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Dear Fellow 2020 Marathon Runner

This is certainly not the training or racing season we thought it would be when we hit ‘submit’ on registration for a spring or summer event earlier this year. Staying motivated without a race to train for can be tough! Many people may have thrown in the towel on training for a marathon that was cancelled, postponed or maybe even moved to a virtual option this year. All of these responses make total sense. Race day is often the reward for all of the hours of commitment, motivation and training you put in, in preparation for the big day. It’s the icing on the cake. 

These truly are unprecedented times and everything you are feeling is completely normal. We have never been through anything like this before and thus, feelings of frustration, disappointment, and a lack of motivation are all completely warranted. In order to help us through these feelings and difficulties in searching for motivation, Balega Impi ambassador and run coach Denise Sauriol has some advice and inspiration to share. Denise has been known to inspire many people, including her massage therapist, bank manager, Uber driver, Walgreens cashier, and numerous colleagues to run marathons for the first time. Below she shares advice for anyone who might be lacking motivation and seeking inspiration: 


Remember Your Why

Go back to that day that you hit “submit.” What was and is your why? Are you running for a charity near and dear to your heart? Are you running as a 50th birthday present to yourself? Are you running to see if you can get faster after bringing your training up a notch from last season? Are you running to see if you too can become a marathoner, etc.? Are you running to cross a bucket list item off your list? I bet your WHY is still within you. It has not mysteriously left your psyche. It just needs to be dusted off! In addition to fueling your fire to run the marathon, the journey to 26.2 also takes a lot of self-drive and discipline. These two traits cannot be coached. Even I cannot coach someone into being disciplined and driven. It is all you! So, while you are dusting off your why, also dust off your self-discipline and drive.
To all the first-time marathoners reading this, I am proud of you and I haven't even met you yet. It takes a HUGEEEEE amount of courage to sign up for something that you have never done before. Courage that 99% of the population does not draw upon within themselves. Did your courage exit stage left? I do not think so. As Taylor Swift would say, "Shake it off!"


Be a part of the .5% Percent

They say that once you run a marathon, you become part of the 1% club. As in, approximately 1% of the population completes a marathon. This is a membership that cannot be bought. It is only earned. However, in these trying times and with our races rightfully getting cancelled, postponed and or moved to virtual, the percentage of people that will still run their marathon on their own is an even smaller percentage. I am guessing maybe .5% of the population. So, think about 1 year, 5 years, 10 years from now and you look back on what you did in the year that chip mats, race expos, and official race photos were taken away from us. YOU RAN A FREAKIN' DO IT YOURSELF (DIY) MARATHON. More on my tips to DIY marathoning below. 




Having run over 300 races to date, I have collected a lot of bling! To name a handful, I have earned 2 of the Abbott World Marathon Majors Six Star medals, a medal from the Mt. Everest and Antarctica marathons and even the Seven Continents Club medal. If you think about it, we rightfully and proudly wear our coveted medals on race day and then maybe the next day for #takeyourmedaltoworkday. Outside of those two days though, our medals rarely don our neckline again. For some of us, the medals will proudly be displayed on a wall at home, in our office or even left in a drawer, etc. What we do carry with us past race day, though, is what we went through, who we may have met, the places that we saw, the discretionary free time that we sacrificed in training to cross the finish line. “Medals are nice, but they are only symbols," said Emil Zatopek, a Czechoslovakian long-distance runner known for winning three gold medals at the 1952 Helsinki Summer Olympics.


Nothing new on race day!

One of the biggest and most common rules on race day is to not try anything new. My advice - throw this rule out the window when you are doing your own DIY/Virtual race! This is the best time to experiment with whatever you have been itching to try, such as a new pacing strategy, gear, hydration, nutrition, chafing cream, etc. 

Interested in setting up your own DIY/Virtual Race? Check out my “how to” guide below with nine suggestions and things to consider when putting together your own race. 


How to Run your DIY/Virtual Marathon

1-Comply with social distancing 
3-Map out a short loop near your house that you can run over and over. This will provide you your own private bathroom and aid station.  
4-Schedule a Video Conference Corral Start line for you and your friends
5-Start the race at whatever time you want
6-Play whatever music you want in your Corral while you are waiting to start
7-Stock your aid stations with whatever you want
8-Break the Tape (can even use toilet paper) and win overall and your age group
9-Cherish this huge sense of accomplishment!


All the Feels and More

One of my favorite parts about race day is the emotional roller coaster we get buckled into once we cross that first chip mat. From start to finish, we experience a whole gamut of emotions. For example, most of my marathons follow this pattern. I begin out of the gate beyond excited and on the highest of runners highs. Five or six miles in, my legs are still feeling great and I am feeling awesome. “Marathons Rock!” I make it to the halfway point. I tell myself. “I got this! I just double my time for my half and dang this is going to be a great race. The mile markers are really flying by.” About mile 16 or 17, the conversation in my head changes to “Why did I sign up for this?! I knew this was going to be hard!” Around mile 22 or 23, it feels like someone is playing tricks on me and moving the mile markers. “Why are they taking so long to appear and why do my legs feel like concrete with every foot strike?"  At mile 25.5, “holy crap! To that spectator that told me I was almost there at mile 14, take note. This moment right here is where you can tell me I am almost there!” Then at mile 26.2,  “I DID IT! THAT WAS AWESOME! WHEN CAN I DO IT AGAIN?”
If you think about it, rarely in our day to day life do we get to experience so many emotions in one day? Having completed 117 marathons (and counting), I have to say that every marathon has been its own unique roller coaster ride. I never know which emotions are going to come out when, nor do I know how intense each emotion will be. I love it!
Having completed my own DIY Boston (4/20), DIY Big Sur (4/26), DIY Strolling Jim (5/2), Virtual Sugar Badger 50 Miler (5/30) and Virtual Comrades Marathon (6/14), I have to admit that the emotional roller coaster still has an empty seat waiting for you to take.
More importantly, if you think about how accomplished you feel when you cross any finish line, I have to say from my own experience, when you complete a DIY race or virtual race, you feel an even greater sense of accomplishment. I think this is because your race was all you. There was no parade helping to push you through. No pomp and circumstance.
Whatever route you take with your races and training, good luck and I hope this advice helps to motivate and inspire you! Because remember, Goals Are Not Cancelled :) 



- Coach Denise @MarathonWhisperer

Denise is a 2020 Balega Impi ambassador. She’s also the author of “Me, You & 26.2 Coach Denise's Guide to Your First Marathon” and the Co-Founder of Girls on the Run Chicago. Denise has finished 25 Chicago marathons, has run 117 total marathons, and is a 7 continents club finisher, with over 300 races completed in her lifetime to-date. Finally, Denise is a certified running coach with Road Runners Club of America and a certified USATF Coach Level 1.