Saucony 26 Strong: The Mental Race

Sal Nastasi and Allie Cook

Allie Cook has a bit of an advantage in training for her first marathon: The 27-year-old works at a specialty running store, the Runner’s Edge, in Farmingdale Village, N.Y. That gives her access to lots of runners who have run lots of marathons.

“I would say being around so many people who run, I learn something new all the time about marathon training,” she says. “I get new tips from different people quite frequently. I learn about form and certain recovery methods and new little tricks to help you get through.”

Allie and her veteran partner, Sal Nastasi, are part of the Saucony 26 Strong project, a collaboration between Competitor and Saucony that pairs experienced marathon vets with first-timers (“cadets”) as they both train to achieve their marathon goals.

What’s surprised Allie the most about marathon training?

“I would say the toughest part of my training is the mental part,” she says. “I think all these things in my head before I even go out for a long run and think of everything that could happen, but then realize I need to stop those thoughts because every day and time I go out can be different!

“I seem to get nervous the night before a long run for some reason but then once I start I relax and realize it’s just going to be another long run,” she says. “And I have been trying to end the long runs by myself so I know mentally I don’t need anyone around me to finish on my own.”

She’s getting better with each long run she does. Allie is training for the New York City Marathon and hoping to break four hours this year. So far, she’s on target, having run 18 miles in 2:52. “I’ve been feeling pretty strong, and I have been able to follow my training plan pretty well,” she says.

So far her only setback has been some tightness in her legs, which has been helped by some strengthening exercises and using a foam roller. “With all those miles and you need to make sure you take care of those muscles,” she says.

Being around all those runners  has also helped her overcome those fears of the long run—fears that proved to be unfounded. “I have learned to stop thinking about what might happen and just go with it when I start,” she says. “It is really helpful to have such a supportive community around me 24/7 because they push and inspire me everyday.”

Read more about Allie, Sal and the rest of the Saucony 26 Strong team at 26strong.com.

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