Saucony 26 Strong: Battling Fatigue

Penny Dora
Caroline Cook
Caroline Cook

Penny Dora of Greenville, Mich., has discovered something that lots of first-time marathoners do as they up their training for the big race—it takes a lot out of you.

“I do not ever remember being this tired for the five half-marathons I have done,” she says. “The training between a half and a full is quite a bit different and much more tiring. I have also noticed less social time because the early morning runs mean early bed times, too.”

Penny and her veteran partner, Caroline Cook of Grand Rapids, Mich., 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. Penny and Caroline are both training for the Grand Rapids Marathon on Oct. 20.

Perhaps that fatigue is also coming from the way Penny has been pushing herself. She ran her first trail run last month, and only afterward discovered it’s considered one of the toughest in the state.

“I was running the half distance,” she says. “Lots of very steep hills with ropes hung for the climb, streams to cross, and rocks to maneuver. Just after mile 11, I tripped on a stump and fell. I landed on another stump, face first, and came up a little bruised and bloody. But I kept running. After all, what else could I do?  I was in the middle of a forest!

“As I kept running, blood was running down the side of my face and making quite a mess of my shirt. It looked a lot worse than it really was but it left the impression that I was one tough girl! In the end, I got the miles in that were on my schedule, accomplished my first trail run and got lots of attention for my battle wounds!”

But apart from that small setback, training has been going well for both Penny and Caroline.

“It is so comforting to have a plan that feels like it is preparing us to go the distance,” says Caroline, about the training plan supplied by coach Mike Norman. “Believing in your plan is a huge part of a successful training cycle. “

Caroline is shooting to break 4 hours at Grand Rapids, with her “dream goal” of breaking 3:45. Penny is focused on her goal of 4:15.

“I have been reminded that runners are truly wonderful people,” Penny says. “They are very supportive and quick to offer advice or assistance for any trouble spots you find. They are a humble and gracious bunch, which is a rare find in the world of competitive sports. I feel like I have made a huge new circle of friends in my 26 strong network.”

Caroline attributes some of their success so far to consistently cross-training (two times a week) and using the foam roller to help with stretching every night before bed.

“I roll for about 15 minutes,” she says. “Ohhhhhh, it hurts so good.”

Read more about Penny, Caroline and the rest of the Saucony 26 Strong team at


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