A Mortal Trained For a Marathon With Elite Athletes: Here Are Five Things He Learned
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Fitzgerald (center in blue) running in the 2017 Chicago Marathon. Cindy Kuzma

Roughly 500,000 runners will finish a marathon in 2017, based on trends from Running USA, and it’s a safe bet most of them invested countless hours and dollars into training, all in hopes of nailing a good finishing time. Most, in fact, are so focused on time that they would probably give their left hand for a chance to train with, and like, professional athletes.

It’s a thought many of us have had: How good could I be if I had all the time, resources, and coaching available to the best runners in the world?

Matt Fitzgerald, a 46-year-old writer, nutritionist, and running coach, found out at this year’s Chicago Marathon. Though experienced in his own right — he ran a PR of 2:41 in 2008 — Fitzgerald immersed himself over four months with the HOKA Northern Arizona Elite (home to some of America’s top pro runners including Scott Fauble and Aaron Braun). He aimed to break his fastest time for 26.2, despite being nine years older.

To do it, his every move, from training to nutrition to recovery, was orchestrated in the same way an elite’s would be. It worked.

He clocked a 2:39 on October 8, and in the process, learned a few things from the pros that amateurs would be wise to follow. “This might sound obvious, but the fact of the matter is that most athletes don’t emulate the practices of the pros to the degree they could,” he says. “Learning about and borrowing from the methods of the pros is the surest path to improvement for any athlete.”

Want to get in on the secret sauce? Fitzgerald offers these guiding principles.