Anatomy of a Breakthrough

by Tristin Van Ord

Sometimes good races feel like they come out of nowhere. But when you’re ready to run fast, you’re ready to run fast.

When I say my PR at Rotterdam feels like it “came out of nowhere,” I mean that the last couple of days before the race were not ideal in comparison to my usual race prep.

I had never travelled abroad for a race before, and I was not mentally prepared for how taxing the travel and time adjustment would be.

Because of the jet lag combined with the typical pre-race nerves, I only slept for a total of about 2 hours the night before the race. This has never happened to me before and I was so nervous that I wouldn’t be able to hit my goal pace let alone finish the race. Whitney actually helped calm me down that morning and reassured me that one bad night of sleep wasn’t going to make or break the race.

After downing multiple cups of coffee and forcing down a bagel and peanut butter on race morning, I knew it was go-time whether I was ready or not.

I was confident during the build up that I was ready to break 2 hours and 30 minutes. (By how much, I didn’t know, and whether Rotterdam was the day, I didn’t know either).

Once the race started all I knew was that I had to hit 3:33 per kilometer. I only took a split at the half, and that’s when I knew I was really on pace to break 2:30. Going through the half I smiled and high-fived spectators. I felt great and I knew it was the day I hoped and trained for.

Of course anything can happen in the marathon—you can feel good at mile 24 and blow up during the last 2.2. I fully believed through the half that I would meet my goal and I carried that energy all the way to the finish.

That’s not to say it didn’t get hard. But it was the kind of tough you live for during a marathon. The kind of discomfort you feel strong for pushing through and grinding out. I used every brutal step as energy and every labored breath as motivation. 

The legs were burning, my lungs were tired, and my feet were fed up with the pounding. But making it to that finish line was so sweet—partly from the dried-up, sugary sports drink up and down my arms, but mostly from meeting the goal for the day and finishing the dang thing.


Rotterdam was amazing and I would be so ecstatic to go back. The crowds were energetic, the race course was fast, and the hospitality from the race crew was impeccable.