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Fast Women, August 12, 2019, Issue 32

Helen Schlachtenhaufen competes at the Adrian Martinez Classic earlier this season.

Helen Schlachtenhaufen and Cory McGee run Olympic 1500m standards

On Saturday night some top runners descended upon Memphis to compete at the Ed Murphey Classic. The elite races were streamed live, with pretty good commentary, but poor video quality. If I go back and watch the race now, it’s not that surprising that Helen Schlachtenhaufen won, because she was positioned well throughout and ran a strong race. But I was mostly relying on the commentary to know which blurry runner was which, so it kind of felt like W, X, Y, and Z were in the race, and then A kicked past them all to take the win.

Even if I could have seen what was happening, a Schlachtenhaufen win is still an impressive upset. She finished 22nd at the USATF Championships and didn’t make the final. She entered this race with a personal best of 4:05.49 from earlier this year and came away with a 4:03.59 and the Olympic standard.

Behind her, Cory McGee (4:04.14), Shannon Osika (4:04.22), and Emma Coburn (4:04.40) all set personal bests as well. The Olympic standard is 4:04.20, so McGee also got it, while Osika and Coburn narrowly missed it.

The 800m came down to a close finish among four Canadians, and Melissa Bishop took the win (2:01.50) over Madeleine Kelly (2:01.61), but both are still in pursuit of the World Championships standard of 2:00.60. And as a side note, this is a fantastic podcast episode, in which Kelly flips between journalist and featured athlete, recorded after her surprise victory at the Canadian Championships. (Results)

Nikki Hiltz wins Pan American Games gold

The Pan Am Games track events featured some solid performances by U.S. runners, but given the relative strength of U.S. distance running, the results were somewhat of a mixed bag. Nikki Hiltz won the U.S.’s only gold in the women’s middle-distance/distance events, taking the 1500m in 4:07.14, ahead of Jamaica’s Aisha Praught-Leer and Alexa Efraimson, who won bronze. Marisa Howard took silver in the steeplechase (9:43.78) behind Canada’s Geneviève Lalonde. And in a sprint finish in the 5,000m, Kim Conley won bronze (15:36.95) behind Kansas State graduate Laura Galvan of Mexico and Jess O’Connell of Canada. (Results)

Elaina Tabb and Sarah Pagano went 4-6 in the 10,000 meters. Athing Mu was the sole U.S. 800m competitor, and she did not advance to the final. Hanna Green was scheduled to run, but she appeared not to make the trip to Peru. Allie Ostrander, who was probably the favorite in the steeplechase, did make the trip, but got E. coli the night before her race and was unable to run.

It’s hard not to wonder how this all would have turned out had USATF selected the team correctly from the get-go, and there was no drama and uncertainty about who would be competing leading up to the event. The runners all did their best, yet the collective performance didn’t feel representative of what U.S. runners can do.

This Twitter thread contains more details about some of the team selection errors. Michele Lee was erroneously passed over for the marathon squad, and one of James McKirdy’s athletes (presumably Kate Landau) was offered a spot on the marathon team only seven days out, which she obviously turned down. This article about Bethany Sachtleben, which I linked to last week as well, contains more information about the uncertainty regarding who was on the marathon team in the week leading up to the race. Howard and Mu were both late replacements for other runners, as was Green, who ended up not going.

U.S. hammer thrower Gwen Berry won gold and then raised a fist in protest at the end of the national anthem during her medal ceremony (and fencer Race Imboden took a knee during his). Berry told USA Today, “Somebody has to talk about the things that are too uncomfortable to talk about. Somebody has to stand for all of the injustices that are going on in America and a president who’s making it worse.”

Mary Keitany headlines the New York City Marathon field

New York Road Runners revealed the New York City Marathon professional athlete fields in a creative manner last week, as two of their youth runners with the Rising New York Road Runners made the announcement. The fields are stacked as usual and include four-time winner Mary Keitany, 2019 Boston Marathon champion Worknesh Degefa, and 2019 Tokyo Marathon winner Ruti Aga. Joyciline Jepkosgei, the half marathon world record holder, is scheduled to make her marathon debut, but this is the third time she’s announced a marathon debut, so it’ll be interesting to see if she makes it to the starting line this time.

