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What all runners can learn from Gwen Jorgensen

Her marathon goals are lofty

Gwen Jorgensen

Watching Gwen Jorgensen’s journey from Olympic Gold medallist in the triathlon to Olympic hopeful in the marathon is a lesson in courage, confidence and humility.

When Jorgensen announced last year that she was leaving the triathlon behind to pursue the marathon full-time it caught the triathlon and running communities by surprise. Although she had previously expressed interest in racing marathons – even debuting at the 2016 New York City Marathon (2:41:01) – few people likely expected she would make such a huge leap at this point in her career.

Her marathon goals are lofty. When she announced she was making the transition to the marathon she also announced she was aiming for Olympic gold in the new discipline. Such a bold statement left many people doubting her ability to once again reach the pinnacle sport, and questioning the reasoning behind her choice.

Still, the 31-year-old mother has held strong in her belief in her ability. She’s launched a YouTube channel featuring weekly videos detailing her journey with her husband Pat, seven-month-old son Stanley, and training partner Shalane Flanagan. Yes, Flanagan, how’s that for stepping up to the challenge? Not only is Jorgensen putting herself out there for the world to watch her highs and lows, she’s matching herself up against one of the best in world on a near-daily basis.

Slice it whichever way you want, but there’s no denying this takes a lot strength – both physical and mental. Imagine, just a little more than a year-and-a-half ago you’re on top of the world as the best triathlete of your time – and now you’re being taken to task on a regular basis. I believe this to be a testament to Jorgensen’s humble nature. The Wisconsin native has enough confidence to step out not on top but rather at place of beginnings. She has whole lot to learn and her body has a whole lot of adapting to do and she knows it.

In third episode of her YouTube series Jorgensen reflects after finishing a long run with Flanagan.

“Today was a hard day, my plan was to go two hours with Shalane, I was tired really tired just an hour in,” said Jorgensen, who completed her two hours, but not without feeling the longer distance.

“The last 20 minutes were a huge struggle…I tried to break it up. We were getting fed every 20 minutes so I broke it up into chunks…to make it seem a little more manageable.”

One can only imagine there must be some self-doubt running through her mind during those tougher moments, which is a further testament to the confidence she has and belief in the choice she’s made to take on the marathon.

She’s currently running between 80 and 90 miles (128-144K) a week; a number she said she would like to be higher, but an Achilles that’s “a little on edge,” is holding her back. It’s notable that even one of the world’s best athletes has to slowly work her way up to the high-mileage demands of elite marathon racing. This sport truly is humbling no matter what one’s athletic pedigree.

It seems Jorgensen welcomes the humbling nature of the sport. She isn’t allowing ego to get in the way of putting herself in the best position to reach her goals, which is evidenced in her choice for a training partner. Matching herself up against Flanagan is indeed a humbling way to work her way to the top. I believe Jorgensen’s desire to train under these circumstances, where she isn’t number one, displays her humble character and readiness to continue putting herself out there in pursuit of her goals. She is confident and believes in her abilities. In the first episode of her YouTube series, she has the following to say after racing a smoking 15:15.52 for 5,000m.

“I’ve set some pretty big goals out there, saying I want to win Gold in the marathon and I think a lot of people have thought I’m crazy – and I think they should until I prove myself.”