Advice From the Front: Lessons from the 2014 USA Marathon Championships

Ever wonder what elite runners are thinking as they race for more than two hours with a pack of runners on their backs? Here's your chance to find out.

Insight from elite runners can help you run smarter—and faster—even if you're a beginner runner. Two elite runners who raced in the 2014 Twin Cities Marathon, also this year's USA Marathon Championships, share their experiences as well as a few tricks and trade secrets that you can apply to your next race.

When to Be Brave

Tyler Pennell, boasting a half-marathon personal best of 1:01, ran the Twin Cities Marathon as his marathon debut. Pennell began the race with a simple goal—to win. The lead pack of 10 men cruised through the early miles at a relatively easy pace, given the talent of the field.

Mile after mile, the pack of men remained intact as Pennell bided his time, waiting for the moment to assertively separate himself from the group. With just over 10 kilometers to go, Scott Smith of Flagstaff, Arizona began to surge, dropping the pace to under 5 minutes per mile.

Pennell responded to the surge and then maintained the faster pace as Smith's legs began to fatigue. Establishing a dominant lead within a mile, Pennell never looked back. He pushed through the final six miles, the grit and determination evident on his face as he sprinted down the final hill, escorted by a group of motorcycles and the roar of the crowd as he finished in 2:13. He accomplished his goal.

More: Your Mile-by-Mile Half Marathon Survival Guide

What Can You Learn?

Sometimes, making the decision to push rather than settle during a long-distance race means taking a risk. Before the marathon, the farthest Tyler Pennell had ever run was 23 miles; don't be afraid if you haven't covered the marathon distance in training. Most runners don't, not even the elites.

After mile 23 of the marathon, Pennell was entering unchartered territory. Being brave when you face the unknown is one of the keys of running a successful marathon. Be confident about your training and be brave.

The saying "luck favors the bold" is sometimes true in a distance race, but to make a move as aggressively as Tyler Pennell did is writing a check and hoping that your body can cash it in the final miles. Testing your body's limits against the distance of a marathon is daunting; it's also a way to discover what you are capable of.

"Those last three miles were scary. I didn't know where anyone was behind me," Pennell says. "I couldn't even hear anyone. I could hear the crowd. The crowd was really intense right there and I just pushed, hoping no one would catch me."

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About the Author

Sarah Crouch

Sarah Crouch is a three-time Olympic Trials qualifier and a professional long distance runner for Reebok and ZAP Fitness. She is also a coach for Runnersconnect, an online community for athletes of all abilities and a team of expert coaches who assist with all aspects of training. Sarah is dedicated to bringing the best out of athletes at all levels of the sport from beginners to advanced runners.

Sarah Crouch is a three-time Olympic Trials qualifier and a professional long distance runner for Reebok and ZAP Fitness. She is also a coach for Runnersconnect, an online community for athletes of all abilities and a team of expert coaches who assist with all aspects of training. Sarah is dedicated to bringing the best out of athletes at all levels of the sport from beginners to advanced runners.

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