Des Linden leads the U.S. field, and she’ll be joined by fellow sub-2:30 runners Kellyn Taylor, Sara Hall, Diane Nukuri, Allie Kieffer, Roberta Groner, and many others. Hall and Groner are particularly interesting because Hall also announced she’d run the Berlin Marathon 35 days before New York, and Groner will also run the World Championships marathon, which takes place 36 days earlier, on September 28. Hall explained her decision in this Sports Illustrated article, and Groner explained hers in this episode of the Road to the Olympic Trials podcast.

Some runners were concerned about running a fall marathon and then bouncing back in time for the Olympic Trials on February 29, 2020. It brings to mind Eliud Kipchoge’s quote about not chasing two rabbits at once. Meanwhile, Hall and Groner have decided they can handle it, or at least back-to-back rabbits.

In this Linden article, she’s quoted as saying that she trusts the drug testing at the World Marathon Majors more than she trusts the drug testing at the Olympic level. Based on what we’ve learned since Rita Jeptoo’s positive test in 2014, and the discovery of systemic doping in Russia, I’d be inclined to agree.

The oddly controversial topic of young distance runners

Fast Women editor Sarah Lorge Butler wrote a good article last week for Runner’s World about Kate Peters, a 14-year-old from Oregon who has run 16:49 for 5,000m and 1:16:56 for a half marathon. I appreciated that after describing Peters’ accomplishments, training (60 miles per week this summer), energy, and enthusiasm for the sport, she preemptively addressed the too much, too soon comments she knew the article was likely to get. And from what I’ve seen, as Sarah predicted, the comments seem to be split between, “Great job, keep it up!” and some version of “Uh oh, this rarely ends well.”

In Issue 2 of the newsletter, I wrote about some factors that I think can contribute to longevity in running, but I wasn’t focusing on the training side of things. I don’t want to talk about Kate Peters specifically; the last thing any 14-year-old girl needs is a bunch of adults she doesn’t know debating what’s best for her, or predicting what her future looks like. I do want to address both sides of these arguments, though.

“Keep it up”
It’s difficult to argue with any young runner who wants to pursue her or his goals enthusiastically. We can’t, or at least shouldn’t be allowed to, argue that kids these days spend too much time looking at screens and not enough time exercising, and then criticize them for exercising too much (as long as they’re not doing it in some pathological way or doing obvious damage to their bodies).

Sarah said to me last week that she’s puzzled why the measure of success for any kid needs to be how successful she/he is 5, 10, or 15 years down the road. If they’re happy, healthy, and self-motivated now, what’s the harm? It’s hard to argue with any of this. (But I will still cringe when I see nine-year-olds running marathons.)

“This rarely ends well”
This is the Debbie Downer response to seeing a young kid training hard, getting a lot of joy out of it, and having success. I wish I could say I have none of this in me, but I can’t deny it’s there. I will attempt to explain why.

Anyone who has this kind of response is probably making the assumption that future success and longevity matters to the young runner—that they dream of being a professional runner and/or Olympian someday. If that doesn’t matter to them and they simply want to enjoy their talent now, then carry on.

If longevity is important, I think the two things that worry me are the added pressure/attention, as well as leaving room for growth, training-wise.

With success at a young age comes more attention, and that can be tough to handle, especially it you’re the one out front, taking the brunt of it. This is not a complete list, but I think Mary Decker Slaney, Melody Fairchild, Erin Davis, Julia Stamps, Jordan Hasay, Mary Cain and Katelyn Tuohy are among some of the runners who really had a strong dose of this, especially since they started winning when they were quite young. Historically, it’s been an easier path for those who are among the high school elite, but finish outside the top spot. Those runners are similar ability-wise, but it’s generally easier to experience one’s ups and downs without the additional spotlight and scrutiny that goes along with being number one. And some runners attract this attention more than others, for whatever reason.

