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 October 25, 2021, Issue 152

Letesenbet Gidey on her way to a 1:02:52 half marathon. (Photo: NN Running Team)

Letesenbet Gidey destroys the half marathon world record

On Sunday morning in Valencia, Spain, Letesenbet Gidey raced her first half marathon and produced one of the most impressive running performances of all time. The 23-year-old Ethiopian took 70 seconds off the world record, lowering it from 1:04:02 to 1:02:52, and averaging 4:47 per mile! She simultaneously became the first woman to break the 64- and 63-minute barriers. (All pending ratification, of course.)

Gidey hit 5K splits of 15:00, 14:45 (29:45 for 10K), 14:44 (44:29 for 15K), and 15:17 (59:46 for 20K). From 5K to 15K, she ran 29:29, nine seconds faster than Kalkidan Gezahegne’s pending 10K world record. Her 15K split was only nine seconds slower than the world best for the distance that she set in 2019, and it was faster than any other woman has ever run.

“I knew I could run this kind of time as my training sessions in the altitude of Addis Ababa have gone very well,” Gidey said after the race. “In the future I’m thinking of competing at the marathon distance, but I’m not sure (if) that will come before the Paris 2024 Olympic Games or later.”

If someone is going to produce mind-blowing results on the roads, it makes sense that it would be the woman who holds the 5,000m (14:06.62) and 10,000m (29:01.03) world records on the track. When Gidey steps to the line in her best shape, she often redefines what’s possible for women. Though she has struggled to keep up with Sifan Hassan when their races have come down to a kick, Gidey particularly excels in time-trial-like settings, which she had on Sunday. And while changes to shoe technology are making a major contribution in the rewriting of the record books, Gidey is also a rare talent.

After Brigid Kosgei set the marathon world record of 2:14:04 in the fall of 2019, she said she thought women could break 2:10 in the marathon. That seemed like quite a jump at the time, but after watching Gidey race on Sunday, I believe it. Various calculators will tell you different things, but several of them agree that a 1:02:52 half marathon is the equivalent of a 2:11 marathon.

Yalemzerf Yehualaw, also of Ethiopia, had a fantastic race to take second in 1:03:51, which would have been a world record had Gidey not finished 59 seconds earlier. Yehualaw ran fast the hard way, going through 10K with Gidey before falling off the pace. Her 5K splits were 15:00, 14:45, 15:07, and 15:43. 

At the end of August, Yehualaw ran a 1:03:44 half marathon, or so it appeared. But last week, the organizers of the Antrim Coast Half Marathon, in Larne, Northern Ireland, announced that the course was 54 meters short, so Yehualaw’s record was not ratified. It’s a shame, because she would have had no problem covering another 54 meters in less than 18 seconds. Yehualaw produced a similar, or slightly better, performance on Sunday, but she missed out on her chance to hold the world record. Kenya’s Sheila Chepkirui finished third in 1:04:53, a 46-second personal best. Sarah Lahti, who finished eighth, set a Finnish record of 1:08:19. (Race replay | Results)


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Makena Morley wins the USATF 25K title

Makena Morley, 24, earned her first national title at the USATF 25K Championships on Saturday in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and set a championship record of 1:23:17 (5:22 pace for just over 15.5 miles). The University of Colorado graduate, who turned pro in 2020, broke the record established by her former training partner, Emma Bates, in 2019 by 34 seconds.

Due to construction, this year’s race, hosted by the River Bank Run, was run on a different course than usual, and it featured more hills. It was on those hills, during the 10th mile, that Morley began to pull away from eventual runner-up Erika Kemp. Both Morley and Kemp, who roomed together at the race, were running their longest races ever. Morley hit the half marathon point in 1:10:23, 73 seconds faster than her personal best, and then she managed to hold on to that pace to the finish. Kemp had never even run a half marathon, so she hit a PR 1:10:55 for the half, and then finished second in 1:24:01. Molly Grabill (1:24:32), Maria Mettler (1:25:08 in her pro debut), and Allie Kieffer (1:25:24) rounded out the top five.

Morley earned $10,000 for the win, and picked up an additional $2500 for winning the equalizer race. The women got an 11-minute head start over the men, and Morley (along with Kemp, Grabill, and Mettler) managed to hold off men’s winner Biya Simbassa to cross the line in first. Both Morley and Kemp said post-race that they are planning to race the USATF Half Marathon Championships on December 5 in South Carolina.

