediocrity


It all started back in 1994.  At the time, I lived on the upper east side in Manhattan, just off 1st Ave.  I jogged recreationally in college and continued to do so after graduation.  It seemed like a good way to stay active.  So, of course, when the New York City Marathon came around, I went out to watch.

I’ve seen the marathon on TV before, but on the TV, they only focused on, or I only really noticed, the contenders, those really fast runners.  When I watched that first marathon in person, on 1st Ave, I was struck by how many normal people actually were running the thing.  Fat, skinny, tall, short, young, old – they were all represented.  And crazily enough, it looked like they were having fun!  If they could do it, certainly I could too.

As a spectator, back in 1994, I was curious to know what it would take to finish in the first half of the field.  That would really be an accomplishment, to finish within the 50th percentile.  In 1994, that median finishing time was 4:17:57.  I had no chance then – I was just starting out.  Interestingly enough, that median time has gotten slower in the subsequent years, as more, presumably slower, runners have joined the ranks.  In this past marathon, 2007, the median was 4:23:39.

1994 – 14867 out of 29735 – Joaquin Demonet Hetland – Age 30 – Mexico – 4:17:57.
2007 – 19303 out of 38607 – Martine Planchon – Age 55 – France – 4:23:39

I’m not exactly sure why I fixated on 4:30.  I figured once I hit 4:30, then it would be an easy jump to get to that next step, the 50th percentile.  But one step at a time.

Fast forward to 1996.  I successfully ran my first!  5:27:31.  For a first attempt, this was awesome.  Even though I was pretty thoroughly injured and did not run much in 1997, I was right back at it in 1998.  By 2000, I got my time down to 4:50:18 (net time – more on that another day).   I was home free – 4:30 here I come.  Well, after several marathons later (8 in total), I still haven’t gotten there.  My last attempt was 4:51:43, not much of an improvement, eh.

So, this year, I am determined!  This will be the year I finish in 4:30.  And my trials and tribulations will be noted here!

UPDATE: With a 4:31:25 in the New York City Marathon, my quest continues.  Close, but not good enough!  My next attempt will be Feb 15, 2009 in Austin, TX…

UPDATE2: Busted 4:30:00, with a 4:22:18 showing at the Austin Marathon.  Currently trying to decide if I should change the name of my blog and what my next major milestone is.


Written by SCL

March 14, 2008 at 2:46 am

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