Fast Women: No record is safe
Catching up with Elle St. Pierre
Issue 248, sponsored by New Balance
The fastest mile race of all time
Friday’s Monaco Diamond League mile surpassed all expectations as Kenya’s Faith Kipyegon took 4.69 seconds off Sifan Hassan’s world record, lowering it from 4:12.33 to 4:07.64. Kipyegon was in her own league, with runner-up Ciara Mageean nearly seven seconds behind. But Mageean broke the Irish record, with a 4:14.58, and moved to fifth on the world all-time list, which was completely rewritten in this race.
With the help of pacesetters Kristie Schoffield and Winnie Nanyondo, Kipyegon split 62.6 for 400m, 2:04.6 for 800m, and 3:06.8 for 1200m. You can watch the full race here.
Remarkably, no one had a bad day. Every runner in the race set a PR, and seven national records, along with four continental records, fell. The top eight runners broke 4:17 with Ethiopia’s Freweyni Hailu third in 4:14.79, Laura Muir fourth in 4:15.24 (a British and Scottish record), Jess Hull fifth in 4:15.34 (an Australian and Oceanian record), Nikki Hiltz sixth in 4:16.35 (an American and North American record), Melissa Courtney-Bryant seventh in 4:16.38 (also under the previous British record), and Elise Cranny eighth in 4:16.47 (also under the previous American record, Mary Slaney’s 4:16.71 from 1985).
It’s been clear for a while that Hiltz was capable of breaking 4:00 in the 1500m, but in this race, they officially joined the club, with a split of 3:59.61. And Cranny’s 1500m split, 3:58.88, was also a PR. Cranny’s range is particularly impressive. After winning the 5,000m/10,000m double at USAs, she almost held off the 1500m champ here.
While the race was fantastically fast, many of the athletes in the field, including Kipyegon, had run comparable 1500m times. Because the mile isn’t run that often at the pro level anymore, many of the records were due for an upgrade, and now they’re more in line with the 1500m times.
Kiypegon’s world record was her third in a 50-day span, after she set both the 1500m (3:49.11) and 5,000m (14:05.20) records in early June. She confirmed after the race that in addition to defending her world title in the 1500m, she’ll also run the 5,000m at next month’s world championships. She’ll face some tough competition, but I wouldn’t bet against her. (Detailed results)
Wins for Tsegay, Chepkoech, and Reekie in London, and an American record for Monson
Ethiopia’s Gudaf Tsegay outkicked Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands down the homestretch, and then held off a fast-closing Beatrice Chebet of Kenya to win Sunday’s London Diamond League 5,000m in 14:12.29. Tsegay’s time makes her the fourth-fastest 5,000m runner of all time. Chebet (14:12.92) and Hassan (14:13.42) moved to seventh and ninth, respectively, on the all-time list. Hassan broke the Dutch and European records, and Ethiopia’s Medina Eisa, 18, in fourth, set a world U20 record (14:16.54).
Alicia Monson was with the lead group with a lap to go but couldn’t quite manage the same level of gear change in the kick. But she hung on to finish fifth in 14:19.45 and take 4.47 seconds off the American and North American records, previously held by Shelby Houlihan. This was Monson’s third American record of the year after she broke the 10,000m record (30:03.82) in March and the indoor 3,000m record (8:25.05) in February.
Monson said after the race that she was inspired by her On Athletics Club teammate, Yared Nuguse, winning the 1500m earlier in the meet. And this race will help her decide which event(s) to run at the world championships. Elly Henes finished 11th in 14:47.15, a PR, and Josette Andrews, who said she irritated a disc in her back lifting last week, was 16th in 15:04.39.
Jackline Chepkoech, 19, ran away from fellow Kenyan Beatrice Chepkoech, winning the steeplechase, 8:57.35 to 9:04.34, and becoming the first woman to break 9:00 this year. Courtney Wayment finished fourth in 9:17.21, and Krissy Gear took sixth in 9:25.49.
