What I Tell Myself… On the Starting Line


Six elite women share what goes through their minds on marathon morning.

It’s that moment. The one you’ve been thinking about and planning for. The weeks and months of hard work are over. Now all that’s left to do is run—26.2 miles.

Every runner who’s been there knows: The starting line of a marathon is a place filled with emotions. Anticipation. Nerves. Motivation. Excitement.

Ahead of Sunday’s New York City Marathon, we asked six of the professional field’s top women what they will be telling themselves in the moments before the race begins.

Sara Hall, 36, who’s fresh off running a personal-best time of 2:22:16 at the 2019 Berlin Marathon in September:

“At the starting line I think I’m just feeling really grateful for the opportunity. One analogy a sports psychologist gave me one time is a sled dog—they’re just pulling at the chains, they want to be the ones picked to pull the sled and get out and run and do what they were created to do. So that’s kind of the mentality I like to have going into a race; not kind of dread or pressure, but it’s excitement—it’s like, put me in! I want to be the one to run and do what I was created to do.”

Mary Keitany, 37, the four-time New York City Marathon champion from Kenya:

“When you are at the starting line, you are ready. You have come to run a race and you want to win, nobody wants to lose. What comes to my mind when I am at the starting line is that I just pray God and ask for his message all the way. Because a marathon is 42 kilometers, it is not an easy thing, even if you have trained well. You have to go out fast and the rest follows.”

Allie Kieffer, 32, seventh-place finisher at the 2018 New York City Marathon:

“This whole weekend, I feel like at parts I get overwhelmed with like ‘Oh my god I’m hurt and I’m going to the world’s biggest race, what are you doing?’ And I just keep being like, I chose to be here. I get to be here. I’m going to wear a smile on my face.”

Des Linden, 36, 2018 Boston Marathon Champion:

“I think on the start you’re just trying to be relaxed and calm; know that you’ve done the work and go out and have fun. The race is a celebration of all the hard work—it’s where you go out and prove that you’re fit and just have some fun with it.”

Kellyn Taylor, 33, winner of the 2018 Grandma’s Marathon in a personal best of 2:24:28:

“I think I’m just like let’s do this. Let’s get it done. You’re ready. It’s go time.”

Aliphine Tuliamuk, 30, third-place finisher at 2019 Rotterdam Marathon:

“I’m not sure how I’m going to feel on Sunday, but I’m going to try to enjoy the process as much as possible. When I’m at that start line, I want to remember how I feel when I watch other people on the start line of big marathons. When I was growing up, watching races on TV, it was just incredible. So I want to remind myself that I’m in it in person, I’m not just watching it on TV and I just I want to enjoy that experience.”

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