What Elites Show Us About Doubting Your Marathon Fitness

Everyday runners can learn important lessons from elites—including this one about trusting your training before your next marathon.

Chatting with Shalane about marathons after Marine Corps Marathon 2012

Not even a week ago, the world record for the men’s marathon was broken. The winner of the Berlin Marathon, Dennis Kimetto, finished with a blazing time of 2:02:57. This bested the previous record by 26 seconds—26 seconds over 26 miles! The time it took Dennis to run the full marathon is faster than the time many of us mere mortals take to finish a half marathon. To put it in perspective, his average pace was 4 minutes and 41 seconds, faster than I can even manage for a mile. Not long behind him was America’s sweetheart, Shalane Flanagan, who ran a PR time of 2:21:14. I can’t even wrap my head around how fast that really is.

If you think you are alone in doubting your fitness before a marathon, you aren’t. Elites and average runners alike struggle during the taper. Elites tend to express confidence in the days leading up to a key race. After all, it is a serious competition for them, but I’m guessing inside they have the same type of internal struggles as us non-professionals.

Did I run enough? Did I run fast enough? Did I run too fast? Are these extra pounds I seem to have gained during the taper going to slow me down? The list goes on and on.

This period of time is commonly referred to as the *taper crazies* and the way to get through it is to TRUST the process. One must understand and accept that adding on miles and squeezing in extra workouts is not going to add to your fitness level. It may actually be detrimental to your marathon time.

When I first started racing, one of my very dear friends gave me this advice: The money is in the bank; it’s time to cash the check. I’ve thought about this a lot over the years and came up with this analogy for when I am doubting.

Every workout, every run, every sit-up, every push up, every squat—they are all cash you add to your race ATM. On race day, you want to withdraw all this money and use it. Those who doubt their fitness are jamming cash and checks in the ATM faster than it can handle it.  Suddenly a window pops up on the screen that says “Out of service. Please see a teller.” The teller then kindly tells you that you have overloaded the banks system, and things will be back up and running in a week or two. BUT WHAT? I need this money on Sunday….you can’t fix it sooner? Nope, says the teller—you have to be patient when putting cash into the ATM. You can’t stuff it in. We are working to get it back up and running as quickly as we can, but we thank you for your business.

No one likes a broken ATM when you need to make a withdrawal. So just like the cash, don’t stuff in more workouts.