The 800m was the final event of the meet, but the headliner, Great Britain’s Keely Hodgkinson, was a late scratch due to illness. Scotland’s Jemma Reekie stepped up and delivered a win for the home crowd of 50,000, running 1:57.30, her fastest time since the 2021 Olympic Games. Reekie struggled significantly last year after getting mono, but she has started to look like herself again recently, and she ran a 1500m PR of 3:58.65 one week earlier.
After a challenging split from her longtime coach, Andy Young, in March, Reekie is now coached by Jon Bigg. She told meet organizers that her training is now more 800m specific, and she’s no longer training with Laura Muir, but it’s a really positive setup and the transition has gone smoothly. Raevyn Rogers finished seventh in 1:58.98 and Sage Hurta-Klecker got out very quickly and struggled at the end, taking eighth in 2:03.98. (All results)
Thanks to New Balance for sponsoring Fast Women
I was really excited to have a chance to check out the FuelCell SuperComp Trainer v2 last week, and I love them. Part of me still can’t quite believe that running shoes that are that springy exist—it’s definitely a new era. I appreciate that the version two of the shoe feels a little more stable, it’s noticeably lighter, and the stack height is slightly lower, without sacrificing anything. And the more traditional upper makes the shoe easier to put on.
Because I’m always curious, I asked Elle St. Pierre about some of her favorite New Balance shoes. Like me, she’s a big fan of the 880s. “They’re just really reliable, you know what you’re going to get, and they’re really comfortable and light,” she said.
Elle St. Pierre is excited for a fresh start
Elle St. Pierre is an Olympian, world indoor championships medalist, American record holder, and U.S. champion on the track. And over the past year, she has taken a step back from her career. She gave birth to a son, Ivan, on March 4.
St. Pierre, 28, had long wanted to have a child, but putting her racing career on hold while she was at the top of her game has been challenging at times. After winning the 1500m at the 2021 Olympic Trials and finishing third at last year’s U.S. championships, she said it was bittersweet watching this year’s 1500m final from afar.
“I knew I was where I needed to be, sitting at home, holding Ivan on my lap,” she told Fast Women. “It gave me a lot of motivation to get back, but I also felt content. I’ll be back out on that track and on the TV soon.”
During last year’s USATF Championships, St. Pierre experienced what she thought were pre-menstrual cramps. But her period never came. The day she got home from the meet, she took a pregnancy test and found out why. Her third-place finish at USAs qualified her to represent the U.S. at the world championships the following month, and with her doctor’s blessing, she decided to compete as planned.
During the world championships, she was eight weeks pregnant, and her nausea was at its peak. But St. Pierre still managed to run 4:04.94 and advance to the 1500m semifinals. She told some key people what was going on, but otherwise she kept her news to herself, telling reporters after her race that she wasn’t feeling like herself. After racing, St. Pierre felt so sick that she went to the hotel room her husband, Jamie St. Pierre, was staying in, to recover, so her roommate wouldn’t get suspicious.
St. Pierre had an intense labor, and in the days that followed, she would cry thinking about what women go through and what a miracle childbirth is.
“I’ve been in a lot of pain in my life, just from training and racing,” St. Pierre said. “I feel like I’m pretty tough, and I have pretty high pain tolerance, but it was just so different. I’ve heard people compare it to racing, and I just couldn’t disagree more. A 1500m is four minutes long, and it really doesn’t hurt until the last two minutes. I was in labor for over 12 hours.”
Since Ivan’s arrival, St. Pierre has been adjusting to the many changes that come with being a new mother. Though she has a lot of support from her husband and family, she said she was surprised by how isolating the first month was. And she’s gotten used to how everyday household tasks take much longer when there’s a baby involved.
St. Pierre got different messages from her doctors about when it was safe to resume running, so she went with the answer she liked the most and started doing some easy running again three weeks postpartum. “It definitely felt like garbage for the first month, but it slowly started to feel better,” she said. “And recently, I’ve really started to turn the corner with training and feeling more like myself.”
At first, she ran by feel. More recently, her New Balance Boston coach, Mark Coogan, has been sending her workouts, not for the track yet, but for the roads and local rail trail. She was on target to run her first postpartum 80-mile week last week, which is the kind of mileage she was running in the thick of training, pre-pregnancy.