The accompanying 5K and 10K races weren’t national championships, but Kenya’s Mary Munanu put up some impressive performances. First she ran 15:37 in the 5K, then she had about 25 minutes to rest before the 10K began. She won that as well, in 32:36. (Results)

Annie Rodenfels (Photo courtesy of the B.A.A.)

Additional Results

  • Last Monday, Shalane Flanagan ran 2:35:14 in her personal “virtual Tokyo” marathon (there’s a quick highlight reel here). Since September 26th she has run 2:38:32 (Berlin), 2:35:04 (London), 2:46:39 (Chicago), 2:40:34 (Boston), and 2:35:14 in her five marathons. All she has left is New York City on November 7. Flanagan had a good conversation on Carrie Tollefson’s podcast about her experience thus far and said, “I want to challenge myself but not so much that it distracts me from enjoying it.” Flanagan shared that if she was coaching an athlete who was running like she is right now, her best guess would be that that athlete could run a 2:28 or 2:29 marathon, if she went in well rested and really went for it.

  • Last Thursday, Kenya’s Joyce Jemutai ran 3:00:14 for 50K on a race track in France in rainy conditions, finishing just shy of Des Linden’s pending world record of 2:59:54. If you can read French, there’s more about the attempt here. Jemutai served a two-year ban from the sport after testing positive for norandrosterone in 2014.

  • Kenya’s Stella Barsosio won the Rotterdam Marathon by more than eight minutes, in 2:22:08.

  • Great Britain’s Jess Piasecki won the Leeds Abbey Dash 10K in 31:20. Charlotte Arter (31:32) and Jessica Judd (31:40) finished second and third. (Results)

  • Making her debut for the B.A.A. High Performance Team, Annie Rodenfels won the Mayor’s Cup Cross Country 5K at Boston’s Franklin Park in 16:39. Molly Huddle, whose baby is due in April, finished ninth in 18:09 and helped the Rhode Island Track Club to a team title. (Results


Other News and Links

  • On what should have been her 26th birthday, world champion Agnes Tirop was buried at her parents’ home on Saturday in Kenya. Tirop was honored over the course of two days. Athletes marched through the streets of Eldoret carrying a banner that read “End Gender Based Violence,” and Violah Lagat gave a powerful speech. A foundation to fight gender-based violence will be established in Tirop’s name, and Athletics Kenya announced that the World Cross Country Tour race that takes place in Kenya will be named after her.

  • The author of this article about the ways in which Kenya’s talented female runners are often targeted writes that some Kenyan training camps are “unregulated and notorious hotbeds of sexual misconduct.” Mary Keitany, who recently retired from professional running, said, “A woman athlete is expected to bear children, fight to quickly shed the weight and get back into shape and return to competition in order to bring food on the table for the whole family. Yet the men just wait and enjoy the fruits of her sweat. This should be rebuked.”

  • Shannon Osika announced that after years of being coached by University of Michigan coach Mike McGuire, she has moved to Portland to join the professional team coached by Pete Julian. 

  • Great Britain’s Holly Archer announced that she signed with Under Armour and will be a part of the Flagstaff-based Dark Sky Distance team.

  • Gwen Berry wrote a really good piece about her activism for the Players’ Tribune. It’s worth a read.

  • Elaina Tabb’s 2:30:33 at the Boston Marathon was supposed to be her last race as a professional runner, but she ran so well that, according to this article, it has “opened doors” for future sponsorship opportunities and, sponsored or not, she has plans to continue racing. 

  • This is a sweet article about Maggie Chan-Roper, an Olympian for Hong Kong and former BYU All-American, coaching her son to a district title in cross country. “I know this course,” Skyler Roper told the San Antonio Express-News. “I know all the tips, turns and tricks, and I knew that was the part where I could lose them. I know the technical stuff, because I have a mom who was a world-class runner to teach me.”

  • Taylor Dutch wrote about Erika Kemp’s recent success for Runner’s World.

  • Elaine Thompson-Herah, who won three Olympic gold medals over the summer, confirmed that she is leaving the MVP Track Club and will no longer be coached by Stephen Francis. She said via a statement that she has started pre-season training and will be finalizing her training arrangements for the upcoming season soon.

