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November 2, 2020, Issue 96

 

Keira D’Amato shines at the Michigan Pro Half

Keira D’Amato ran away from a strong field to win Wednesday’s Michigan Pro Half Marathon in 1:08:57 and become the 10th-fastest U.S. woman of all time.

Natosha Rogers, the designated pacesetter, was scheduled to take the race through six miles at 5:20 pace, but it was clear from the start that Emma Bates had different plans. She didn’t wait for Rogers as she led D’Amato, Elaina Tabb, and Rogers through 5K in 16:17, 5:15 per mile. By 10K, it was just Bates and D’Amato up front, and shortly after, D’Amato began to pull away, running her fastest 5K split of the race (16:12) between 10K and 15K.

D’Amato, whose previous best was 1:10:01, ran a 64-second personal best, and Bates finished second in 1:09:44, taking 89 seconds off her best time. Bates, who experienced what she believed to be a case of coronavirus in March, wrote on Instagram after the race, “I have been struggling since the Olympic Marathon Trials in February... The past eight months have been a mix of disappointment in myself and a lot of uncertainty. I tend to dwell on poor performances until I am able to race again. Since no races were occurring, it prolonged the despondency. Wednesday’s race was not just redemption for me, but self-assurance that I am going in the right direction. It reminded me that I can still do this, I am still meant to be here.”

Tabb rounded out the top three, running 1:11:02, not far off her personal best. The biggest improvement of the day had to go to Minnesota Distance Elite’s Breanna Sieracki, though. Sieracki said on Instagram heading into the race that her personal best was the 1:39:02 she ran at age 13 to set a Minnesota state single-age record for girls. Now 25, she took 24+ minutes off her time on Wednesday and finished 14th in 1:14:38.

Most important, the event provided an opportunity for professional runners to get together and race at a time when competition opportunities are hard to come by, and it gave fans something to cheer for. This year has become the year of DIY running events, and this one was well done. Per USATF rules, runners had to pass two Covid tests in the week leading up to the race, and Kevin Hanson acknowledged leading into the race that positive tests, or exposure to those who had tested positive, did keep some runners out of the event. (Results)
 

Keira D'Amato celebrates in the final meters of the 2020 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials.
Keira D'Amato finishes 15th at the 2020 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in 2:34:24. (Photo courtesy of the Credit Union Cherry Blossom Run.)

 

A conversation with Keira D’Amato

Two days before her breakthrough 1:08:57 half marathon performance last week, Keira D’Amato announced that she’ll go after the American 10-mile record for a women’s-only race on Monday, November 23. The current record is 52:12, set by Janet Cherobon-Bawcom in 2014. Coincidentally, D’Amato, pregnant with her first child, held the finish line tape as Cherobon-Bawcom broke the record. 

After a long hiatus from competitive running, D’Amato has worked her way back to the elite level over the past several years. This year in particular has been a good one for her. In February, she finished 15th at the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in 2:34:24. In June, D’Amato made headlines when she ran a 15:04 5,000m time trial on the track, which, if official, would have shaved 65 seconds off her personal best. 

D’Amato, who turned 36 in October, works full time as a realtor in Midlothian, Virginia, and has two children: Tommy, 5, and Quin, 4. After her post-race cooldown on Wednesday, D’Amato had to rush back to her hotel to meet a work deadline before catching her flight home. She takes pride in her unconventional path to success, and she is currently unsponsored, though Tracksmith and CEP provide her with apparel, and Potomac River Running has helped her out with shoes in the past.

After the November 10-mile race, which is at an undisclosed location, D’Amato is scheduled to run the Marathon Project on December 20, and she is considering doubling in the 5,000m and 10,000m at June’s Olympic Track & Field Trials. I caught up with her last week, two days after her win in Michigan. The following has been edited for brevity and clarity.


Fast Women: What kind of time were you thinking you could run heading into Wednesday’s race? Did your performance surprise you at all?
Keira D’Amato: We were kind of using the race as a good tempo/tuneup towards marathon training. When I was chatting with my coach (Scott Raczko), the time wasn’t really a focus, it was just the effort to make sure I was running smooth, locked in, strong, comfortable, and the goal was just to run the second loop faster than the first loop. So when Emma took it out, I was like, “Okay, we’re doing this!” I wasn’t surprised that I ran that time, but I wasn’t expecting that I’d run that time that day, because the time wasn’t even the goal of that race.

Were there specific workouts you did that gave you the confidence you could run in that time range?
I’ve done a lot of work under 4:40 per mile for shorter intervals, and I’m very comfortable running mile repeats under 5:00. I’ve also done a handful of longer tempos right around marathon pace or a little under. So I thought 5:20s would feel pretty comfortable. I was pleasantly surprised that running 5:15s felt pretty darn good, too.

