8 Reasons A Sub 220 Marathon Is Possible


12 week half marathon planSub 2:20 marathon

I wish I would have read a post like this back in 2002.  I AM telling you that breaking a 2.20 marathon is possible for anyone with a limited amount of ‘talent’.

I debuted with a 2.43.36 marathon at the 2002 New York City Marathon. I didn’t improve my time until five years later at the 2007 Grandmas Marathon where I ran a 2.40.02 (after a 1.10 opening first half!). I am going to be listing 8 reasons why I ran over 20 minutes faster for the distance by the end of that year.

It is vital you take this to heart because more often then not, you are going to face opposition pulling against your well-intentioned goals.

#1 If I Can Do It, So You Can You

It is an elusive goal for many runners but far too often we quit or lose confidence when we don’t meet our objectives soon enough.

The key for you to run faster is your willingness to get out of your normal way of thinking.

Who cares if someone thinks you are not capable of running a dream time.

The great billy mills said it best:

The subconscious mind cannot tell the difference between reality, or imagination.

Billy has always been a hero to me because he was not only a great athlete, but also good person who endured the hard training and in the end won a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics. He wrote a great book called Lessons of Lakota worth reading.

I have attached a great video that may add further detail for this post.

I did not have a great deal of talent or ability but was crazy enough to train and put in the work and trust me, I am no better than you. 

#2 Your Motivated

This is the key way you are going to get a time like this. I am not going to pretend that a marathon time under the 2.20 barrier will be a walk in the park

It is an extremely difficult thing to do. In 2007 I was only one of 63 men who broke the time in the entire nation, considering we live in a country of over 360 million the task isn’t easy.

In college I would not even have told you I would have broken 2.20. The marathon was not an event I ever thought I would ever run but breaking that time barrier was achievable in my mind long ago.

I had only run 15.19 for 5000m in college but I loved the sport too much to give up my dreams of running a highly competitive time. I was willing to make that sacrifice. If you are visiting this site you are already highly motivated to learn.

This is the probably the best reason you can run a fast marathon time.

Your motivation level has to be through the roof if you are to attack the time but it IS possible and CAN be done and I know you are capable of it.

#3 It Is Consistently Done Every Year

You have to get in the level of thinking that others running faster than you possess. Don’t give me this ‘Well, other runners are more talented than me’.

I don’t want to hear it.

I didn’t follow the status quo of placing limits on myself and neither should you. The guys out there breaking the 2.20 barrier want it.

They do the work and understand what type of energy that is required to get a time like that. They are no different than you. I have known countless runners who were FAR more ‘talented’ than me who never broke the time.

I’m sorry but I’ll never believe it is solely a ‘talent’ issue to run a great marathon time. Heart and attitude are far more lethal. If you take those two characteristics, that you already possess, you are already well on your way to achieving that standard.

According to USA Track and Field, 50 men broke the 2.20.00 barrier at the 2012 USA Olympic Marathon Trials. This is just one race as it took a time of 2.19.00 to qualify for the 2012 US Olympic Trials.

In 2007, the standard was either 2.20.00 (“A” standard, USATF pays for flight/hotel to Trials) or the 2.22.00 “B” standard time (you payed your own way but qualified for the 2008 Trials).

If others are doing it, what is stopping you from doing the same. If you are slower than a 2.40’s marathoner continue to read, there is something further down for you too.

#4 Because Negativity Will Make You More Determined To Do It

If you are like me and like to be told you can’t do something, than a little negativity will go a long way in getting you to the finish line with a time under 2.20.00. I was told by a prominent elite American marathoner that I should quit.

This was while I was still a 2.43 marathoner. He respected my work ethic but never thought I was capable of running anything remotely close to the 2008 US Olympic Trials “B” standard time, which at that time, was 2.22.00.

This was 21 minutes faster than I had ever run for the distance. I don’t necessarily blame him for his remark in that, at the time, I was nowhere close to that time.

It is a tough thing to do to drop that much time for 26.2 miles but it fired me up and I knew in my heart I was capable of doing it. You have to take negative comments and use them as fuel.

Think of what happens to most who do the opposite and choose to listen to the ‘experts’ who seem to know us best. They never achieve what they dreamt of. Revolve your thoughts around positivity.

Think of all the hardships the great Kenyan athletes have had to endure to. They are hungry, they want it.

You have to have that same tenacity in your own training. It is your ticket to a sub 2.20.00 time. I can assure of that.