  • Wisconsin high school senior Roisin Willis, who ran 2:00.78 for 800m last spring, announced that she’ll be attending Stanford University.

  • Athing Mu was a Sullivan Award finalist, but Simone Biles and Caleb Dressel were named the co-winners.

  • This was a nice article about Sara Hall’s mother, Karen Bei, becoming a runner in her 50s and running through cancer treatment.

  • UTMB is now using the Quartz Program, which is similar to traditional drug testing, but it goes a step further, claiming a goal of wanting to protect participants’ health. Devon Yanko criticized the “overreach” of the program last week, saying it is discriminating against people with chronic illness by monitoring competitors’ use of potentially life-saving medications.

Andrea Pomaranski at the 2021 Boston Marathon

Podcast Highlights

  • Nell Rojas talked about her experience finishing sixth at the Boston Marathon on the Ali on the Run Show.

  • Keira D’Amato did a good update about finishing fourth at the Chicago Marathon on The Drop podcast. (She comes on around the 31:15 mark.) D’Amato talked about the challenge of knowing she wasn’t at her best heading into the race, and she said she mentally erased all of her previous accomplishments and focused on making the most of the fitness she had.

  • It had been a while since Josette Norris had done a podcast, so it was good to get an update on the Citius Mag podcast last week. She’s planning to run the Millrose Games at the end of January, and she has yet to decide whether she’ll focus on both the indoor and outdoor seasons, or mainly the latter. There’s a World Indoor Championships in 2022, in addition to the outdoor championships.

  • Raevyn Rogers talked about her season, her career, and her life outside of running on the More Than Running podcast. She said she’s been volunteer coaching the cross country team at her former high school. Rogers also did a 57-minute video interview with DyeStat last week where she shared that she was diagnosed with anemia five to six weeks out from the Olympic Trials, which helped explain some of her tough early-season races.

  • WBUR did a 47-minute segment (which can be downloaded in podcast players, search for On Point) on the price of power at Nike, and it includes interviews with Kara Goucher, Sally Bergesen, and Lindsay Crouse. Much of it is review if you’ve been following the Nike Oregon Project saga, but the discussion at the end of better models was interesting.

  • Chanelle Price shared on The Mile You’re In that she has taken a position as director of operations for the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s cross country and track & field teams.

  • On the Rambling Runner podcast, Andrea Pomaranski talked about finishing 23rd at the 2021 Boston Marathon eight years to the day after she gave birth to premature twins who ultimately didn’t make it. Pomaranski was a successful collegiate runner but took several breaks from the sport post-collegiately and thought at one point she might not be able to run competitively again. Now, at 39, she’s a mother of three and she’s running faster than ever.

  • I enjoyed hearing from Leah Falland on the Coffee Club podcast, hosted by some of her On Athletics Club teammates. She talked about her running story, finding balance and support in the sport, and how she handles social media. The social media conversation was interesting contrasted with Caela Fenton’s appearance on Social Sport last week. Fenton, who is a doctoral candidate at the University of Oregon, tackles some of the same issues from an academic perspective.

  • I learned from listening to Malindi Elmore on Women Run Canada that she’s the athlete with the longest break between Olympic Games appearances (helped by the delay, because the previous record was 16 years and Elmore’s was at 17). I enjoyed hearing her discuss her Olympic experience, and she said that she took a six-week break after the Games, because listening to her body is one of the ways she has managed to have success over such a long period of time. 

  • Dana Giordano talked about her experience with professional running, her future plans, and how pro running tends to work for those who don’t sign big contracts right out of college on The Morning Shakeout

  • Eloise Wellings talked about making her marathon debut in London on the Inside Running podcast. Wellings comes on at the 1:18:18 mark.

Something that made me smile: Allyson Felix renewed her vows with husband Kenneth Ferguson last week and the photos and videos are great, as is this clip of Kori Carter catching the bouquet. 


Next weekend is conference championship weekend for many colleges and universities, and this is a helpful link if you want to know what’s happening when and where. Thanks so much to UCAN for sponsoring Fast Women in October and remember to use the code Save FASTWOMEN to get 20% off your first order

I hope you all have a great week!


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