But I don’t think being in the spotlight is the primary downfall of most young distance runners who don’t continue to be successful. There are plenty of examples from the 800m and down of high-profile athletes being great as both teens and adults. I think training also plays a major role.

Training-wise, in my mind, higher mileage and more intense training at a younger age is likely to get an athlete closer to her or his potential faster, but seems a little less likely to lead to long-term success. The more you do, the more you improve, but at some point, that has to level off, which can be less rewarding. And sometimes, the more you do, the more likely you are to get injured at some point.

I think most of what I’m saying is true for both young boys and girls, but younger boys are less likely to see as much success, because boys tend to get a significant performance boost with puberty.

As a college coach, I mostly liked to recruit great all-around athletes who had room for growth in their training. Some coaches liked to see kids who were running low mileage but were racing well, and others liked to see a little more mileage, as proof that a runner’s body could handle solid training. I’m sure there are some college coaches who recruit kids doing high-level intense training in high school, but to me, if a kid is already doing relatively elite-like training, it’s harder to improve upon that. Allie Ostrander mentioned doing 55 miles per week for a long time in college, before moving up to 65 miles this year. That leaves her professional coach room for growth if/when she’s ready.

If you’re a successful high school or college coach who disagrees with this, I’d love to hear the logic. There is definitely a stronger movement towards kids doing more in high school now, and some of that is just part of an arms race. I don’t think New York state has more talent per capita than other states; I think there are more high school teams pushing their limits there. And look at Kenya and Ethiopia. You don’t hear a lot of worries about burnout and injuries of young runners in either country, as far as I know. I don’t know if that’s because Kenyan and Ethiopian runners handle the training better on average, train smarter, or if there are many young runners falling by the wayside, but we just don’t hear as much about them. Or maybe they have greater success because they mostly don’t get involved in the NCAA system (but that’s a more complex topic).

The topic of burnout comes up a lot, and more often than not, I think burnout comes about as a side effect of injury and/or plateauing. When I think of the young runners who haven’t gone on to future running success, there’s often a RED-S and/or injury issue at play, not any lack of desire or continued love of the sport, though that occasionally happens.

Adults will often raise the “but she/he is self-motivated” issue. That matters quite a bit—pushing kids to train more than they want to when they’re young is unlikely to end well—yet even if a young runner isn’t being pushed, she/he is still plenty capable of overdoing it. This is where good coaches can help a lot, as parents are rarely experienced in handling such things, and they’re unlikely to inherently understand the potential pitfalls that are unique to distance running, compared to sprints or other sports.

There are plenty of current professional runners who were good when they were young, but most of them didn’t run a ton during high school. Sara Hall, as we now know, was an exception, with her 70 miles per week in high school. I’m sure there are others as well. But with any of these runners, regardless of how they got where they are today, we will never know how it would have turned out for them had they taken a different approach to training. And of course mileage is only one measure of the training load, and there are so many other environmental and mental factors at play.

Anyone who claims to have the formula for future success all figured out is full of it, because runners vary, and the human mind and body is complex. I’m just saying that based on past statistics, if I were trying to guide a super-talented young runner, I’d go with a more conservative approach training-wise, focus on developing speed while they’re young, and make sure it was always fun, whether they’re winning or not.

Other results

  • Emily Lipari, who is on her way back from injury, won the Liberty Mile in Pittsburgh on Friday night in 4:34, outkicking a strong field. (Results | Race video)

  • I haven’t been able to find results yet, but rumor has it that Eleanor Fulton won the Lodi Mile in California on Sunday, and Rachel Schneider finished second. Both also ran the Liberty Mile on Friday.

  • The European Team Championships took place over the weekend, and videos of all of the races are available here and the results are here.

  • Switzerland’s Mathys Maude set a new course record at the Sierre-Zinal mountain race. 

