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Fast Women, January 21, 2019, Issue 3

The last time I photographed Emily Sisson was 2010, her senior year of high school. She's pictured here, running behind another future pro runner, Marielle Hall.

Emily Sisson is in good shape

Emily Sisson missed Molly Huddle’s American record of 1:07:25 at yesterday’s Houston Half Marathon by five seconds, running 1:07:30. Though that’s unfortunate for her if there were time bonuses involved, the good news is that she’s in excellent shape heading into April’s London Marathon, where she’ll make her debut, alongside Huddle, her training partner.

Brigid Kosgei, who will also run London, won in Houston in a blazing 1:05:50, 58 seconds ahead of Fancy Chemutai, and the fastest-ever half-marathon by a woman on U.S. soil.

There were some excellent breakthroughs by other U.S. women in the half marathon and marathon. Elaina Tabb was the second U.S. finisher in the half, 11th woman, in 1:10:44, improving on her previous best of 1:12:29. In the marathon, Kelsey Bruce was the top U.S. finisher in 2:31:53, a personal best by 2:10. By my count, 21 women qualified for the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in Houston, not including those who qualified by running 1:13:00 or faster in the half marathon.

Kara Goucher had a rough day, dropping out of the marathon after 30K after aggravating an old injury. I’ll be interested to see what she means by a “new direction” for her running, but she says here that she promised her coaches no decisions in the 36 hours post-race. Four U.S. women finished in the 1:12s in the half-marathon: Aliphine Tuliamuk (1:12:03), Sally Kipyego (1:12:12), Becky Wade (1:12:35), and Christine Vergara Aleshire (1:12:53).

2004 Canadian Olympian Malindi Elmore, now 38, finished seventh in the marathon, running 2:32:15 in her debut. Elmore, who was a top runner for Stanford, had a baby seven months ago, and she also has a 4-year-old. She retired from professional running in 2012 and became a high-level triathlete, but I’m not sure that she can call herself retired anymore.

commented on Twitter (and got some good responses) on the poor quality of the race coverage. A poor-quality broadcast from a local station is disappointing but somewhat expected. But even if you don’t know anything about the sport (which would never fly with football, baseball or basketball), at least attempt to devote equal attention to the men’s and women’s races. Or, as, Ben Connor pointed out, the commentators probably wouldn’t have forgotten to notice if the American record happened had it been Galen Rupp going after a record.

As Kosgei approached the finish, the commentators speculated that the men around her were thinking, “I don’t want to be beat by a girl.” Fortunately, we have a sport full of men who are more evolved than that. The Houston coverage, especially the half-marathon coverage, was a reminder that we need to do better in our coverage of women’s sports, and running in general.

London Marathon announces fastest women’s field ever

The London Marathon gradually rolled out its elite field last week, and revealed that Mary Keitany (2:17:01 best), Tirunesh Dibaba (2:17:56), Gladys Cherono (2:18:11), Vivian Cheruiyot (2:18:31) and Brigid Kosgei (2:18:35) are all scheduled to run. Jon Mulkeen points out that this is the first time five women who have run under 2:19 will line up together, assuming they all make it to the starting line.

Molly Huddle, Emily Sisson, Allie Kieffer, and Brittany Charboneau will represent the U.S. in London. This will be the first time that Huddle and Kieffer have raced on a marathon course known for being fast (assuming we aren’t counting Kieffer’s indoor marathon world record on the Armory’s 200m track). Huddle told Erin Strout she’d like to run in the 2:22–2:23 range, and Kieffer said here that she’d like to run 2:26 or a little faster. Who knows how fast Sisson can go, but her race in Houston bodes well for London.

Charboneau, who has her own one-woman sketch comedy show about running, will look to improve her personal best of 2:36:25. (She posted this fun video last week about how much money she made as a pro runner in 2018…sort of.)

The latest from Colleen Quigley

I realize that podcasts aren’t for everyone, but if you want to know what’s going on in U.S. women’s professional distance running, podcasts are one of the best sources of information these days. I think this is partially because some of the hosts catch their subjects in a more relaxed state than a reporter might, but also because they can fit more information into an hour-long podcast than an article or Instagram post.

Mario Fraioli published a good episode of The Morning Shakeout with Colleen Quigley last week. Quigley has already been around the podcast circuit, but Fraioli still managed to get some new details out of her. She talked about learning what being a true pro looks like from Shalane Flanagan, how much the Bowerman Track Club members’ training overlaps, how much of their altitude training is done without a coach, her role in recruiting Shelby Houlihan to the group, her frighteningly competitive family, failure, her modeling career, and much more.

Meet Sam Roecker

I have a mental “If I Had a Podcast” list of runners I think should be interviewed, and Sam Roecker, who recently finished third at the California International Marathon in 2:30:25, was high on the list. I remembered her as a high school star from upstate New York, knew she ran for Providence College, and had noticed her Tracksmith modeling, but there were a lot of gaps in there. She made an appearance on The 1609 Podcast last week, which filled in many of those gaps. She talked about being surprised by her breakthrough performance at CIM and balancing high-level running with her full-time job as a nurse in Philadelphia.

Roecker is coached by her college coach, Ray Treacy, who also coaches Huddle and Sisson. She had great things to say about Treacy’s coaching, but I also appreciated her comment, “I think sometimes he forgets I’m not Molly or Emily, and he’ll give me 22 miles on a Tuesday.”


