That unicorn for amateur runners, the four-hour marathon, eluded me by 70
seconds in my first road race. That was spring 2009, the Martian Marathon in Dearborn, Mich..
Two and a half years later, I attempted to break four hours again in the
2011 Detroit Free Press Marathon. Missed
it by almost three minutes.
Lots of factors contributed to these near misses: rookie marathon training
mistakes, going out too fast, not fueling properly, cramps. But I want to
focus on, and celebrate, one factor that is so simple but took me several
marathons to do anything about.
During my first two road races, I stopped to tie my shoes. During the
Detroit Marathon, it was around mile 3. During the Martian Marathon, around
mile 18. It seems so elemental, but since I’ve gone completely elastic.
But all of these lace “systems” boil down to elastic laces in lieu of
standard ones, and a plastic cinch that tightens them on.
They never come untied. I slip the shoes on and off without even adjusting
the cinch. Once I get the laces in, they help the shoe form to the foot. I
recommend them for any and every runner. Forget trying to find a way to
tie your shoes that won’t come undone. I’ve tried several lace-tying hacks.
Get lazy. Go elastic.
Now, these laces didn’t send me below the four-hour mark. No one factor
did. But think about it. Tying your shoes at mile 3 probably takes a good
20 seconds. Tying your shoes at mile 18? At least twice that. Hell, I
dropped a water bottle around mile 20 of the Detroit Marathon and almost
left it because I might not have gotten back up after crouching to retrieve
I did finally break four hours, in the Bayshore Marathon up in Traverse City, Mich, this last May.
I did better than I thought I ever would. It was a great, cool day. The
course was perfect. I trained well but didn’t stress about it. My fueling
was spot on. I hit the potties at the turnaround, but otherwise didn’t stop
until the aid station around mile 18. I carried most of the water I needed.
I kept to my pacing goals.
And, I never had to stop to tie my shoes.