  • At the Cirque Series trail race in Arapahoe Basin, Colorado, Anna Mae Flynn, Deanna Ardrey, and Ashley Brasovan swept the top three spots. (Results)

Other news

  • Laura Muir, one of the favorites to win 1500m gold at the World Championships, tweeted that she injured her calf at the Anniversary Games and had to take a couple weeks off. She said she’d be back to racing in 2-3 weeks, but would miss the Birmingham Diamond League meet. If things go smoothly from here on in, she’ll still likely be tough to beat at worlds. But any sort of setback can open the door just the tiniest bit.

  • Chris Chavez wrote a good article for Sports Illustrated about Dalilah Muhammad, who broke the world record in the 400 hurdles at the USATF Championships. It’s an interesting in-depth look at her race, and I was also glad to see it because I don’t think Muhammad’s run has gotten the attention it deserves. She told Chavez she thinks she could break 2:00 in the 800m right now, which sounds completely realistic to me, but we’re unlikely to find out for sure.

  • Sarah Sellers was on Mario Fraoli’s Morning Shakeout podcast last week and she was great. She has a self-deprecating quality that is both funny and relatable. She talked about being inspired by Allie Kieffer’s message after she ran well at the NYC Marathon in 2017 (which was around the time Sellers ran her first marathon). Sellers said she had tried to reach a weight that wasn’t natural for her body in the past, but Kieffer reaffirmed Sellers’ commitment to long-term, sustainable health and success.

  • Jared Ward explained why he’s running the New York City Marathon on the Saucony blog and I thought the detail that “the 1-2 marathons/year that I run account for roughly half of my annual income” was interesting. Ward earned $35,000 in prize money ($25k for being the top U.S man and $10k for finishing sixth overall) at last year’s race. We know nothing about appearance fees, both how much and who gets them, because those are kept confidential. But it shows how much is sometimes riding on these races for professional athletes.

  • Tianna Bartoletta, a long jumper and sprinter who has won Olympic and World Championships gold, wrote a good blog post about the challenge of being a professional track & field athlete while struggling with undiagnosed health problems, and touched on a bunch of interesting issues. The Athletics Integrity Unit had informed Bartoletta that she was severely anemic (a perk of being drug tested, I guess) but her issues came to a head when she fainted in the lobby of the Olympic Training Center.

  • Amelia Boone went on the Obstacle Racing Media podcast and answered questions about her eating disorder recovery. I imagine it isn’t easy to be in the thick of dealing with something while also educating others about it, but she does it well. She addressed some of the common language and thoughts we habitually use regarding food and body size, and discussed how we can reframe those things.

  • Taylor Dutch told the story behind Emily Infeld’s Beach to Beacon 10K comeback for Runner’s World and Erin Strout wrote about Infeld’s advice on coming back from an injury, for Women’s Running.

  • Sarah Lavender Smith wrote about Brittany Charboneau’s recent foray into trail running. Charboneau, a 2:36:25 marathoner, has taken nearly an hour off her marathon time since 2012, while not taking herself too seriously. (Charboneau won last year’s Disney Princess 10K while dressed as Ariel.) She’s been experimenting with trail racing recently, including winning the Aspen Backcountry Heavy Half over the weekend, but she’ll return to the roads in the fall to run the Marine Corps Marathon. Charboneau was also on a podcast last week. She discussed her route into running and comedy, and it’s a solid introduction if you don’t know much about her.

  • This article about Margaret (Nyairera, as they refer to her in the article) Wambui is poorly written and full of offensive stereotypes, but the quotes from Wambui are interesting, as she discussed how the IAAF’s DSD ruling is affecting her. She said her greatest fear is that she and her family will have to go back to the hard life that they lived prior to her athletic success. (And she also discloses some of the details of her initial Nike contract, which is interesting.)

  • Runner’s World profiled Chelsea Benson, an Olympic Marathon Trials qualifier who works full time and has twins.

  • This four-minute video takes a look at how trail runner Emelie Forsberg is handling her return to running after having a baby, and how she makes it work in a two-runner household.

  • If the Nike Elite Camp (and the internet) had existed when I was in high school, I probably would have watched this highlight video on repeat for hours. Jerry Schumacher makes a rare appearance on camera as he puts the high schoolers through a Bowerman Track Club-style workout.