Work, Play, Love, with Lauren Fleshman (and Jesse Thomas)

I have one final recommendation for this week. One of my favorite podcasts is Work, Play, Love by married couple Lauren Fleshman (a former pro runner) and Jesse Thomas (a pro triathlete and former Stanford runner). Fleshman and Thomas answer listeners’ pre-submitted questions and I find that even when the questions have zero relevance to my own life, I still enjoy listening to their responses. And I enjoy how unexpectedly funny Fleshman and Thomas are.

In a recent episode, I thought they had some good comments about our role in growing niche sports. They had some particularly interesting things to say about track & field and its failure at times to take care of its core audience. (This was particularly relevant this weekend, in light of the poor Houston Half Marathon coverage.) There’s a brief recap of the episode at the link, but listen to the episode to hear Fleshman and Thomas’ full response.

In other news

  • This article indicates that Allie Kieffer and Emma Bates, both of whom were previously without a shoe sponsor, have signed with Asics. As of this writing, neither runner has publicly acknowledged this.
  • Speaking of Kieffer, she has a new column for Women’s Running. Last week, she wrote about setting and meeting resolutions. On Sunday, she ran the Rock ’n’ Roll Arizona Half Marathon in 1:13:35, on tired legs (and wearing Asics shoes).
  • Roberta Groner, who finished 12th at the 2018 New York City Marathon at age 40, announced big changes for 2019.  She will be coached by Steve Magness, represented by Josh Cox, she’s hired a nutritionist, and she’ll run the Rotterdam Marathon April 7. (I love the detail from this story that Groner coached herself to a 2:37 marathon following Hansons Marathon Method straight from the book.) She made a last-minute trip to the Houston Half Marathon over the weekend, where she ran 1:14:14.
  • Des Linden quietly ran a 1:14:18 half marathon in Louisiana on Sunday, and is heading to Phoenix to train soon.
  • This is a really nice article about Sally Kipyego’s decision to run for the U.S.
  • Toni Reavis points out that the IAAF and IOC have not yet set qualifying standards for the Olympic Marathon. This could potentially mean that the first three runners across the Olympic Trials finish line do not qualify for the Olympic Games, but hopefully that will not be the case.
  • Jasmin Paris made headlines last week when she won the 268-mile Montane Spine Race outright, breaking the course record by 12 hours. She apparently decided to sign up for the race because she was having trouble motivating herself to get out the door after she had a baby 14 months earlier. In true superhero fashion, she expressed milk for her baby along the route. There are a number of things that are remarkable about Paris’ story, so it’s not surprising to see it breaking through to the mainstream. You know you’ve made it when you get included on the Mighty Girl Facebook page and Chelsea Clinton tweets about you.
  • West Point cadet Kate Sanborn, 21, quit her school’s track team and joined the marathon team instead. In her first marathon last fall, she realized midway through the race that she could qualify for the Olympic Marathon Trials, and she did, with 56 seconds to spare.
  • Erin Menefee had open-heart surgery but still hopes to qualify for the 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials. She’s already run 2:52 since her surgery.
  • There’s just under a year left in the Olympic Marathon Trials qualifying window, and Tracksmith and Linden & True announced their OTQ Program last week, which targets Trials qualifiers. Those without conflicting sponsor arrangements can apply to receive free gear, coffee, and support heading into the Marathon Trials. (There’s also a note on there for those who have, or are chasing, track qualifiers.) Is this a marketing move? Absolutely. But it’s one that comes from two companies whose leaders understand the financial realities of pursuing high-level distance running, and it’s an arrangement that could also benefit runners.
  • Taylor Dutch writes about Courtney Frerichs hitting a low point months after winning a silver medal in the steeplechase at the 2017 World Track & Field Championships, and the strategy she used to rebound.
  • Because of the construction at the University of Oregon’s Hayward Field (in preparation for the 2021 World Championships), the 2019 Prefontaine Classic will be at Stanford.
  • The original women’s-only road race, the NY Mini, hosted by New York Road Runners in Central Park, will serve as the USA 10K Championships for the first time ever in 2019. Stephanie Bruce will return to defend the U.S. title she earned last year, when the event was hosted by the Peachtree Road Race.
  • 1984 Olympic marathon gold medalist Joan Benoit Samuelson is still getting after it at 61, no matter the weather.
  • Professional runner Alexi Pappas’ new movie, Olympic Dreams, in which she plays a cross-country skier, will premiere at SXSW. Pappas’ other movie, Tracktown, in which she plays a runner, is currently available for streaming on Hulu.
  • Gwen Jorgensen hasn’t said as much about her training since the Chicago Marathon, but on Saturday, she posted an update, which seems to suggest she’s healthy, and explains why she’s not currently at altitude with most of her Bowerman Track Club teammates.
  • 2:31 marathoner Samantha (Bluske) Palmer shares how she gets through tough runs and how she is getting through a tough transition. I first became aware of Palmer when she ran an extra mile in her first marathon but still won in a course-record time.
  • Amby Burfoot interviewed Camille Herron.
  • Here’s Desiree Barry’s story of making it back to the Olympic Marathon Trials after 12 years away.
  • Last week I mentioned Foon Fu’s photos of professional runners training, now Justin Britton is in Arizona, also capturing some incredible shots.
  • Agent Ray Flynn tweets that post-collegiate training group ZAP Fitness has signed a multi-year deal with the shoe company On. ZAP’s 14-year partnership with Reebok recently ended.
  • After a two-year absence, Heather Kampf won the Front Street Mile in Bermuda on Friday for a fifth time.
  • Nicole Bush, who won the the 2013 U.S. steeplechase title, has a new "Running Things" mailing list/newsletter, and you can sign up here.
  • Tommy Leonard, the founder of the Falmouth Road Race, Eliot Lounge bartender, and much more, passed away last week at age 85.


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