Fast Women: Now healthy, Emily Venters leads the NCAA
Reigning world champion Norah Jeruto is provisionally suspended
Issue 231, presented by OOFOS
Perspective has helped Utah’s Emily Venters run her best
At the Stanford Invitational on March 31, the University of Utah’s Emily Venters won the 10,000m in 31:48.35, the sixth-fastest women’s time ever in the NCAA. Venters, 23, who is in her sixth year of college and final season of eligibility, plans to continue running professionally, which is something that was hard for her to imagine two years ago.
“I literally almost quit running altogether,” Venters told Fast Women. “I never would have guessed that I would be back in this position with a chance to run professionally. It’s surreal that I’m getting the chance to live out my dream, and I’m just really grateful for it.”
Venters began her collegiate career at Boise State, where she did well academically and athletically, but she was suffering from an eating disorder. During her second year at the school, she learned that she had poor bone density. A specialist put her on birth control pills, which changed her body quickly, made her “really mean” and unhappy, and did nothing to address the underlying problem. So she stopped taking the pills and began working with a psychologist and dietitian to get healthier.
Venters decided to transfer to the University of Colorado for her third year. Though she was eating better, years of underfueling began to catch up to her. Combined with the intense workouts at CU, Venters entered an injury cycle. During her time at CU, she suffered five bone stress injuries. “My two years there were pretty much hell,” she said.
Venters cherishes the friends she made at CU, because they stuck with her through some of her darkest days. “There were some times when I didn’t even know if I’d come out of it,” she said. “But there was always something in me, too, that knew that if I just changed my environment, I could come out on the other side, even though so many people doubted it.”
The second time Venters entered the transfer portal, heading into her fifth year of college, she had far fewer offers from NCAA coaches, but the University of Utah was willing to take a chance on her. Venters never visited the school and didn’t know anyone on the team, but she had heard through the grapevine that head coach Kyle Kepler was caring and nurturing, and that was all she needed to hear.
“It’s been the place I needed the whole time,” Venters said. “I wish I would have come here from the start, because Kep is just an amazing coach, and he truly cares about me as a person. I don’t think I have ever felt that from a coach.”
During her sixth year, with some consistent training behind her, Venters is running better than ever. In the fall, she was the runner-up at the Pac-12 Cross Country Championships before finishing 12th at the NCAA Championships. Indoors, she ran a 5,000m PR of 15:20.37 on the University of Washington’s oversized flat track and took fifth in the event at the NCAA Championships.
Venters has found that being a more well-rounded person has contributed to her success. “In a good way, I’m caring less,” Venters said. “I’ve found so many things outside of running that I enjoy doing, and I don’t really care what other people think.” It’s such a change that sometimes Venters barely recognizes herself. “I allow myself to do a lot more, and I genuinely think that that’s been the key for me. I go for my run and then I don’t think about it again until I go running again the next day.”
Against the odds, Venters has gotten her bone density up; it’s now above average. And she hasn’t missed a period in three years.
Venters has ambitious goals for her final season in the NCAA, but she’s also looking at the bigger picture. “I’m trying to remember to enjoy being around a team like this, and being in this environment, because I’m never going to get this back again,” she said.
College wasn’t the first time Venters faced health challenges. Just after her third birthday, she was diagnosed with leukemia. She doesn’t remember many details about that time, she just knows it was really hard on her parents. Venters was in and out of hospitals and undergoing chemotherapy for about two years. She goes in for annual checkups now, but she has had no lasting complications.
As Venters gets ready to embark on a professional running career, she’s keeping the lessons she learned as a collegian in mind. And she knows that there’s so much more to life than running.
“I’ve told myself I’m going to give [professional running] a go and if for some reason it becomes more work than fun for me at some point, I owe it to myself to not continue,” she said.
Venters doesn’t want running to become her whole identity again, and she knows that can be a tough balance to strike when it’s a job. “I’m working really hard with people to figure out a good place for me to go and be where I can still be the Emily who I am right now,” she said, “but as a professional runner.”
