Harold Bradner: Running His First Marathon in Under 4 Hours

In 2010, Harold Bradner completed a behemoth goal — completing his first ever marathon in under 4 hours. He ran the Space Coast Marathon at the Kennedy Space Complex in Florida and describes his experience at Aimless Runner, the blog he authors. From running to surfing to photography, Harold has a lot of talents he shares in the post below. CONGRATS!

Why do you call yourself the Aimless runner?

Well when I first started running in March of this year, I didn’t really have any goals. It was pretty much to see what I could do. I love to challenge myself and running was a great way to do this. I think I worked my way up to running 13.1 miles on my own before I actually started looking at long distance races.

What provoked you to run a marathon? That doesn’t sound too “aimless” to me!

Boredom! Well, that’s not the biggest reason but I think it was a factor. As I was progressing in my mileage, I wanted to do something that would really push my limits and challenge me like never before. So the marathon was an obvious choice. I also have a good friend of mine (who also blogs) that has run several marathons and after seeing how accomplished she felt after every marathon, I wanted to get this feeling too.

What else do you enjoy in your free time?

I enjoy surfing and also photography. I own 4 surfboards of varying lengths for just about every size wave we can get in Florida. I’ve also traveled to surf in Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua. If I’m not running and there are waves, chances are I’m out in the ocean. As for the photography, I enjoy just going outside and seeing what I can shoot.

What were the easiest/hardest parts of training?

Easiest: Eating after long runs. I love food!! Hardest: Some of the long runs in the first 8 weeks of training were done at the tail end of the very hot and humid Florida summer. This meant getting up at 4:30am, starting my run at 5:00am, and being back shortly after sunrise. Even without the sun, the temperature would be 78-80 with 100% humidity; it is pretty hard to run in. I would be completely drenched at the end. Oh and another hard part was the time it takes to train. Basically my weekends consisted of getting up super early on Saturday and doing long runs. The rest of the day I would eat and rest. Sundays were spent recovering.

Tell me about race day. Sounds like you felt great till mile 20! What was your final time? Did this meet any goals you might have had for yourself?

Race day went as smoothly as possible. I was staying in a hotel that provided shuttle bus service to the start line. This was awesome, as I didn’t have to worry about parking or traffic. I was stressed enough, so it was nice not to have that to worry about. I started with the 4 hour pace group and stayed with them until about mile 10. Around then I got tired of being in a group and decided to go a little ahead so I had some elbow room. Needless to say, I sped up without knowing it and by the halfway point I turned around and couldn’t see the group anymore. I ran well until around mile 21. Then every mile became harder and harder. Things started hurting everywhere. By mile 23, I had to walk through the last 3 aid stations for about 30-45 seconds so I could continue. I would tell myself to get to the next station and then I could walk again. This helped overcome the mental wall and I finished the last .25 relatively strong. My final time was 3:58:10. Considering I just wanted to finish, I was crazy excited about my time. Or maybe I was just happy it was over!

Sounds like you followed up your marathon with a 10K at a 7:22 pace. Did you hold back on that marathon pace?

I was holding back in the first half of the marathon because I didn’t want to burn out at the end. I still burned out partially at the end, so I’m glad I held back at first. But that said, I gave it 100% and doubt I could have gone any quicker. I did slow runs in the week following the marathon and after 4 days, I wasn’t sore anymore so I signed up for the 10K on the Saturday after my race. It was a local race along a route I run often, so I really wanted to run it.

What are your plans in regards to running in VFFs (Vibram Five Fingers)?

I plan to use them to strengthen my feet and hopefully they will improve my stride and speed. I’m starting slow on them. 2-3 miles at a time once or twice a week. They definitely feel different, but I like trying new things.

Will you run another marathon? If so, would you do anything differently.

Right now, I don’t plan to run another one in the near future. However, I’m sure one day I’ll do another one. The earliest I’d consider it is the end of 2011. I’d like to do one of the really big ones someday like Chicago or New York.

What advice would you give other first time marathoners?

Listen to your body during training. If you are hurting and feel that running might cause injury, take a rest day or two! I had 3 separate weeks in my training cycle where I skipped one or all of my short and medium distance runs during the weekdays. I always made it a priority to try to be ready for my long run and I never missed a single one of those. I’ve learned that skipping a few shorter runs in the training cycle doesn’t really have that big of an impact. It certainly is better than causing yourself injury and being out for weeks!

Melinda Hinson