#5 Faith

I will never hide my Christian faith and can surely say that running 2.19 was, what I consider, a blessing from God.

Whatever your faith, believing in the power of God, who gave you your body and mind, is far more powerful and knows your true potential and can do exceedingly and abundantly more then you could ever hope for or ask.

I have attached a video of Matthew West’s song ‘The Motions’.

Sometimes we find out our true capabilities from focusing on our faith and I can tell you from experience, training over the years in hail storms and every other weather condition imaginable and failing far more times than succeeded in marathons, my faith assisted me in taking down the 2.20 marathon barrier.

I am no different then you. We both have faith in either ourselves or a higher power and this is the lethal tool in getting your time down to places you do not think are possible.

With man this is impossible, not with God, ALL things are possible with God-Mark 10:27

#6 Because Running Faster, A Step At A Time, Will Eventually Bring You Under The 2.20 Barrier

I won’t send sunshine your way and tell you it is all rosy and it will be a walk in the park to earn a time like 2.19.59. Expect tests and trials.

What I will tell you is if you are willing to accept small increments of improvement along the journey. See yourself dropping a few seconds or minutes here and there, the more attainable it will be.

mIn my case, it took years to get under 2.20. It may come faster to you, possibly MUCH faster. My teammate while with the Army World Class Athlete Program.

Kenny Foster, came to the program, like I did, on conditional status. We both did not belong in an elite unit like that early on. Kenny was a much better marathoner coming into the program than I ever was. He had a 2.29.59 personal best that he ran at the Marine Corps Marathon (in comparison I was only a 2.43.36 marathoner with a 51.51 10-mile best).

He was accepted in mid 2009 and just recently broke the 2.20 barrier at the 2011 California International Marathon in December finishing with a time of 2.19.49 and narrowly missed qualifying for the 2012 US Olympic Marathon Trials.

We both had MANY trials, successes and failures along the way, before we ever ran remotely close to a time like that.

The training, the races along the way, slowly but surely, got us into good enough shape to do it. The same goes for you. You have to take your improvements and use that to fuel your goal-setting engine.

It is an extremely difficult time to run but your willingness to focus shows me already you are capable of a time as fast, or even faster, than we have run.

#7 2.43 to 2.19 motivate you? How about 3.30’s to 2.29!

I am stating this as a reason you can run under 2.20 as well. Why? If someone can go from running in the 3.30’s for the marathon and run a 2.29 time you can too. My friend, Justin Mock did just that.

Boulderrunning did a great write up on him in as he finished as the top American at the 2010 London Marathon with a 14 minute personal best time of 2.29.59.

You can read his interview here Justin continues to inspire me to this day because I know of his background and how much he has improved.

Many of you are in the same ability level currently as he was or is. You could possibly be much faster. All the more reason to believe breaking the 2.20 barrier is within reach.

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think of these things- Phillipians 4:8

#8 The Time You Spend Thinking About It Can Assist You In Doing It

I have been fascinated with how our thoughts affect athletic performance. I have bought countless books over the years on sport psychology and books related to mental training that helped me on the path to breaking 2.20.

One of those books was The Power of Your Subconscious Mind by Joseph Murray. This is really a great book to reference. Think about Roger Bannister, first man to break the 4-minute mile. How many people thought it was impossible before he did it.

How many men broke that time after he had run that beautiful finish time of 3.59? It was no longer an impossible barrier. It WAS a psychological barrier that needed to be overcome.  

What I have tried to do with this post is simply to make you think. Breaking 2.20 for the marathon doesn’t have to be a time that only ‘talented’ runners do.

Who is stopping you from running that time? No one can. That is a beautiful thing.

You are in control. Your goal may not be to break 2.20 for the classic 26.2 mile distance and that is totally OK. You can still take something from this post and use it for other races. What is your goal for the 5K? 20:00? 18:00? 15:00?

I can tell you that more than likely, whatever goal you have set for yourself, you are capable of performing at even a higher level than you can imagine.

Here is Joseph Murray’s story. Think about it.

Philippus Paracelsus, a famous Swiss alchemist and physician, who lived from 1493 to 1541, stated what is now an obvious scientific fact when he said,

Whether the object of your faith be real or false, you will nevertheless obtain the same effects. Thus, if I believed in Saint Peter’s statue as I should have believed in Saint Peter himself, I shall obtain the same effects that I should have obtained from Saint Peter. But that is superstition., Faith, however, produces miracles; and whether it is true or false faith, it will always produce the same wonders.

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