Thanks to OOFOS for sponsoring Fast Women this month!
OOFOS has so much planned for the Boston Marathon! The brand will be opening the Ultimate Recovery Experience at 799 Boylston St. called Mile 27, an immersive and shoppable destination for all of your Active Recovery needs—including the first opportunity to shop their latest launch and athlete-inspired design innovation, the OOmg Sport, in person.
Mile 27 opens on April 13, and I’m excited to share details with you about a special event that you are all invited to!
“Conquering hurdles and mOOving mountains; an evening of inspiration with the OOFOS OOcrew"
On Friday, April 14, at 4:00 p.m., OOFOS will host a panel moderated by Emily Abbate, from the Hurdle Podcast, featuring three OOcrew members: Olympic Gold medalist Ashley Caldwell, principal dancer for the Boston Ballet Chyrstyn Fentroy, and Navy veteran and marathoner Yuma Haidara. This impressive group of women will discuss how they’ve overcome hurdles in their lives, what they do to champion women in their careers and, of course, how Active Recovery plays an important part in their success.
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World champion Norah Jeruto is provisionally suspended
On Friday, the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) announced that reigning steeplechase world champion Norah Jeruto of Kazakhstan has been provisionally suspended due to abnormalities in her athlete biological passport. Jeruto hasn’t tested positive for a banned substance, but rather her lab values have changed in a way that, according to the AIU, wouldn’t be possible without banned substances or using banned methods.
Jeruto’s agent, Gianni Demadonna, told LetsRun that the AIU reached out to Jeruto in early August 2022 about her abnormally high hematocrit and hemoglobin levels, and asked her to provide an explanation. Demadonna said that Jeruto’s hematocrit and hemoglobin values have been that high since 2021, so he doesn’t understand why the AIU didn’t act sooner.
“They didn’t stop her before World Champs,” Demadonna told LetsRun. “They didn’t stop her immediately in 2021. Why did they wait until 2022? I don’t understand why. I would like somebody to ask AIU why they act like that.”
I don’t know Demadonna, but from his comments over the past year, he doesn’t strike me as someone you want to have in your corner when you run into trouble. When Diana Kipyokei, another one of his athletes, was suspended last October, he told LetsRun that she was “completely guilty” and was quick to wash his hands of the situation.
And recently, in response to criticism over the fact that he knew that another one of his clients, Agnes Tirop, was being exploited and controlled by her husband, but he didn’t do anything, he reportedly said, “I am not a Samaritan. I am not the Red Cross. I mean I am doing business. If I don’t deal with that woman or that athlete, somebody else will come and will deal.” Tirop’s husband was changed with her murder. And while it’s understandable that Demadonna didn’t know it would lead to her death, his comments seem to lack compassion.
Jeruto was born in Kenya and still trains there, but she began representing Kazakhstan at the start of 2022. If Jeruto’s suspension stands, it will be interesting to see how far it is backdated. Bahrain’s Winfred Yavi, who was also born in Kenya, finished fourth in the steeplechase at Worlds and could potentially move into a medal spot.
Other News and Links
It’s so rare that we get to hear from the top African athletes in any kind of detail, so I loved this 11-minute YouTube video from Adidas about Kenya’s Peres Jepchirchir, the only woman to win the Olympic Marathon, New York City Marathon, and the Boston Marathon. She’ll run the London Marathon on April 23.
Former Stanford distance runner Mariel (Ettinger) Gates has written a book, Aubrey, about a runner at an elite university and her “experience with trauma and mental health issues at the Division I level.” The book is listed as historical fiction and it came out at the end of January. I haven’t read it, but I’m curious, so I ordered a copy last week. Also on my to-read list is Emily Pifer’s, The Running Body, “a memoir of addiction, body image, and healing, through the lens of a long-distance runner.” I’ve heard good things about that one, and apparently there’s an audiobook version on the way.