There’s been a mini baby boom among pro runners recently, with Brenda Martinez, Rachel Smith, Kate Grace, Abbey Cooper, Kellyn Taylor, and St. Pierre all having babies around the same time. St. Pierre says she has compared notes with some of them, and Molly Huddle, who has a 14-month-old, has talked to her about being diligent about fueling while breastfeeding. St. Pierre is doing her best to prioritize sleep as well, helped by the fact that Ivan is a pretty good sleeper, most of the time.
Because parenting a newborn is such an all-consuming role, getting out for a solo run can feel like a special kind of freedom. “My run every day is my time,” St. Pierre said. “This break has really helped me grow a bigger appreciation for running and just the joy of it. Coming back from pregnancy and childbirth is a whole new challenge, and I'm just loving running again. I was almost feeling a little burnt out before, so this is like a fresh start, and I’m really excited. It’s been a lot of fun so far.”
St. Pierre’s mother has been watching Ivan this summer, while St. Pierre does her training or goes to help out where she can on the family’s farm. One of her favorite things is how Ivan’s face lights up with a smile every time she returns from a run.
St. Pierre lives in Northern Vermont, her team is based in Boston, and she regularly does altitude training stints in Flagstaff. She’s still figuring out exactly what the logistics will look like as she gets back into serious training, but as long as she’s nursing, she expects that Ivan will mostly go where she goes. So when the team heads to Flagstaff next winter, she and Ivan will both go. She expects that Jamie will join them for a week, and she’ll try to find someone to accompany her and help out while she’s training. Otherwise she plans to be back and forth between Vermont and Boston a lot.
She’s been encouraged by the many women before her who have taken maternity breaks before doing some of the best running of their careers. “They’re setting the bar higher and showing it’s possible,” she said. “I also think sponsors are being more supportive of women as well, so it’s kind of a new era.”
She hasn’t announced any racing plans yet, but she’s hoping to run some road races this fall. And she appreciates that the pressure is off, because no one is expecting much from her this year.
Being successful right out of college has meant that St. Pierre hasn’t had many breaks in her racing schedule over the past five years. “It feels like it’s non-stop, so it’s almost like I made my own break in a way,” she said. “I’m feeling more refreshed and excited about running than I have in a long time. I’m just really thankful for all the support that I’ve had throughout this chapter in my life, and I’m really excited to get back at it.”
Emily Mackay goes sub-4:00
New Balance Boston rookie Emily Mackay won the 1500m at last Monday’s Meeting de Marseille, in France, running 3:59.99 and becoming the 14th American woman to dip under 4:00. Mackay didn’t worry about what the rest of the field was doing or whether it was a sub-4:00 type of race. She made it one by following the pacer (and pace lights) through 1,000m and gritting out the last 500m.
You can watch a full replay of the race by jumping to the 58:30 mark here. When Mackay crossed the line, the clock read 4:00.00, and it was fun to watch her realize she had broken 4:00. In 2021, her 1500 best was 4:17.37. Last year, she ran 4:08.97, and now she has managed to make an even bigger jump in 2023.
Mackay wasn’t thrilled with her eighth-place finish in the 1500m at the USATF Outdoor Championships; she said she came down with a cold on her way to Eugene. Regardless, she has had a fantastic rookie season. And with Mackay, Elle St. Pierre, and Heather MacLean, New Balance Boston is the first U.S.-based team to have three American women break 4:00.
Other News and Links
Allyson Felix and Tianna Madison did their first joint interview since Tori Bowie’s death, discussing the Black maternal health crisis on Here & Now.
Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone pulled out of the Monaco Diamond League 400m due to a recurring knee issue. “My prayer is to get back to 100% health before the world championships,” she wrote in an Instagram story.
This is an interesting article about how Flagstaff became the place to altitude train in the U.S.
Brenda Martinez is back to taking her first running steps after Achilles surgery. I appreciated her post because we don’t always see the earliest stages of athletes’ returns.
