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 December 6, 2021, Issue 158



Keira D'Amato poses with her cousins after winning the USATF Half Marathon Championships. (Photo: Liane MacDowell)
 

From Hardeeville to Sacramento to Boston to Huntsville, it was a very fast weekend of racing. Here are some of the highlights:

 

Keira D’Amato wins her first national title

Keira D’Amato took control of the USATF Half Marathon Championships from the start. The race, held on a four-mile loop in Hardeeville, South Carolina, was designed for speed, and D’Amato took advantage. Though she had company in the early miles, anyone who wanted to hang with her had to run close to American record pace, as she clicked off miles in the 5:08 to 5:10 range. (Here’s her Strava data.) She went through 5K in 16:04 and 10K in 32:05, and it looked like she might have a shot at Molly Huddle’s women’s-only American record of 1:07:41. But she slowed slightly over the next two 5Ks (16:07, 16:16), which put the record just out of reach.

But D’Amato dominated the race, winning her first national title at age 37, running 1:07:55, and tying Jordan Hasay as the fourth-fastest U.S. woman ever to run the distance. Natosha Rogers finished second in 1:09:36, holding off a challenge from Dakotah Lindwurm (1:09:40), who began the race more conservatively. Lauren Paquette took fourth in her debut at the distance (1:09:46) and Makena Morley was fifth in 1:09:57. Erika Kemp (sixth, 1:10:38) came into this race with a nine-point lead over Morley in the USATF Running Circuit standings. Kemp finished close enough to Morley to win the series title, which earned her an extra $20,000. Morley finished second, earning an additional $15,000. (Results)
 

Sara Vaughn wins her debut marathon

It was fitting that D’Amato and Sara Vaughn would produce big performances just hours apart. Both runners have had somewhat unconventional paths through the sport, both are realtors, and both are moms. (Vaughn has four children, D’Amato has two.) Vaughn has spent most of her career as a middle-distance runner, specializing in the 1500m. But over the years, she has begun to train more and more like a marathoner. Her long runs got so long that she figured she might as well give the distance a try. She made her debut on Sunday at the California International Marathon.

Vaughn, 35, whose personalized fluid bottles were decorated by her children, had her eye on breaking 2:30 and she went out right around that pace, hitting halfway in 1:14:48. From there, she got progressively faster, going through 30K on 2:28 pace, 40K on 2:27 pace, and finishing in a course record 2:26:53. Though Vaughn is a rookie when it comes to the marathon, she executed her race like the veteran she is, and she covered the second half of the race in 1:12:05. Molly Grabill also ran a strong second half to finish second in 2:29:17, while Carrie Dimoff, doubling back after a 2:38 in Chicago, finished third in 2:29:33. 

The race featured impressive depth, even though the Olympic Marathon Trials qualifying window won’t open until next month. Twelve women ran under 2:37 (a couple of them not from the U.S.), 38 broke 2:45, 75 women broke 2:50 and 174 women broke 3:00. (Results)

 
 

Thanks to New Balance for sponsoring this month’s newsletter

I am a relatively recent convert to New Balance shoes and I am continuing to love the Fresh Foam 880v11 both because they fit my feet so well (so many width options, too!) and for their superior cushioning. I also love that when I purchase items from New Balance, I am supporting a brand that does so much to support women’s running.

New Balance, based in Boston, is a local-to-me company, and I am particularly excited that THE TRACK at New Balance will be opening to the public in March of 2022. It’s designed to be the fastest track in the world, which, if they can pull it off, would make Boston home to two of the world’s fastest tracks, as it’s just over a mile away from Boston University’s track.

You can order the Fresh Foam 880v11 and browse New Balance’s other offerings at newbalance.com, or try them out at a run specialty store, if you have one nearby.




Annie Rodenfels reacts to winning her race and running 15:08.
 

Annie Rodenfels breaks through

Annie Rodenfels was nervous heading into her 5,000m race Saturday at Boston University, but not for the usual reasons. She and her Boston Athletic Association teammate Abbey Wheeler were the designated pacesetters for one of the big events of the evening, and she wanted to make sure to get her splits just right. It was her first pacing gig and she had agreed to help take the field through 3,000 meters in 9:09. She was pretty confident she could do it, but it would require running a personal best for the distance. (Her PR is still officially 9:18.93.)

