Experts and Elites Provide Advice for Marathoners

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desiree linden, jenny simpson, fleet feet sports chicago, hansons brooks, new balance, breaking through the wall, boston marathon

Fleet Feet Sports Chicago will host its annual Breaking Through the Wall seminar on Sunday, Sept. 27, and this year’s talk will feature a new lineup of elite athletes to provide local runners with tips and advice ahead of next month’s Bank of America Chicago Marathon.

Desiree Linden, the fastest American woman at this year’s Boston Marathon, and Jenny Simpson, a two-time Olympian and the 2011 1500-meter world champion, will headline the event, which takes place from noon-2 p.m. at the Roosevelt Collection’s Icon Movie Theater. Bank of America Chicago Marathon executive race director Carey Pinkowski, Chicago Endurance Sports owner Mike Norman and Linda Samuels, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN, a board certified specialist in sports dietetics, will also participate in the panel.

“It’s geared towards first timers, but having the professionals they bring in as well really gives some pretty good tips for those looking to really do something special, too,” Norman says.

Linden owns the third fastest time by an American woman on the Bank of America Chicago Marathon course, only trailing legendary athletes Joan Benoit Samuelson and Deena Kastor, having turned in a 2:26:20 in 2010: good for fourth place that year.


“Chicago is awesome because it’s so flat and simple,” Linden says. “You’re preparing for 26.2. It’s not like New York or Boston where the course is technical and challenging. It’s great that you can just focus on covering the distance.”

Despite the relative simplicity of the course, Linden advises runners to run the race prudently, especially in the beginning.

“You’re going to feel like a superhero,” she says. “There are so many people cheering for you, and it’s going to feel easy. The first 10 miles are going to feel easy, and it’s going to feel easy until the wheels fall off because you went out too hard. Rein it in early, when you feel good the first time, the second time you feel good. When you get to 22 miles, then go crazy, but before that, run your pace, run your plan and you’ll be good at the end.”

Linden, Norman and Simpson all also emphasize the importance of trusting your training and knowing that the work you have put in throughout the summer will pay off on race day.

“Even if [runners] have never run the full distance in their life, it’s totally different when you’re surrounded by thousands of people,” Simpson says. “It helps so much to be around so many people. The first half is going to go by really quickly.”

“[Don’t] worry about anything you’ve missed up to this point,” Norman says. “There’s no more time to gain any more fitness. At this point, it’s really important to allow your body to recover and gain back as much rest from all the hard work you put in in 18-20 weeks of training, and to spend this time planning out what their plans are for the day.”

Simpson says that she likes to set goals at the beginning of training and alter them as time progresses to reflect her preparation. She encourages runners to set more than one goal, so they can minimize discouragement if things don’t go according to plan on race day.

“Every single race I go into, I say, ‘This is the goal I have if I have the best day of my life. If I get out there and feel amazing, this is the highest level goal,’” Simpson says. “Then I have a goal in the middle that I feel really good about. That’s probably the most realistic goal. I know my training indicated I can do this, and I woke up ready to execute this plan. Then I have a plan that if things go wrong and something happens, this is what I’m going to be satisfied with. I think it’s good to have a spectrum on which your performances fall so you can go home and be proud of yourself.”

You can purchase tickets online for Breaking Through the Wall to hear more advice from Linden, Simpson, Norman and the rest of the panel this Sunday.