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Fast Women, July 15, 2019, Issue 28

This photo isn't from last week's Sunset Meet, but this is more or less what the front of the 5,000m looked like, except they were outdoors, and in California.

Sifan Hassan breaks the world mile record, Ajee’ Wilson wins in Monaco

Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands established a new world mile record of 4:12.33 on Friday in the Brave Like Gabe Mile at the Monaco Diamond League meet. She ran a significant negative split en route to beating Svetlana Masterkova’s 1996 record by 0.23 seconds. A video of the full race is available here, and it’s fun to see Hassan’s reaction upon realizing she had bettered the record.

LetsRun wrote a good analysis of the race and its significance. I think it was fair of them to raise potential doping concerns, though there’s no reason to specifically suspect Hassan. (If they’re going to do so, they should also do so when reporting on Yomif Kejelcha’s records). In my opinion, it goes with the territory of knowingly joining a group whose coach, Alberto Salazar, has been the subject of allegations and an investigation (NY Times).

It was a fast race across the board. Behind Hassan, Great Britain’s Laura Weightman set a personal best of 4:17.60. Gabriela DeBues-Stafford, in third, set a new Canadian record of 4:17.87. Rababe Arafi of Morocco (fifth, 4:18.42) and Winnie Nanyondo of Uganda (seventh, 4:18.65) also set pending national records.

Rachel Schneider of the U.S. finished ninth in 4:20.91 and broke her personal best by more than six seconds. Schneider’s time converts to a 4:01 1500m, though she actually passed through the 1500m mark in 4:02.26, also a PR. She’s the third-fastest U.S. woman in the 1500m this year, equivalently speaking, but Schneider confirmed after the race that she will focus on the 5,000m at the upcoming USATF Championships.

Ajee’ Wilson looked strong in winning the 800m in a season best and U.S.-leading time of 1:57.73 ahead of Jamaica’s Natoya Goule (1:57.90) and Great Britain’s Laura Muir (1:58.42). Raevyn Rogers finished sixth in 2:00.16. With each race, Wilson is looking stronger and like a World Championships medal contender. (Results)

Sunset Tour helps runners tune up for USATF Championships

The Sunset Tour, held last Tuesday at Azusa Pacific University in California, was a chance for runners to earn their World Championships and/or Olympic standards, qualify for the upcoming USATF Championships, and tune up for the USATF Championships, which begin July 25.

These were my biggest takeaways:

1) If you were at all worried about the Bowerman Track Club after their uncharacteristic performance at the World Cross Country Championships in March; fear not. They’re ready. They appear poised, as usual, to claim a good number of spots on the World Championships team.

Kate Grace (1:59.58) and Shelby Houlihan (1:59.92) went 1-2 in the 800m, which means Houlihan gets to keep her Instagram and Twitter handles, Houlihan is the third U.S. woman to run sub-2:00/4:00/15:00, and Grace appears to have finally adjusted to the Bowerman Track Club’s intense training. In the 5,000m, Karissa Schweizer (15:01.63), Marielle Hall (15:02.27), and Vanessa Fraser (15:07.58) swept the top three spots and earned the Olympic qualifying standard. They were paced by Courtney Frerichs and Houlihan, who both doubled back from earlier in the meet.

2) Nikki Hiltz is ready to go. She won the 1500m, running a near-PR of 4:05.97 against a strong field. Hiltz has not lost to another U.S. runner this season, but she has only the ninth-fastest U.S. time in the 1500m outdoors. While many of her competitors have run super fast times in rabbitted international races, Hiltz’s wins have come in more tactical races, sometimes because she makes them so. Good thing for her that the USATF Championships will be the latter. Hiltz has proven herself to be a solid contender for a spot on the World Championships team.

3) We’ll be leaving more talent than ever before home from the World Championships in Doha in the women’s middle-distance and distance events.

Emma Abrahamson interviewed some of the top runners post-race (so did Flotrack, but that content is only accessible for subscribers). (Results)

The Chicago Marathon announces its U.S. elite field

Chicago Marathon race organizers announced last week that in addition to Jordan Hasay (who has already been announced), Amy Cragg, Emma Bates, Stephanie Bruce, and a slew of other top U.S. runners will run the 2019 Chicago Marathon on October 13. The full press release and U.S. field is here, and it includes five women who have run under 2:30.

Aside from Hasay and Flanagan, all of the U.S. women in the field are still in search of an Olympic qualifying standard, which can be secured by running sub-2:29:30 or finishing in the top 10 in Chicago. Chicago is a good place to run fast, and the race is early enough in the fall that runners feel they’ll have time to run it, recover, and then build up to the Olympic Marathon Trials on February 29, 2020.

