Jen Van Allen
Fourteen years after her first bout with 26.2, Runner's World special projects editor Jen Van Allen has conquered more than 36 marathons and ultras. Always chasing a new challenge, she took first place in the National 24-Hour Championship in 2008, covering more than 123 miles and earning a spot on Team USA at the IAU 24-Hour World Championships in 2009. Van Allen is co-author of the upcoming "Runner's World Big Book of Marathon and Half-Marathon Training" (June 2012) and manages the Runner's World Challenge, an online, comprehensive training program for marathon and half-marathon hopefuls.
Make it personal. When you're in training, resist the temptation to compare yourself to others. If you fixate on a finish time that sounds impressive, or worry about beating some super mom down the street, you'll completely miss out on one of the biggest rewards of running: gaining the confidence and joy that come with pushing yourself farther and faster than you've ever gone before. You'll log hundreds of miles while preparing for the big event -- more than most people run in an entire lifetime. Go out there each day and give it all that you have, and commit to being proud of whatever that amounts to. Make your race a celebration of all the hard work you did to get to the starting line.
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