  • There’s a lot of good stuff in this podcast episode with Meghan Hicks of iRunFar. It’s a good episode for anyone thinking about getting into ultrarunning. 

  • Lauren Fleshman and her husband, Jesse Thomas, were the guests on the Ali On the Run Show. They were entertaining and honest, as usual. I don’t plug their podcast, Work, Play, Love, much here, because it’s not often a source of running news, but it’s one of my favorites each week.

  • This article, from 1985, isn’t new, but Chris Chavez tweeted a link to it last week, and it’s good. Kenny Moore wrote about how Joan Benoit Samuelson dealt with the fame that went with winning a gold medal in the first women’s Olympic Marathon. It’s well done and far less sexist than everything else I’ve read in the Sports Illustrated Vault.

  • Forbes released its list of the 100 highest-paid athletes for 2019 last week, and there is only one woman, Serena Williams, on the list. (There are zero track and field athletes.) Part of me looks at a list like that and wonders if anyone should be paid that much, but if we’re going to pay athletes that much, women deserve to be in on it, too. Forbes also released a list with the 15 highest-paid female athletes, and tennis leads the way. Yes, you can make arguments that men’s sports have more fans and so on, but then you also need to look at how we got there in the first place. I realize some sports pay far better than others, but I think Simone Biles should get about $1 million each time she successfully completes her new beam dismount or tumbling pass.

  • Shawanna White, who hopes to shave at least 19 seconds off her marathon personal best and qualify to run the Olympic Marathon Trials in her hometown of Atlanta, was the guest of Lindsey Hein’s podcast last week. White said she’s been told that her 2:45:19 marathon makes her the fourth-fastest U.S.-born African American female marathoner ever, which emphasizes the need for more African American long distance runners.

  • This was an interesting article about how Sifan Hassan and Yomif Kejelcha, who are both Ethiopian-born Nike Oregon Project athletes who have set mile world records in the past year, have helped one another navigate living and training in the U.S.

  • Abbey (D'Agostino) Cooper is moving to Boone, North Carolina, but sticking with the same coach and training partner.

  • World Cup and Women’s World Cup. Raiders and Lady Raiders. NBA and WNBA. The use of the male as the default in sports drives me crazy, yet it’s so common. And at the Green Lakes Endurance Run 50K on Saturday, it came back to bite race organizers, as Ellie Pell won the race outright. The race had an award for the first-place finisher, and the first female finisher, so Pell received both, and race organizers had to give the top male an alternate prize. (They would have avoided this had they just made men’s awards and women’s awards.)

  • This article describes complaints made against Lehigh University track & field coach Matt Utesch. I think behavior like that described in the article is too common in collegiate athletics, yet it’s gone mostly unchecked until recently.

  • And on that note, the Tucker Center released a new report last week that focuses in-depth on NCAA Division I coaches of women’s teams. Cross country (where 20.8 percent of head coaches of women’s teams are women) and track and field (18.8 percent) saw slight increases in the number of female head coaches in 2018–19, but both sports are still among those that receive Fs, according to the Tucker Center’s report card.

  • This article is sponsored content (from Runner’s World), but interesting. It’s about Jane Kibii, a professional Kenyan marathoner who earns a living racing in the U.S., while raising her six-year-old daughter.

  • Justin Grunewald was a guest on Billy Yang’s podcast, and he had touching things to say about his late wife, Gabe Grunewald.

  • It’s not really running news, but it’s news that’s of note to the running community. Rosie (Ruiz) Vivas, the most infamous Boston Marathon bandit of all time, apparently died last month. This article discusses why her death has been harder to confirm than it might otherwise have been.


After a month-long hiatus, the Diamond League resumes on Sunday, with a stop in Birmingham. The start lists aren’t out as of this writing, but it will be a good meet. The Falmouth Road Race will take place on Sunday, and the pro field includes Des Linden, Sara Hall, Molly Seidel, Allie Kieffer, and Nell Rojas.


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