Amelia Boone opens up about her 20-year struggle with an eating disorder

Amelia Boone, who is best known in the running world for her obstacle course racing accomplishments, has been open about many aspects of her training, racing, and life. For as long as I’ve paid attention, I’ve appreciated everything she’s had to say and how well she says it.

Last week, Boone revealed her ongoing struggle with an eating disorder she’s had since she was a teenager. Boone recently took a three-month leave of absence from work and checked herself into an eating disorder treatment center.

I appreciate her willingness to share her story, how well she tells it, and that she does an excellent job of educating her readers. I think it’s an important read for most people in the running industry and beyond.

The challenges of running and motherhood

There was some great content on running and motherhood last week. First I listened to Sarah MacKay Robinson, a 2016 Olympic Marathon Trials qualifier, on the Ali on the Run Show. She was very open and honest about her experience with anxiety and postpartum depression, as well as returning to running post-pregnancy. Both Robinson and Feller managed to bring levity to some serious topics, and they’re helping countless parents feel like they’re not alone.

Next, I read Fast Women editor Sarah Lorge Butler’s article for Runner’s World about Lyndy Davis. It’s a story about a woman pulling a stroller to a pending Guinness world record of 1:21:38 in a half marathon, but it’s also a story about postpartum depression and finding space for running again post-baby.

It only occurs to me as I’m writing this that all three of these women have Oiselle connections, but finally, steeplechaser Megan Rolland announced last week that she’s stepping away from running at the highest level, at least for now. Rolland, who works as a nurse, is a mother of nine-month-old triplets, so to say her life has changed dramatically in the last year would be an understatement. (But even if you can’t cheer for her on the track right now, you can follow her on Instagram, if you enjoy cute baby photos.)

Early sport specialization and distance running

ESPN published a two-part series about early sport specialization last week. It’s a trend we’re seeing in youth sports, while simultaneously hearing about the dangers. Their articles are about boys playing basketball, but many of the issues discussed apply to most sports.

I’ve wondered about this in running as well, and I think we’re in the midst of a large-scale experiment. In the ’90s and ’00s, many of the young runners who went on to become professional runners either played other sports for much of high school, or didn’t train seriously, or run much mileage, by today’s standards.* But they still went on to be competitive nationally and internationally.

This current generation of young runners has more access than ever to information about how to train, recover, fuel, and act like young professional runners. I’m curious if this means the next generation is going to be that much faster or competitive, comparatively speaking, or if they’re just realizing their potential earlier in life.

I think there’s something to be said for the Courtney Frerichs model—she played soccer, did gymnastics, held her school record in the triple jump, and did some distance running in high school. Some high-level high school runners are doing that now—2018 Foot Locker Cross Country champion Sydney Masciarelli played basketball over the winter instead of running a full indoor track season. But of course that alone won’t guarantee future success, either.

Over the next 10 years, we’ll gather more about which approaches tend to work the best in the long term. But in the meantime, from what I’ve seen so far, if you want to raise a champion distance runner, many would say start your children in sports other than running that are fun and will build a lot of foundational strength and agility.

*After I wrote all of the above, I saw this tweet from Sara Hall, whose case is an exception to some of what I’ve said, but in a follow up tweet (after I asked about it), she did say she played soccer and basketball prior to taking up running, and she believes both helped her prevent injuries. There are an infinite number of variables I’m not discussing that factor into success, including motivation, which she mentions.

Different things will work for different people, and we currently have more high school girls than ever before following a Sara-Hall-like high school training plan. Time will tell if a good percentage of them are able to go on to be as successful as Hall has, and if it means that our current high schoolers are going to rewrite the American records.

Other results

  • Kenya’s Caroline Rotich won the Boilermaker 15K in 49:07, two seconds ahead of Iveen Chepkemoi, also of Kenya. Allie Kieffer was right with the top-U.S. finisher, Belainesh Gebre, through the 5K split, but she dropped out. Gebre went on to finish in 51:01. Grayson Murphy, who announced days earlier that she had left HOKA NAZ Elite and moved home to Utah, ran a strong race to finish seventh among the women and as the second U.S. woman in 51:11. She posted post-race that putting her own needs first led to a big breakthrough. The race is the first stop on the PRRO Circuit and featured U.S.-only prize money, in addition to a prize purse available to all. (Results)

  • At the Lignano International Athletics Meeting last Tuesday, Rachel Schneider won the 1500m in 4:08.83 and Chrishuna Williams finished fourth (2:03.03) in an 800m race won by Kenya’s Eunice Sum (2:02.23). (Results)