The New York Times wrote about (gift link) the fact that more people are questioning the uniform norms for women in competitive running. Lauren Fleshman’s book and subsequent conversations about it have brought the topic to the forefront recently. The writer’s line about how if tighter, more revealing uniforms were performance-enhancing, “Eliud Kipchoge and Brigid Kosgei would have indistinguishable race day uniforms” seemed to come straight from an episode of Nobody Asked Us. The idea that you’ll run your best wearing whatever makes you feel most comfortable is hardly novel, but I’m glad more people are catching on. Women racing—and winning—in looser fitting clothing is hardly anything new, though. Joan Benoit Samuelson, Lynn Jennings, Derartu Tulu, Catherine Ndereba, Gete Wami, Uta Pippig, and, more recently, Des Linden and Courtney Dauwalter immediately come to mind.
Heptathlete Anna Hall posted an emotional message on TikTok: Stop telling female athletes they look like men.
Angie Rafter, who just finished her collegiate eligibility at Central Connecticut State University, has joined the Hansons-Brooks team.
You can watch the 50-minute video of Kara Goucher’s book appearance in Boston here.
More than 100 golden retrievers will walk a mile to the Boston Marathon finish line, in memory of marathon dogs Spencer and Penny. And I think we have our can’t-miss event of marathon weekend. (The meetup starts on Sunday, April 16 at 10:00 a.m. It’s too late to RSVP, but you can find more details here.)
The On Athletics Club is hiring an assistant coach, and as HOKA NAZ Elite did a couple years ago, the job was listed publicly. They’re no longer accepting applications via that link, but whew, did I get a lot of messages from people who are upset that the salary is $50K (and doesn’t include benefits), which won’t go far in the Boulder area. But based on what I know of the coaching market, I’m not the least bit surprised that they still had plenty of applicants.
Sha’Carri Richardson is back to making headlines on the track. At Saturday’s Miramar Invitational, she ran 10.57 seconds to win the 100m. She was helped by a 4.1 m/s wind, so the mark is considered to be wind-aided (anything over 2.0 m/s is), but regardless, that’s flying. It’s the fourth-fastest time a woman has ever run in any conditions. Ajee’ Wilson opened her season with a win in the 800m, running 2:02.95 off of a 61.06-second opening lap. She said after her race that her training is going great. (Results)
Aleia Hobbs won the 100m at LSU’s Lloyd Willis Invitational in a world-leading 10.87 seconds. (Hobbs’ time counts, because the wind was 2.0 m/s.) It was her fastest season opener ever, and she said on Instagram that breaking her hand indoors (falling after setting the American 60m record) has prevented her from doing block starts and some of her normal strength training. LSU’s Michaela Rose dominated the 800m in an NCAA-leading time of 2:00.34. (Results)
At the Arcadia Invitational, California high school senior Mackenzie Browne pulled off an impressive come-from-behind 800m win over Ali Ince of Illinois, 2:03.07 to 2:03.17. California sophomore Sadie Engelhardt won the mile in 4:36.26, and West Virginia senior Irene Riggs won the 3200m in 9:52.66. Riggs went out hard, hitting halfway in 4:48, and hung on to win a race in which a record nine girls broke 10:00. You can watch the 800m, mile, and 3200m without a subscription. Hana Moll broke her twin sister Amanda’s high school record in the pole vault, clearing 15-0. Amanda still holds the indoor record at 15-1.5. (Results)
Former Ithaca College standout Parley Hannan won Indiana’s Carmel Marathon on Saturday, running 2:33:43 in her debut. The three-time NCAA DIII champion qualified for the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials with more than three minutes to spare. And runner-up Peighton Meske, last year’s champion, also qualified, running 2:36:34. I reached out to Hannan to find out what she has been up to since finishing her eligibility at Ithaca in 2021, and her response was honest and difficult to hear. She has struggled off and on with anorexia and overtraining since graduating, and has spent some time in eating disorder treatment. “It’s hard that I got this result while in that space, because it’s kind of positive reinforcement for something I would not wish upon anyone,” she said. She currently works as a caregiver in Maine but also spends a lot of time in Boston running with friends, as a social outlet. Hannan said she only decided to run the marathon a week ago, after surprising herself with a quick 20 miler. She said she knows she needs to prioritize her health going forward, and she’s hoping that running can serve as a motivator to do that. Kenya’s Cynthia Limo won the half marathon by more than five minutes, running 1:12:10. Both winners set course records. (Results)
Erin Clark won the Lake Sonoma 50 in 7:49:27, with Allison Baca (7:54:26) and Sarah Keyes (7:57:50) grabbing the next two spots. The top three earned spots on Team USA for the Trail World Championships 80K race, which takes place in June in Austria. Jennifer Lichter won the accompanying marathon in 3:49:26. (Results)
Ciara Mageean, who is returning after an injury to her peroneal tendon, won the Bristol Track Club 5K in 15:24.