When BYU coach Diljeet Taylor asked her if they might be able to stay in the race a little longer and help pace through 4,000m, Rodenfels, speaking honestly, told her no. She and her coach, Mark Carroll, had discussed the idea of staying in the race when her pacing duties were over, but Rodenfels expected she would drift back through the field. Wheeler and Rodenfels led through 3,000m in 9:12, when Wheeler dropped out and Whittni Orton Morgan, followed closely by Courtney Wayment, took over the top two spots. Rodenfels slid into third place, but kept clicking off similar splits.

It still would have been a good day for Rodenfels if she finished behind Orton Morgan, who recently won the NCAA cross country title and was running her first post-collegiate race, and Wayment, a reigning NCAA champion on the track for BYU. A couple of times, Rodenfels began to drift back, but never too far. It wasn’t until the last lap that Rodenfels realized she could win the race. She threw down a 30.51 final 200m, passed Orton Morgan with 100 meters to go, and never looked back. Rodenfels finished in 15:08.80, running under the world championships standard (15:10.00) and taking 26 seconds off her outdoor personal best and 86 seconds off her indoor best. (I’ll share more about Rodenfels later in the week.)


Orton Morgan took second in 15:09.47, also under the world standard, and Wayment finished third in 15:15.46, breaking Orton Morgan’s school record by seven seconds. A total of 24 women broke 16:00 in the 5,000m on Saturday night, many of them setting school records in the process. (Results)



Ceili McCabe (left) edges out Anna Camp Bennett
 

Records for Ceili McCabe, Katelyn Tuohy

Earlier in the evening, West Virginia University’s Ceili McCabe also pulled off a dramatic win, using the kick she had become known for during the cross-country season. McCabe, who finished third at the NCAA Cross Country Championships two weeks earlier, trailed Anna Camp Bennett, who was running her first race as a pro, and NC State standout Katelyn Tuohy for much of the race. With just over 100 meters to go, Camp Bennett took the lead from Tuohy. McCabe temporarily dropped to fourth place, with her roommate Amy Cashin, an Australian Olympian, having moved up to challenge the lead trio. McCabe ran an impressive final 100 meters and timed her finish just right, edging Camp Bennett 8:52.52 to 8:52.53. 

McCabe, who is 20, broke Sheila Reid’s Canadian U23 record of 8:56.92. Cashin finished third in 8:53.07, and Tuohy, 19, was fourth in 8:54.18, a U.S. U20 record. Tuohy edged her teammate, Sam Bush, for the school record, as Bush, NC State’s fifth runner at the NCAA Cross Country Championships, was right behind Tuohy, running 8:54.37.
 


Katelyn Tuohy (right) congratulates Sam Bush.
 

It will take sub 2:37/1:12 to get to the 2024 Olympic Marathon Trials

The fine print is coming some time this week, but it was revealed at the USATF Annual Meeting last week that the women’s qualifying standards for the 2024 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials will be 2:37:00 and 1:12:00. The marathon qualifying window opens January 1, 2022, the half marathon window opens a year later, and both will close 60 days before the Olympic Trials—date and location TBD. While there was reportedly a proposal to allow qualifying only on record-eligible courses and at World Marathon Majors (which would eliminate CIM, one of the most popular places to qualify), apparently that was struck down.

The new marathon standard is eight minutes faster than the 2020 qualifying time and significantly more intimidating to those who would have previously considered 2:45 to be a stretch goal. While 511 women qualified for the Trials in 2020, only 91 would have qualified had the standards been 2:37/1:12 (Runner’s World). (See also the part in that article about the fact that it’s still possible that the 2024 U.S. Olympic marathon team won’t be selected by a Trials race at all.) I expect that some of those women could have run faster if they needed to to get in, and super shoes will be more widely used throughout the entire qualifying window this time, whereas when the 2020 window opened in the fall of 2017, they were less common. On the other hand, the qualifying window will be shorter this time, which means fewer shots at getting it right.