  • The Eastern Track League season finale took place in Washington, D.C., on Saturday evening. In hot, humid conditions, Julia Rizk, the 2019 NCAA indoor mile champion for Ohio State, won the 800m in 2:02.23. Shannon Osika reminded us that seed times don’t really matter as she outkicked Elle Purrier to win the 1500m, 4:08.68 to 4:09.71. (Results)

  • The World University Games took place last week. The U.S. didn’t send teams, but plenty of athletes who attend college in the U.S. competed for their home countries. If you’re curious about the results, they’re here. The European U23 Championships also took place last week, which sounds like a conflict, because certain athletes would be eligible for both. Those results are here.

  • At the USATF Masters Championships, Christine Olen, Aeron Arlin Genet, Terry Ballou, and Lisa Valle set a pending age 50–54 world record in the 4x800m relay with a time of 10:14.64, an average of 2:33 per runner. Sabra Harvey set a pending American record in the 70–74 800m, running 2:55.33. And Florence Meiler rewrote the records in the 85–89 age group. She set a pending world record in the 80m hurdles, and set pending ARs in the 2,000m steeplechase (19:13.27), discus, and triple jump. Marisa Sutera Strange didn’t run at the meet, but at a different event, she set a pending 55–59 mile AR, running 5:27.09. (USATF Masters Nationals results)

Other news

  • In this well-done article for the New York Times, Katie Arnold credits the unique challenges of parenthood for her surprise win at the Leadville 100 last year. My favorite part: “One day last spring, I needed to get in 30 miles, but Maisy’s second-grade class was having a party, so I decided to run 18, swing by the barbecue for a quick lunch, then head out for another 12. When I arrived at school, I was sweaty and my ankles were caked in dirt, but there was meat on the grill and a cooler filled with Gatorade. My very own aid station!”

  • Allie Ostrander went on the Citius Mag podcast, and I’d like to have a moment of appreciation for her dry humor. It’s the best. She talked about her decision to sign with the Brooks Beasts—much like her college decision, she said she’s always enjoyed the opportunity to help build a program. She said that for a long time, her mileage hovered at 55 miles per week, but during the spring semester, she was able to raise that to 65 miles per week, and the results were noticeable, I thought, including an improved kick. 

  • Technically, Ostrander has already made her professional debut, though if you weren’t there, you probably missed it.

  • I’m glad to see Nikki Hiltz’s story getting more attention, including this article from espnW.

  • Now this is some quality content—in this 63-minute video, Gwen Jorgensen and Colleen Quigley take viewers through a sample Bowerman Track Club’s gym/core session.

  • Roberta Groner was on her first episode of the Road to the Olympic Trials podcast last week. It was mostly an introductory episode, but it was interesting to hear Groner talk about how she fits in her training, and how she approaches certain aspects of training in the way that works best for her, without worrying too much about what other people are doing. I think it’s going to be interesting to see how four different women approach the Trials as the podcast progresses.

  • Twelve years after representing the U.S. in the steeplechase at the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials, Lindsey Anderson will try for a spot on the marathon team as well. But first the College of Southern Idaho coach will run the Chicago Marathon in the fall.

  • Joan Benoit Samuelson says she’s still shooting for a sub-3:00 marathon, either in Tokyo or London next spring.

  • Thanks to reader Nic Errol for pointing out the “geeks only” section of the Western States website has been updated with the 2019 data. It includes the 100 fastest women on the course, as well as the fastest splits. It’s a good indicator of how far ahead of her time Ann Trason was, as she still has 14 of the 100 fastest times. And it’s not surprising to see that 2019 winner Clare Gallagher covered the last 5.6 miles in record time, as she fought off Brittany Peterson’s challenge.

  • Speaking of Gallagher, she and her coach, David Roche, were the guests on Candice Burt’s Humans of Ultrarunning podcast last week. I’m only about halfway through, but it’s a great episode that comes with a big dose of perspective.

  • I always enjoy a good 3:31 to 2:42 marathon story, and this is Danae Dracht’s. She trains with the Santa Monica, California-based Janes, and ran 2:42:34 at Grandma’s Marathon last month (Runner’s World).

  • More, from Taylor Dutch and Runner’s World, about Corey Conner, Addie Bracy, and how they’re connecting LGBTQ+ individuals through running.

  • NCAA Division I head coach Stefanie Slekis qualified for the Olympic Marathon Trials by running 2:42:19 at Grandma’s Marathon last month.