When you run marathon pace in training, is that your past marathon pace, or a theoretical marathon pace that you think you can run in the future?
It’s theoretical. After the Olympic Trials, I knew, in my head, that I was ready to break 2:30, it just didn’t happen that day. I moved past the Trials thinking, “Okay, now you’re a sub-2:30 marathoner, let’s work on improving that.” So even though the time wasn’t there, I knew I was in that kind of shape. Now I’m working on faster than that and aiming for around 5:30 per mile for the marathon (which would put her in the 2:24 range).

Interview continues here.

 

A big thanks to Gatorade Endurance for sponsoring Fast Women this month

It’s the off-season now (although yours may have started earlier in this strange year) and Gatorade Endurance wants runners to use this time to slow down, recover, and rediscover the joy of running! Cherish this time to explore new routes and trails, connect with a new running partner (Fast Women readers = fast friends!), and experiment with new cross-training workouts and fuel. They’ve recently expanded their product line - be sure to check out their new caffeinated energy gels. Use Fastwomen20 for 20% off through 12/31/20. 

 

Molly Huddle breaks the American 15K, 10 mile, and one hour track records

Molly Huddle had a productive Sunday afternoon, breaking three American records over the course of one hour. The three records Huddle broke were all set in the same race as well, by Nancy Conz, 39 years ago. I’m a little sad to see Conz’s records go, because Conz was a local legend in Western Massachusetts, where I grew up. She died in 2017, at age 59, of adenoid cystic carcinoma, the same rare cancer that Gabe Grunewald had. I appreciated that Huddle acknowledged Conz on Instagram on Sunday night, and I'm happy that Huddle’s records are an occasion to remember Conz. If you’d like to know more about her, I recommend this article from Runner’s World and this one from her local newspaper.

The 15K, 10 mile, and one-hour race are rarely run on the track, which is why the road records, kept separately, are significantly faster. Huddle went through 15K in 50:07.82, 10 miles in 53:49.9 (hand-timed), and covered 17,930 meters over the course of an hour. Translation: she ran 70 meters shy of 45 laps, which is roughly 11.14 miles at 5:23 per mile. The weather in Attleboro, Massachusetts, where she raced on Sunday afternoon, was hardly ideal for running, with rain and temperatures in the 40s. 
 

College conference meets showcase stars of the future

Much of the collegiate cross country season was canceled, and the NCAA Championships have been postponed until March 15. With the NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships supposedly scheduled for March 12–13, there are many unknowns about what the coming months will look like in terms of collegiate competition. But over the weekend, against the odds, five Division I conference meets took place.

Alabama’s Mercy Chelangat won the SEC title, running 19:46.5 for 6K, ahead of Kentucky’s Jenna Gearing (19:58.0) and Missouri’s Sarah Chapman (19:58.8). Chelangat was the first Alabama runner to win an SEC individual title since 1993, not an easy feat in the conference that includes the defending national champions from the Arkansas. Led by Lauren Gregory in fourth, Arkansas, currently ranked number one in the country, won the team title over Alabama, 41–57. (Results)

Led by Cailie Logue’s win (20:00.5 for 6K), Iowa State pulled off a big upset to win the Big 12 title over Texas, 39–62. Oklahoma State sophomore Taylor Roe had a big race to take second (20:07.8). Iowa State is coached by two-time Olympian Amy Rudolph, and Texas is coached by two-time Olympian PattiSue Plumer. (Results)

Dominique Clairmonte won individually and led her NC State team to a comfortable win (19:55.1 for 6K) at the ACC Championships. Syracuse’s Amanda Vestri finished second (20:06.1) and Georgia Tech recorded its highest team finish ever, in the runner-up spot. (Results)

Grace Forbes of Rice won the Conference USA title by nearly a minute, in 19:58.6. Middle Tennessee State University had only five runners, the minimum number required to score as a team, but they went 1–2–3–4–17 to win the team title. (Results) Arkansas State edged out Appalachian State by three points to win the Sun Belt Conference title, and South Alabama’s Carolien Millenaar won the individual title (17:12.6 for 5K). (Results

 

On what would be New York City Marathon weekend, a look at turmoil behind the scenes

In July, New York Road Runners announced that it was laying off 26 employees and furloughing 65 more (Runner’s World). It was difficult but understandable news, given the cancellation of so many events due to the coronavirus pandemic. Just over a month later, the @RebuildNYRR Instagram account launched, and current and former staff members announced a list of demands, including the removal of Michael Capiraso as president, CEO, and board member of the organization.

Fast Women editor Sarah Lorge Butler spent weeks talking to 17 current and former NYRR employees to put together this article that came out last week and includes more information about what’s going on behind the scenes (Runner’s World). Employees allege unfairness in promotions and pay and describe a culture of favoritism that most often benefits white men. One employee said, “I had a much harder time getting raises, bonuses, and promotions for staff of color than others, and at first I wasn’t quite sure why that was. But it became a pattern and practice that was hard to overcome.”