This is a nice article about Nia Akins, from her hometown newspaper.
This article looks at how much Faith Kipyegon has earned for her three world records. It only discusses prize money, not sponsor bonuses, because those details are protected by confidentiality clauses.
Every year at her track camp, 800m Olympian Joetta Clark does an all-out 200m. This year, just shy of her 61st birthday, she ran a speedy 29.8, faster than last summer.
Emilia Benton wrote a piece for Women’s Running about Oiselle signing four distance runners of color at once. “I came up in distance running with little to no representation of people who look like me,” Madie Boreman said. “I have always had the goal to be that representation for someone else, and with the help of Oiselle I can finally do that.”
The Athletics Integrity Unit has charged reigning 100mH world champion Tobi Amusan of Nigeria with a whereabouts violation for missing three drug tests in less than 12 months. Amusan is provisionally suspended, but her case will be reviewed before next month’s world championships. Amusan had a breakthrough year last year, lowering her hurdle time from 12.42 to 12.12, a world record.
Whittni Orton Morgan won the 5,000m at Saturday’s Sound Running Sunset Tour meet in a seven-second PR of 15:02.07. She was on a roll during the indoor season before having to take some time off due to injury. Now she’s gaining momentum again. Karissa Schweizer won the 1500m in 4:04.35, and Logan Jolly used a dramatic kick to edge Carmen Graves, 9:40.14 to 9:40.45, in the steeplechase. And Sammy Watson won the 800m in 2:00.60, holding off a fast-closing Brenna Detra. Watson broke her six-year-old PR, set when she was only 17. (Results)
Madie Boreman won the 1500m at the Memorial Rasschaert Flanders Cup in Belgium, running 4:10.31, a PR. (Results)
Ethiopia’s Tigist Ketema won the Wharf to Wharf 6 miler in 29:51. Kenya’s Sarah Naibei finished second (30:13), and Ethiopia’s Werkuha Getachew, last year’s world championships silver medalist in the steeplechase, finished third in 30:37. This is a nice article about Vanessa Fraser’s finish. (Results)
Presley Weems won the Ryan Shay Mile, a road race, in 4:28. (Results)
At the USATF Masters Outdoor Championships, Jeannie Rice set world records in the 75–79 age group in the 5,000m (22:41.46), 10,000m (46:53.07), and 1500m (6:14.88). Sue McDonald set 60–64 world records in the 300m hurdles (48.89), 400m (62.34) and 800m (2:29.97). And Elizabeth Deak lowered the 65–69 400m record to 67.23. (Day one, two, and three recaps | Results)
Addy Wiley and Ellie Shea went 1–2 in the NACAC U23 1500m, running 4:05.84 and 4:14.90, respectively. (Results)
Running her first race in six years, Alicia Vargo crossed the finish line first at the Speedgoat 28K, but she was disqualified for accidentally going off course. Hannah Rowe (3:35:53) was declared the winner and Molly Seidel (3:49:58), who was running for fun and a hard workout, finished second. Helen Mino Faukner won the 50K in 6:09:16. (Results)
It was good to hear more from new U.S. steeplechase champion Krissy Gear on C Tolle Run.
Maia Ramsden won the NCAA 1500m title in June, and she was on The Running Effect last week. I’m a big fan.
Lauren Hagans talked about running lower mileage (comparatively speaking) during her Grandma’s Marathon buildup on RunChats with @RonRunsNYC.
Additional Episodes: Sinclaire Johnson on The Running Effect | Courtney Wayment on More Than Running | Faith Kipyegon on Citius Mag | Maegan Krifchin on The Injured Athletes Club | Grayson Murphy on The Way of the Runner (she comes on at the 16:00 mark) | Roisin McGettigan-Dumas discussed athlete mental health on Keeping Track | Jess Stenson on I’ll Have Another | Ingrid Walters on Starting Line 1928
Thanks to New Balance for sponsoring Fast Women. Thanks to all of you who contribute via Patreon and Venmo to help make this venture sustainable. And if you’re interested in purchasing Fast Women merchandise, you can do so here. I hope you all have a great week!