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Fast Women, January 14, 2019, Issue 2

Sally Kipyego won nine individual NCAA cross country and track & field titles for Texas Tech. Here she is en route to the 2007 NCAA Cross Country title. (I haven’t taken many elite-level running photos since 2010, so you get to see the archives.)

Sally Kipyego of the U.S. to run the Boston Marathon

It turns out Sally Kipyego is entered in next weekend’s Houston Half-Marathon, not the marathon, which makes more sense for an athlete of her caliber. (The bigger the marathon, the bigger the appearance fee, generally.) John Hancock announced on Thursday that she, and many others, will run the 2019 Boston Marathon.

Most importantly, Kipyego will run for the U.S. going forward, after becoming a citizen nearly two years ago, which means the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials just got that much more competitive. Kipyego had a baby in July of 2017 and was scheduled to run the 2018 New York City Marathon before she came down with malaria and pneumonia and had to withdraw.

Kara Goucher returns to the marathon next weekend

Kipyego may not be running Sunday’s Houston Marathon (January 20), but Kara Goucher is. It will be her first marathon since the 2016 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, where she finished fourth. She says she doesn’t expect to contend for the win or rival her times of the past. “I no longer feel like I need to prove anything to anyone, this is just for me,” she wrote in November when she announced her intention to run.

The half-marathon will be fast, with Fancy Chemutai, who came within one second of the world record last year, leading the way. (Complete fields here.) Emily Sisson, who has already run a 1:08:21 half-marathon, is in the field. Sisson’s coach, Ray Treacy, told Competitor that sub-1:08 is the goal. Molly Huddle took it a step further and said she could imagine her training partner breaking Huddle’s American record of 1:07:25. Sisson will make her marathon debut this spring, but hasn’t announced where yet (not that there are too many options at this point).

Both the half and the full are scheduled to be live streamed and they begin at 8:01 a.m. EST.

Kate Murphy, 19, talks about her medical retirement and her advice to young runners

I was pleased to see Citius Mag release a podcast episode with Kate Murphy last week. Murphy was one of the fastest high school runners of all time, with a 4:07.21 1500m and 9:10.51 3,000m in her junior year. She got injured during her senior year of high school, and after enrolling at the University of Oregon, discovered she had popliteal artery entrapment syndrome.

Murphy, now a sophomore at Oregon, never got to race for the school, and has undergone two procedures to correct the problem. After much frustration, she has decided to medically retire from collegiate running. This doesn’t mean she’ll never run competitively again, but she will not run collegiately.

Murphy has started to share more of her journey on Instagram and Twitter recently, so I was glad to hear her speak about her experiences publicly for the first time, though it clearly wasn’t easy for her. She shares her advice for young prodigies like herself—making sure you’re having fun and be ready to handle adversity well, because it will come at some point.

My guide on how to last in the sport

I have no experience as a running prodigy, but I’ve been covering the sport since Shalane Flanagan, Sara Hall, Molly Huddle, and Jenny Simpson were in high school.

Over time, I’ve seen similar scenarios repeat themselves. I think coaches and parents are gradually becoming more educated about such things, but there’s still room for improvement.

Here are my generalizations about the runners who have had longevity and have successfully made the transition from high school star to professional runner:

  • They don’t just talk about having fun (every successful runner will say she’s having fun), but they clearly know how to have fun with their teammates, as well as outside of the sport. They are capable of being loose and relaxed on race day.
  • They tend to be team players. They work well with others and clearly care about the success of their teams.
  • They can put their running in perspective and understand that it’s not the most important thing in the world.
  • They learn from their setbacks. Flanagan never qualified for Foot Locker nationals, collapsing as a junior and going out too hard and failing to finish as a senior. As a college sophomore, she was leading the NCAA Cross Country Championships but burned herself out and stopped to walk briefly, before finishing 22nd. Simpson went from the lead pack to 163rd at the 2009 NCAA Cross Country Championships. (Taylor Dutch wrote a good article about this.) They have bad days, but they rebound.
  • They have interests outside of running.
  • They don’t have a lot of pressure coming from their inner circle. They tend not to come from the most intense and successful high school programs. They have coaches and parents who are supportive, but the motivation comes entirely from the athlete. In many cases, their coaches are actively holding them back.
  • They are often well-rounded athletes who come from a multi-sport background.
  • They tend to eat like any other kid and fuel their bodies well. There’s time later in one’s career to focus more on fueling for peak performance. But too much focus on nutrition early in life can lead to disordered eating.

Lauren Fleshman always has wise things to say on this topic. If you haven’t read her letter to her younger self, it’s worth checking out. I’m curious what other people who have lived it would add to this list, or how they'd modify it. Also, I should note that I’ve seen young runners who seemingly do everything “right,” yet still never get past their struggles, for various reasons.

