With both the US Track and Field and World Athletics Championships in the rearview mirror, a running fan's thoughts turn to the fall marathon season. And even a bit further, to the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.

On our Littlewing Athletics team, we have two athletes who are hoping to go the distance jusqu'à Paris: Carrie Mack and Theresa Hailey. Both raced at the 2020 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in Atlanta with fire and joy, and both are hoping to qualify once again for the Trials in 2024.

In this first part of a two part series, Carrie and Theresa talk about their respective approaches to training, share personal racing stories and experiences, and share tips on what works for each of them.. and what definitely doesn't!

Backstory. When did you know the marathon was your jam? Was there a specific race, long run, or effort where it clicked?

Theresa: I have completed a lot of marathons and it would seem like my jam would have been earlier on, but the first marathon where I felt like everything clicked was at the 2020 Marathon Olympic Trials in Atlanta. I ran with so much joy that day and it really changed what I wanted my relationship with marathons to be like. It wasn't so much about the time, but the experience. I will work as hard as I can until I get to the start line, but when the gun goes off, my goal is to run with joy - and I am confident the time will follow.

Carrie: Oh gosh, I think I knew before I actually raced my first one. Probably in that build up. Training for my first marathon was the perfect on-ramp for me to fall back in love with distance running, the running community and racing after some extended post-college burnout.

How many marathons have you run, and which ones?

Theresa: 12! Columbia River Gorge, Portland, Boston x4, CIM x4, Eugene, Atlanta Marathon Olympic Trials

Carrie: I think eight total? Illinois Marathonx2, Rockford Marathon, Wisconsin Marathon, Chicago, Boston, Twin Cities, Atlanta.

Do you have an all-time favorite?

Theresa: Boston has a special place in my heart because I was there in 2013, but Atlanta can't be beat. That was one of the greatest days of my life. It was extra special because my parents were there and they don't typically get to see me race.

Carrie: I’d say Twin Cities Marathon for best performance or Atlanta for overall experience at the 2020 Trials.

What's your favorite cheer sign you've seen while racing?

Theresa: This one cracks me up: "Because 26.3 would be crazy"

Carrie: The “Worst Parade Ever” sign always makes me chuckle.

Do you vibe off of spectator energy? Are spectactors or a squad there to see you important for your mental game?

Theresa: Oh my gosh, YES! I love the spectators - especially at cowbell corner. At CIM 2021 the only thing I could think about was the cowbell corner at mile 23.5 and how I just needed to make it there and I would be in the homestretch. I was even telling other runners around me that they better be ready for some noise! Having people to look forward to along the course is especially important in the marathon.

Carrie: Definitely! Cowbell corner always seems to be perfectly placed on the course - personal cheer squad right where you need it. I like having friends/family there, but I try to be clear that the night before and morning of the race I am doing my own thing. I don’t like to feel responsible for them :)

Do you have any marathon mantras, superstitions, or rituals that help you perform at your best?

Theresa: Internally when I start to drift into negative land, I like to tell myself "you are fit, fast, focused, recovered". I also find that if I am running with other people, I get a boost from lifting them up along with me, so i'll say "we are strong" or "we've got this" and share my joy and positivity with them. It's so helpful to know I'm not alone out there, and the longer we can run as a group, the better we will all perform.

Carrie: I like to pick different mantras for each race and I do this about 4-6 weeks out, so I can utilize them in key workouts leading up to the race. Typically 3 words or phrases - to represent the three phases of the race. For the 2020 trials, it was “Control, Compete, Crush” Other rituals: I have special race socks and sunglasses. I always have the same race day breakfast (coffee, picky oats, banana, picky bar). I also like to close my eyes, take a deep breath and just look up to the sky for a second when I’m at the starting line.

Which elite marathoners that came before you did you follow or see as heroes? And if you have them, why?

Theresa: I've been following Kara Goucher since 2006 when I saw her and Adam give a talk to the Border Clash participants at the Nike Campus. When I started running marathons, hers was a familiar face so fangirling her was natural. I have always been inspired by her grit and determination, and more recently her voice.

Carrie: Kara Goucher fangirl for life over here. I still occasionally watch the promo video you did with her before the 2016 Trials and I cry every time. I have always looked up to her as a marathon hero, and to have her congratulate me after the 2020 Trials was pretty special. I love how she raced with such determination and emotion. I also appreciate how much she cares about the sport and her continued involvement as a clean sport advocate and broadcaster is true legacy work.

Do you currently have a coach? If so, who, and what would you consider their super power?

Theresa: I have a new coach as of this spring, so I'm still getting used to his technique and style of coaching - but I would say his super power is patience. I've been doing things my own way for 11 years, so it's been a challenge for me to change things like my taper technique and workout volumes and trust that what he is doing is right for me. We've had a lot of good conversations around it and i'm really thankful for his patience with me.

Carrie: I am coached by Elliott Heath and have worked with him since 2018. I would say his super power is building trust. He places high value on being honest and does a great job of factoring in all areas of life when putting together training.

In terms of long runs and training, what are your favorite Oiselle items that help you go the distance?

Theresa: Distance Running = Fueling = Pockets! When it gets to marathon training season I heavily rely on pants and shorts that allow me to carry fuel. I gravitate toward the pocket joggers and rogas, and I'm excited to use the NYB Bra to stash water or fuel this summer during some hotter marathon training sessions.

Carrie: Pocket joggers, all the flow tops and runner trucker hats on repeat. Flyout wool and the vigor vest in the colder months.

What is your general fueling plan for key marathons? What has worked for you?

Theresa: The first time I incorporated liquids in addition to gels into my fueling plan was CIM 2021, and that went really well for me. I used a mix of Maurten and Honey Stinger gels and took advantage of all of the elite aid stations, which I think was a game-changer for my race.

Carrie: In the past, I have used Skratch for fluids and Honey Stinger gels for fuel and that has worked well. This is definitely something I want to work on during my next build up. I think I still have a lot to learn here, but hope to increase what I’m able to stomach because running under fueled is not my jam.

Have you had any 'fueling fails' in the marathon?

Theresa: Probably most races? I always took gels during the races, but fading was common for me around mile 18 or 20. I don't think I was ever properly fueled. At CIM 2021 I took fueling more seriously and the first time I ran a negative split race.

Carrie: LOL - my first marathon I didn’t even have a sip of water until mile 21, and by then it was too late. I hit the proverbial wall soon after.

Photo credit: Cortney White // @cortneywhite_

July 28, 2022 — Rebecca Nelson

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