For years, the men’s Olympic Marathon Trials qualifying time (previously 2:19, now 2:18) was tougher than the women’s time, resulting in larger women’s fields. But with this move, the women’s standards are now harder. According to the World Athletics scoring tables, a men’s 2:18 marathon is equivalent to a women’s 2:41:28.

On one hand, the purpose of a Trials race is to select an Olympic team, which doesn’t require a large field. And the current financial model is so tough on hosts that the larger the race gets, the more difficult it will be to find someone to host the race, and these issues have only been exacerbated by the pandemic. On the other hand, the larger trials races have been a beautiful celebration of women’s running, and the easier qualifying times are a carrot that keeps more women in the sport at a high level. I could argue either side of this one, though I would have preferred to see a larger race and, at the very least, a standard equivalent to the men’s.

Odds are extremely low that 511 women will qualify for the 2024 Olympic Trials, but I’d love to see just as many try. Missing this standard by 10 or 15 minutes (or less) still means you ran a very fast marathon. Some of the women who set out to run 2:45 last time ended up breaking 2:37. You never really know what you can do until you give it your best. And I’ll be cheering you all on as you go for it. I’d also love to see the sport find a way to celebrate the next tier of marathoners. It’s not going to be anything as meaningful as trying to make an Olympic team, but I’d like to see some sort of invitational race for those who can run 2:37 to 2:45. Easier said than done, but I’m imagining something like Trials of Miles meets the Marathon Project, with a little bit of the Foot Locker/Eastbay Cross Country Championships experience mixed in.

 

Additional Results

  • Kenya’s Nancy Jelagat won the Valencia Marathon on Sunday morning in 2:19:31, taking 17 minutes off her personal best despite tough conditions! The performance didn’t come out of the blue, though, as Jelagat has a half marathon best of 1:05:21.

  • Allie Buchalski of the Brooks Beasts won the Sound Running Cross Champs, covering the 5.5-mile course at Mt. SAC in 31:53.6. Amy Davis and Olivia Pratt, of the Hansons-Brooks ODP, went 2–3.

  • Grayson Murphy won the XTERRA Trail Running World Championships, held in muddy conditions. Murphy ran 1:31:18 for 21K and won by more than seven minutes. Bailey Kowalczyk finished second in 1:38:35, one second ahead of Canada’s Katherine Short. (Results)

  • At the Wooo Pig Classic hosted by the University of Arkansas, Oklahoma State’s Taylor Roe won the 3,000m in 8:58.58. Arkansas’ Lauren Gregory won the 5,000m in 15:34.58. (Results)

  • Running against collegians at the Sharon Colyear-Danville Season Opener at Boston University, high school junior Sophia Gorriaran dominated the 800m running 2:04.07. She also finished second in the 300m in 39.35.

  • Kalie Demerjian won the USATF 100 Mile Trail National Championship, held at the Brazos Bend 100, in 15:02:13.

  • At the RunningLane Cross Country Championships in Huntsville, Alabama, which served as the de facto high school cross country national team championship race this year, Natalie Cook won the 5K race in 16:03.93, not far off the 15:58.42 record Jenna Hutchins established last year. Colorado’s Niwot High School won the team race. There’s been a lot of talk about how fast this course is, and I think it’s important to remember that while you can compare times on the same course from one year to the next, it’s ridiculous to try to compare times run on different courses. The point of cross country is for the courses and conditions to be part of the challenge. Cook will also race at next weekend’s Eastbay Cross Country Championships in San Diego, which will be held on a much tougher course. (Results)

  • Oregon’s Kate Peters won the Eastbay West Regional in 17:19, which earned her the opportunity to race Cook and others next weekend. Mia Hall, Sara Hall’s daughter, finished 11th and missed qualifying for nationals by one second.

  • At Boston’s MR8K, held in memory of Martin Richard, who was killed in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, Millie Paladino and Katrina Coogan went 1–2 overall in 27:32 and 27:37, respectively. Paladino ran the fastest time ever on the 8K course, so the women’s course record is now faster than the men’s.
     