I loved this tweet from Nick Willis (see the comments) regarding his thoughts on what the youngest runners should be doing in order to last in the sport.

A record number of women qualify for the Olympic Marathon Trials, and we still have a year to go

The Atlanta Track Club, which is hosting the 2020 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, announced the final race course last week. The consensus is that it’s a hilly course, it has a lot of turns, and it’s a good spectator course.

Sarah Lorge Butler’s article about the event for Runner’s World pointed out that there are currently 262 women qualified for the Trials, with just over a year left in the qualifying window. In 2016, only 246 women qualified.

The Atlanta Track Club made a commitment to pay the travel costs of all of the qualifiers, something previous Trials hosts haven’t done. Lorge Butler’s article confirms that the organization is standing by its commitment, as costly as it may be.

New York high schooler Kelsey Chmiel races Laura Muir

USA Track & Field sent up-and-coming women’s teams to compete at the Great Stirling Cross Country International Challenge in Scotland over the weekend (results here), which was televised by (for a fee). One of the featured events was a 4 x 1.5K mixed-gender relay, which included both junior and senior teams. This meant that Kelsey Chmiel got to run her anchor leg against European Champion and World Championship medalist Laura Muir.

Muir had a big head start by the time Chmiel got the baton, but the U.S. junior team of Drew Bosley, Katelynne Hart, Jake Renfree, and Chmiel finished fifth overall, second among junior teams (three seconds behind the European team) and only 10 seconds behind the U.S. seniors.


In other news

  • Steph Bruce told Lindsey Hein that she won’t run a spring marathon but is likely to run a fall marathon, to avoid putting all of her eggs in one basket with the Olympic Trials. Much more in their podcast episode.
  • In December of 2017, BYU’s Erika Birk-Jarvis had a baby. Less than 11 months later, she had a breakthrough to finish seventh at the NCAA Cross Country Championships. Johanna Gretschel has her story.
  • Kellyn Taylor reports that she had an Achilles injury in December and had to scrap her “plan A marathon,” but she’s on her way back and just recorded a 74-mile week. (While you’re there, check out how good she is at handstands.)
  • This is a good piece from Teal Burrell on her journey from 4+ hour marathoner to 2:39 marathoner.
  • Julia Webb qualified for the Olympic Marathon Trials at the Eugene Marathon in April and didn’t realize until after the fact that she was pregnant. She raced throughout her pregnancy and gave birth to her third girl, Gabriella, January 9. Webb documented many of the details of her training during pregnancy on Instagram. She is married to Alan Webb, who holds the American record in the mile.
  • Congratulations to North Carolina State University’s Laurie Henes, who was recently promoted to the role of head women’s track & field coach in her 27th year at the school. She has been the school’s head cross country coach since 2006.
  • This is a good article about Emma Bates, who won her debut marathon at the California International Marathon in December.
  • Every time I listen to an interview with Mary Cain, I find myself pulling for her. Cain posted last week saying she’s in the midst of a three-week altitude training stint in Mammoth Lakes, California. Cain holds American Junior Records in the 1500m (4:04.62) and 800m (1:59.51) but has struggled in recent years. She joined Alexi Pappas and Kyle Merber for an episode (#5) of the Book Club Track Club podcast back in July and shared some insights about her running career.
  • Molly Huddle has a new Runner's World column. Last week, she addressed how to set goals.
  • Foon Fu recently spent some time in Arizona, photographing runners from various training groups (aka helping them stock up on their Instagram material) and he’s shared some of his great shots on his Instagram account.

Race Results

  • Penn State’s Danae Rivers set a collegiate 1,000m record of 2:38.58 on Saturday. NAIA runner Anna Shields of Point Park University, who has an interesting story, challenged Rivers for three laps before finishing second. The previous record was 2:40.79, set by Kaela Edwards in 2017.
  • Shannon Rowbury returned to the track on Saturday after giving birth on June 30, 2018. She finished second to Eleanor Fulton in the 3,000m at the UW Indoor Preview, 9:02.84 to 9:03.00. Here’s a post-race interview with Fulton and a post-race Instagram update from Rowbury.
  • Germany’s Konstanze Klosterhalfen, now training with the Nike Oregon Project, won the mile (4:29.06) and 1,000m (2:43.07) at the same meet. She talked a little about her decision to come to the U.S. in her post-race interview. Katie Mackey finished second in the mile in 4:30.02.
  • At the Valencia 10K on Sunday, Tsehay Gemechu bettered Tirunesh Dibaba’s Ethiopian 10K (road) record by 15 seconds, running 30:15.
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