Asics Running: This Olympic Hopeful Has a 2:16 Marathon PR

Asics running shoes helped Clayton Young run a 2:16 marathon in Chicago.

But it wasn't pretty (more about that in just a sec.)

He racked up a long list of wins and PRs as a runner for Brigham Young University and then signed with Asics as a pro runner.

Want to know how to go from running laps in the 5th grade to becoming a sponsored athlete and Olympic hopeful?

This is Clayton Young's story...

Asics-sponsored athlete Clayton Young finished the 2021 Chicago Marathon in 2:16:07 during his marathon debut as a pro athlete.

The crash-and-burn Chicago Marathon PR

"It's kind of funny now," says Asics running professional athlete Clayton Young. "My debut marathon didn't go as planned."

I know what you're thinking: A 2:16 marathon PR, how bad could it be?

Here's what happened...

After running the USA Track and Field Half Marathon Championships in 1:01:18 and finishing fourth overall, Clayton entered the Chicago Marathon.

The men's competition included experienced marathoners like:

  • Seifu Abdiwak Tura from Ethiopia
  • Galen Rupp from the U.S.
  • Eric Kiptanui from Kenya
  • Kengo Suzuki from Japan
  • And many others

"I was kind of injured going into the race," says Clayton. "So I only spent about 3 to 4 weeks actually running leading up to the race."

"At that point, I knew I was going to race for the experience. But I still wasn't sure how it was going to turn out."

On your mark...get set...go!

Clayton left the starting line of the Chicago Marathon with the chase pack of about 15 runners.

But it didn't take long for those 15 runners to dwindle down to three.

"It was me, Colin Mickow and Nico Montanez," says Clayton. 

"The three of us were chasing the lead group. At some point, someone told us we were in 6th, 7th, and 8th place. And I thought, 'It's my marathon debut. This is awesome.'"

They started ticking off the miles headed towards the 26.2-mile finish line.

And he felt like everything was dialed in...

  • Mile pace
  • Foot strike
  • Arm swing
  • Breathing
  • Stride

But running around a 5-minute mile pace in Chicago's hot and humid conditions started to take a toll.

If he could just hang on a few more miles, Clayton could grab a top 10 finish.

"Colin Mickow made a move, and we dropped Nico," says Clayton. "I was in 7th place with just two miles to go. We were on pace for a 2:12 or maybe 2:13 finish."

And then it happened...

"The wheels started to fall off for me around mile 24," says Clayton.

He started cramping...bad. Nico Montanez rallied from behind and passed him.

"With just 1,000 meters to go, it was like someone turned on a light switch," says Clayton.

  • The hamstring cramping was intense. 
  • Then his back started cramping. 
  • He bent over sideways trying to make his way to the finish line.

"With about 800 meters to go and the finish line in sight, I hit the ground and collapsed," says Clayton.

Race medics rushed on to the course to assist him, but he refused their aid.

"Don't touch me," Clayton said. "I could be disqualified."

Somehow, he managed to get to his feet.

"I ran as hard as I could," says Clayton. "I'm sure I looked like a zombie, because my muscles weren't firing right."

But it wasn't enough. Just 400 meters from the finish line, he collapsed again.

"I got up, and did another zombie shuffle to the end," says Clayton. "I crossed the finish line in 2:16:07 in 13th place and collapsed."

That's not how Clayton, a decorated runner from Brigham Young University and NCAA champion expected his debut marathon to go as an Asics running pro.

The good news: The 2022 Chicago Marathon is just a few weeks away. 

"I'm hoping to break 2:10 this year," says Clayton.

Clayton Young started running in the 5th grade during lunch recess as part of the Mileage Club Program. He ran 100 miles that year, and kept on running.

Clayton's running origin story

If you've seen any superhero movies or read the old-school comic books, you probably know every superhero has an origin story.

You know...some defining moment, life experience or circumstance that defines their future.

Step into the Wayback Machine a couple decades to find out how Clayton discovered running...

"When I was in the fifth grade, my school had something called the Mileage Club Program," says Clayton.

"Every Friday, during lunch recess, you could go out and run laps around the soccer field."

  • Run or walk a lap. 
  • Collect a ticket from a teacher. 
  • Count them up.
  • And to make it a little more interesting: Prizes for the kid who runs the most laps, and the class that runs the most laps

"My best friend was in the opposing class," says Clayton. "We got really competitive, and so did both classes."

How did it turn out?

Clayton ran 100 miles during lunch recess that year. 

"I found out I was really good at running," says Clayton. "That's when running really started catching fire for me."

He ran cross country and track. He played soccer and basketball. He competed for top ranked-high schools in Washington and Utah.