  • Lindsey Hein had Charlotte Purdue on her podcast last week, and they discussed some of the differences between being a top runner in Great Britain and the U.S. After missing out twice, Purdue, who ran 2:25:38 in London this year, seems well positioned to potentially represent Great Britain in the marathon at the 2020 Olympic Games.

  • Hailey Middlebrook wrote about April Lund, who overcame alcoholism and ran a 2:49:55 marathon (Runner’s World)

  • Ultrarunning History tweeted that Sandra Brown, who has run 204 100 milers, recently broke the women’s 70–74 100-mile record by more than two hours (21:15).

  • Lexi Zeis, who recently qualified for the Olympic Marathon Trials via her half marathon time, said in this local TV segment that she’s not yet sure if she’ll run the Trials.

  • LetsRun published a preview of the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials course.

  • The Mission Athletics Club now has a vlog. The first episode looks at a day in the life of Nikki Hiltz and Therese Haiss, and the second episode covered the day of last week’s Sunset Meet.

  • Visa got 14 of the world’s best women athletes together, including Gwen Jorgensen, and asked what makes them feel beautiful. They handled the question well, but can you imagine male athletes being asked the same question? For as long as women have been athletes, there’s been an overemphasis on the need to look good while participating in sports, to prove femininity. How about substituting in strong, or powerful?

  • Speaking of such things, this opinion piece runner and writer Lindsay Crouse wrote for the New York Times about the World Cup, women’s sports, and equal pay, says most of the things I was trying to say last week, except 1000 times more articulately.

  • And while we’re briefly on the topic of soccer, this was an interesting article about how the USWNT’s fitness coach monitored their periods and used that information to modify their diet, sleep, and lifestyle to maximize performance.

  • And while we're on the topic of periods, there is more discussion than ever before about how top women runners handle their periods. These discussions happen in a variety of places, but one of them is Twitter, and I appreciated this thread, including the varying opinions.

  • Gabrielle Hondorp wrote about Cynthia Arnold, who ran a 3:11 marathon while pushing a triple stroller, for Runner’s World. The embedded video of Hondorp grabbing popsicles for each of her kids, while pushing them in a marathon, seemed like a metaphor for all of parenthood.

  • Michelle Lilienthal, last year’s Maine champion at the Beach to Beacon 10K, will run again this year while seven months pregnant. The article provides a look at how she’s training through pregnancy.

  • Jared Ward is helping Saucony in the shoe arms race, so that non-Vaporfly wearers won’t be at a disadvantage.

  • This article profiles University of Colorado runner Makena Morley, who hopes to win an NCAA title and run professionally.

  • The Indianapolis Star covered the U.S. Pan American Games team selection debacle.

  • Here’s the story of recent Eastern Washington graduate Kari Hamilton, who qualified for the 2020 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials at Grandma’s Marathon with 46 seconds to spare.

  • "People say you don’t have to make an Olympic team to have been successful in your career, but the way that I look at it, I kind of do,” says Kellyn Taylor, in this article (which, full disclosure, is sponsored content).

  • This article included a relatively informative update about what Lindsey Scherf is up to these days, outside of running.

  • According to the Athletics Integrity Unity, the countries with the most athletes getting caught for doping are Russia, India, and Kenya. The U.S. ranks fifth (in a race no one wants to win).

Things that made me laugh, smile, or cry


The USATF Track & Field Championships are still 10 days away, but you can see how the fields are shaping up here. This should be a relatively quiet week for the U.S. middle-distance and distance runners who are preparing to compete at USAs. But on Saturday and Sunday, the Diamond League circuit heads to London. The start lists and results will be posted here. And the Stumptown Twilight meet will take place on Friday night in Portland, Oregon.


Thanks for reading and have a great week!


P.S. You’ve just finished reading issue 28 of the Fast Women Newsletter, which means that Alison has been at this for more than half a year.

Consider this the semi-annual pledge drive from her editor, Sarah.

If you’re like me, you don’t remember Monday mornings without this newsletter. I’ve asked Alison to estimate how many hours she spends on this each week, and she won’t tell me. But I’m guessing it’s about 30 hours per week. That’s nearly a full-time job for her, informing readers about what’s going on in the world of women’s competitive running. I think anyone would agree she digests a vast range of sports and running-related content and distills it down to the most interesting links. She also offers thoughtful, insightful analysis that is not available anywhere else.

Please consider making a pledge to support the newsletter and Alison’s work through the rest of the year via her Patreon page. Even a couple of dollars a month will make a big difference for her, and I believe it’s a small price to pay for the weekly enjoyment she provides for fans of the sport. Thanks for thinking about it.

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