Other News and Links

  • Fast Women editor Sarah Lorge Butler broke the news that federal prosecutors are looking into the financial relationship between Nike and USATF. A grand jury is also looking at business dealings between USATF and its CEO, Max Siegel. The article goes into much more detail and is worth a read. (Runner’s World)

  • The World Championships trials for the 10,000m (and the 20K racewalk and the heptathlon/decathlon) will be held separately from the U.S. Championships, presumably because of the short turnaround time between U.S. nationals and the world championships. The 10,000m trials will be held at the USATF Distance Classic at Mt. SAC on May 20. It makes doubling easier, but it could be tough for those who were planning to run spring marathons and collegians, who will still be in the middle of the collegiate season.

  • Ken Goe reported last week that (thanks to his reporting) the University of Oregon’s athletic programs are no longer allowed to monitor athletes’ weight and body fat percentage. I think it’s a good start, but I’m somewhat skeptical what this will really solve. I think that if coaches truly value that information and think it’s essential to high performance, they will probably find ways around the rules, and send the message to student-athletes that those numbers are essential performance indicators. I think if schools truly want to get away from a focus on weight and body fat, they will get rid of the coaches who are obsessed with those metrics. Former Oregon runner Philly Bowden recently told The Telegraph that she was told to lose weight, despite the coaches knowing that she had an eating disorder. (If you aren’t a subscriber, you can also read her story here.)

  • Hellen Obiri told the Women’s Athletic Alliance that like many Kenyan runners, she still has a lot to learn about social media. “I see Eilish [McColgan] and other girls I compete with and know they make good money from sponsorship online, and of course it’s something we would all want, but don’t really know where to start. Of course it’s easier after races and in press conferences for native English speakers to express themselves better than us, perhaps that’s some of the reason, but I know those other girls like Eilish do a lot of posts around their training and life too.”

  • I loved seeing Annie Frisbie featured in the New York Times running newsletter.

  • Ce’Aira Brown shared that she gave birth to a baby boy on November 29.

  • Emily Oren announced that she’s stepping away from professional running.

  • For subscribers, Runner’s World published a nice article about Obsie Birru, and Cindy Kuzma wrote a great piece about Emma Bates.

  • For many, it’s not easy to survive financially as a professional track and field athlete. Sprinter/jumper Jasmine Todd recently launched a GoFundMe in an attempt to help pay her rent while she tries to make next summer’s world championships team.
     


Alisa Harvey in 2003


Podcast Highlights

  • I enjoyed hearing more of Alisa Harvey’s story on the Starting Line 1928 podcast after watching her run at a high level for years. She talked about winning the 1500m and finishing second in the 800m to Cuban star Ana Quirot at the 1991 Pan American Games. She said she made $12,000 as a professional runner right out of college, worth about $28,000 today. She discussed being a Black woman who ran distance events, and the #MeToo moment she experienced during the 1996 Olympic Trials. Harvey talked about running professionally after pregnancy and said she couldn’t run much during pregnancy, but she did Kathy Smith videos to stay fit, while Smith was pregnant with current 800m star Kate Grace. This oral history project has a rotating group of interviewers, and Cindy Kuzma did a good job with this one.

  • It was interesting to hear Alexi Pappas discuss her performance at this year’s New York City Marathon on the Ali On the Run Show. Grayson Murphy was also on AOTR last week. 

  • New Zealand’s Ruth Croft was on the Freetrail podcast (formerly Pyllars).

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I spent so much time attending and following running events this weekend that I’ve had to rush through writing this newsletter a bit more than I would like, but it’s great to see so many events happening again. Saturday’s Eastbay National Cross Country Championships will be streamed live at eastbayxc.com starting at 11:00 a.m. ET. The girls race begins at 12:15 p.m. It should be an exciting race, and they usually do a good job with the coverage.

Thank you to New Balance for supporting Fast Women this month and thanks, also, to those of you who support Fast Women via Patreon. Have a great week!

Alison

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