Clayton Young won the NCAA Track and Field Championships 10K race in 29:16.00 for Brigham Young University. After turning pro and landing a sponsorship deal with Asics, he won the USA Track and Field 15K Championships in 43:52 with a two-second lead.

From BYU to Asics running pro athlete

Clayton dominated running events for BYU, winning the NCAA 10K National Championship his senior year, and taking 6th in the 5K.

"That brought a lot of attention to me," says Clayton. "I got an agent and started reaching out to several different companies."

But there was a catch if a sponsor wanted to sign him...

Instead of moving away to a training facility, he didn't want to leave Utah.

"I told my agent I have a pretty good setup in Utah working with Coach Ed Eyestone at BYU," says Clayton. "He's a two-time Olympic marathoner. And he's coached a lot of successful runners."

"Plus, I can train with the BYU team. I have access to the athletic facilities. My family is here. And at the time I was in the middle of a master's degree program in mechanical engineering."

Would that be too big of a request to get a bite from a sponsor?

"Basically, I was looking for a sponsorship deal that would allow me to stay in Utah," says Clayton.

At the time a lot of elite training programs required moving away, like:

"My agent went to bat for me at several different companies, and Asics made an offer," says Clayton. 

"They were totally supportive to let me stick with training at BYU with the system I have set up. I signed a two-and-a-half year deal with them with the option to renew at the end of 2022."

Clayton Young is training to run the 2022 Chicago Marathon and beat his time from last year.

Fun facts about Clayton Young

Favorite running shoes

  • Asics Novablast 2 & 3 (soon to be released). It's a phenomenal running shoe. No matter how many miles I put on it, the midsole never seems to go dead and stays springy.
  • Asics Nimbus 24. When I'm doing a recovery run or feel like I need a little more support, this is my go-to shoe. It's been revamped with Novablast foam and feels a lot like the Asics Cumulus.
  • Asics Metaspeed Edge. This has a carbon-fiber plate all the way through the shoe. It's super grippy, and it's really light and bouncy. This is Asics response to the Nike VaporFly, which is what I wore when I won the NCAA 10K. 

Favorite watch

  • Coros Apex. Absolutely love it. My favorite things about it: track mode, COROS training hub, battery life, and continuous updates.

Favorite running fuel

  • Muarten's Gel at the starting line, and Maurten' drink mix during longer distances

Pre-race ritual

Testing Asics prototypes

  • I'm wear testing two different pairs of Asics. Right now, they're just called 3a and 3b. But I think they might be the third generation for the for Asics Metaspeed Edge and Asics Metaspeed Sky. 
  • They send me prototypes a couple times a year. I put some miles on the shoes, and provide feedback about how it fits and performs, and how the foam responds. Sometimes, I even do VO2 testing on a treadmill and compare shoes based on performance. 
  • Being a mechanical engineer and a runner, I love geeking out over the science and materials to make shoes.

Favorite races

  • Asics Falmouth Road Race. It's a 7-mile race on Cape Cod in Massachusetts. This race is a lot of fun, because it's not about elite runners. There's a lot of opportunity to interact with people and enjoy the race experience, meet people, and hear their stories about why they're out there.
  • BolderBoulder 10K. Almost 1.2  million people come out to run, jog, or walk this race in the morning. Runners finish at the University of Colorado stadium and it's full of people. The crowd erupts every time a runner comes through. It's such a cool experience. 

Top running influences

  • Jared Ward. He's my training partner. He ran for BYU. He ran in the 2016 Olympics. He's got a 2:09 marathon PR. And now he's a pro runner for Saucony. He helped me a lot with making the transition from BYU to getting a contract with Asics.
  • Conner Mantz. He went pro last year and runs for Nike. He helped me a ton navigating who to choose for an agent, what races to run, and how to work a sponsorship deal.

Best running advice

  • It's something Coach Eyestone taught me: "Consistent competence equals eventual excellence."
  • It's the same advice I give people who ask me about how to become a better runner.
  • Running is such an up and down sport. There's so many highs and lows. It's not very predictable. But if you're willing to train consistently, you'll eventually be excellent.

The meaning of Asics

  • Asics...It's Latin, and it means, "A sound body and a sound mind." I love that this is something Asics has embraced from the beginning. When you can learn to train your body and mind to work together, you're unbeatable.
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Evan Jensen
Ambassador
SANDY, Oregon

I help RUNNERS reduce injuries, fix running form, run longer & faster by strength training without running ragged. I'm a NASM-certified personal trainer, and hold the record for the most finishes at the Mountain Lakes 100-Mile Ultra in Oregon.

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