I particularly appreciated what Alison Désir had to say in the article. “Humanity has been lost, it seems. Many wrongs have been committed, and yet RebuildNYRR doesn’t want to tear down the organization—they want to rebuild it with social justice at its center. This is an amazing opportunity for NYRR to be at the forefront of a new running industry. I cannot believe they might squander the opportunity.”

I truly hope that New York Road Runners will take this down time to pause, listen to its employees, and then do what it takes to come back better than ever.
 

A zoomed in shot of Steph Bruce running, with a runner right in front of her and another on her shoulder.
Steph Bruce runs her virtual New York City Marathon in Arizona on Sunday. (Photo courtesy of New York Road Runners.)


Other Results

  • Camille Herron is known for swinging big in her races. On Saturday, she went after the 14:52 course record at the Javelina Jundred, a 100-mile race in Arizona. According to the results, she made it through 80.5 miles but was unable to finish the race. She wrote on Instagram, “I got a bit of heat exhaustion and had trouble getting calories in. I’m normally good about heat training and tolerating hot races well. I simply wasn’t prepared enough for the AZ heat this time.” Nicole Bitter, who credited her dog with helping her get in shape leading up to the race, won the women’s race and finished third overall in 15:17:47. 

  • Steph Bruce ran 2:35:28 in her virtual New York City Marathon, which put her in the lead.

  • Georgia Porter won the Las Vegas Gold Invitational Half Marathon on Saturday in 1:12:16.

 

Other News

  • This Women’s Running cover story about Tatyana McFadden, by Cindy Kuzma, is a must-read, even if you already know her story.

  • For the same issue of Women’s Running, Erin Strout wrote a good piece about why we can’t separate running from politics and social justice issues.

  • Des Linden made it through “Destober,” during which her mileage matched the date (October 5 = 5 miles, October 31 = 31 miles) She capped it off by running 31 miles in New York City’s Central Park on Saturday, and the New York Times wrote about it.

  • To no one’s surprise, the B.A.A. announced last week that the 2021 Boston Marathon has been postponed to at least the Fall of 2021. Massachusetts has categorized road racing as a phase four activity, and phase four is defined as, “[When the] development of vaccines and/or treatments enable resumption of [a] ‘new normal.’” When the Reopening Advisory Board put road racing in phase four, they clearly had Boston-Marathon-like events in mind. Cross country and track racing, as well as at least one small road race, have taken place in Massachusetts since the pandemic began. So if there’s any sort of Boston Marathon before Massachusetts reaches phase four, it’s likely going to have to be scaled down significantly.

  • New Zealand, on the other hand, a country that has handled Covid-19 very differently than the U.S. has, had more than 14,000 competitors take part in the Auckland Marathon on Sunday. It’s nice to imagine such things in our future, too, including the surge in participation that they’re experiencing. Alice Mason won the marathon (2:43:33) and Camille Buscomb won the half marathon (1:13:46).

  • In this Runner’s World piece, Molly Huddle asks, “Does doping in running make it impossible to be an elite running fan?” Obviously not, but it’s interesting to hear what Huddle has to say on the topic.

  • This was a nice Q&A with Aisha Praught-Leer.

  • I doubt this article from Gwen Jorgensen, urging you to vote, is going to be the factor that drives most of you to the polls, but I do appreciate that our sport’s stars have become more outspoken on such topics.

 

Podcast Highlights

  • I’ve listened to a whole bunch of Alexi Pappas podcasts, but I really enjoyed her recent episode with Ali Feller. If you haven’t already pre-ordered her book*, there’s a good chance this episode will make you want to do so. Pappas says that on top of the book and her elite-level marathon training, she has two movies and a TV show in development. (Separately, Pappas pointed out on Sunday that she makes a brief appearance in the new Pete Souza documentary, The Way I See It.)

  • Mary Wittenberg was on the Keeping Track podcast and it’s hard not to feel motivated and energized after listening to her talk about the sport.

  • Jordan Marie Daniel has been doing so much good through running recently that it’s hard to keep track of it all. I appreciated that on this episode of the Strong Runner Chicks podcast, she describes some of that work.

  • I’m excited that the Hit Play Not Pause podcast exists. Though I don’t have one particular episode to recommend, it’s a new podcast about menopause for active, performance-minded women. Those who are experiencing menopause or are on their way there grew up during a time when topics like periods weren’t really discussed much. I think it’s important to remember that everyone is different and take medical advice offered through a podcast with a grain of salt, but I’m glad that this podcast, hosted by Selene Yeager, is leading the way in discussing the topic at all.

*If you’re interested in pre-ordering Pappas’ book and you want to do so while supporting Fast Women, I am in the process of putting together a bookshop.org shop of recommended running books, where a percentage of your purchase will support independent bookstores, while also supporting Fast Women.

 

Things that made me smile

Thanks for reading, thanks to Gatorade Endurance for sponsoring this newsletter, and remember to use code Fastwomen20 for 20% of your order. Thanks, also, to everyone who helps keep this newsletter going through your support on Patreon. I hope you all have an excellent week.

Alison

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