I really appreciated Nikki Hiltz’s thoughts on trans athletes in sports on Running For Real.
Professional sprinter Chloe Abbott was great on the Ali on the Run Show. She discussed her running career (and what it was like being teammates with Allyson Felix), as well as her experience on The Voice.
On Women’s Running Stories, it was fun to hear Amber Zimmerman talk about racing big names like Sara Hall and Nell Rojas at the Cherry Blossom Ten Mile, where she held her own.
Alicia Monson was on the Coffee Club podcast, which is hosted by some of her On Athletics Club teammates. She starts doing a little more of the talking around the 16:00 mark. She said the only race she’ll run before the USATF Outdoor Championships is the Paris Diamond League 5,000m, assuming she gets in. (Though she’ll also pace Josette Andrews in the Track Fest 5,000m on May 6.) It was fun to hear Monson talk a little about training with Hellen Obiri.
Arkansas standout and trail running star Lauren Gregory was fun on the Lactic Acid podcast, and it’s worth listening just to hear her talk about the vehicle she drives, which is an old Little Caesars pizza delivery van.
If you’re interested in hearing about the business side of the sport, you might enjoy Dana Giordano’s conversation with Cait Keen, a content creator and 2:39 marathoner, and Erin Bailey, who runs a talent agency for content creators, on More Than Running.
Additional Episodes: Erika Kemp on I’ll Have Another | Four-time 800m Olympian Joetta Clark Diggs on Unscripted with Ashley Russo | Dakotah Lindwurm on the Seconds Flat Running Podcast and For the Long Run | Theresa Hailey on The Drop | Andrea Pomaranski on RunChats with @RonRunsNYC | Georgia Simmerling, who has launched Canada’s first female-powered sports agency, and Maddy Price, one of her clients, on The Shakeout
The Mt. SAC Relays begin on Wednesday and the events will stream live on RunnerSpace (subscription required). The Bryan Clay Invitational starts Thursday and will stream live on FloTrack (subscription required).
The B.A.A. 5K and mile take place on Saturday at 8:00 and 11:30 a.m. ET, respectively. I don’t know if either one will be livestreamed, but if they are, I’ll post an update on Twitter later this week. And the Boston Marathon is only one week away, but I’ll put out another newsletter before the race.
Thanks so much to OOFOS for supporting Fast Women this month! If you’re going to be in Boston this week, make sure to check out their Ultimate Recovery Experience at 799 Boylston St. starting on Thursday, and the panel moderated by Emily Abbate Friday at 4:00.
Thanks to everyone who supports Fast Women via Patreon and Venmo. Your support is crucial to keeping this newsletter going. And thanks to my editor, Sarah Lorge Butler, who sometimes works on holiday weekends to help me get this newsletter out on time.
I hope you have a wonderful week!