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Fast Women: Roberta Groner takes nothing for granted
Sarah Chelangat and Sara Hall win in DC
After a series of setbacks, Roberta Groner sets a PR at age 45
Roberta Groner improved the American 45–49 half marathon record by more than two minutes at the Trials of Miles Project 13.1 on March 25, running 1:11:28. But Groner was most excited that at 45, she’s still able to set lifetime PRs. After years of ups and downs, she’s back to running the times she knew she was capable of all along.
I first talked to Groner for Runner’s World in 2017, just after she burst onto the elite running scene at the California International Marathon, running 2:30:38 and finishing second to Sara Hall. Groner was a runner when she was in high school and college, but at age 21, she quit the sport for 10 years. “It wasn’t my time. I didn’t love it. I walked away from it so easily. It only came back to me when I was ready,” she told Fast Women last week.
When Groner returned to running in her 30s, after having three children (now ages 15, 16, and 19), she made steady progress, and her times kept dropping. She ran a PR of 2:29:09 at the 2019 Rotterdam Marathon and represented the U.S. at the World Championships in Doha the same year, finishing an incredible sixth in the world in oppressive conditions.
Groner was on a roll, but that came to a halt at the 2020 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in Atlanta, where, running on a challenging course in cold, windy conditions, she dropped out of the race. “I just went for it and I didn’t have the gas so I couldn’t finish,” she said. “And in my own head it was like, ‘Well I could go do a spring marathon somewhere else. I’m in shape.’”
But then came the pandemic. And when racing returned, a string of unfortunate events kept her from running her best. “I think most of us runners go through these highs and lows,” she said. “The last two years was my low, and it was my first low.”
She planned to run the 2021 Chicago Marathon, but then she fell and suffered a bone contusion while hiking, which set her training back. She decided to focus on that year’s New York City Marathon, but then her boyfriend’s house, where she lives half the time, flooded during Hurricane Ida. She focused on helping him rebuild instead.
Groner ran the 2022 Houston Marathon, her first big marathon since the Olympic Trials. She had lost some of her racing confidence in the interim and didn’t really know where she was fitness-wise. “I couldn’t get gels or fuel in, so everything kind of imploded at mile 18,” she said. The silver lining was that Groner still managed to finish fourth in 2:32:02, which qualified her for the 2024 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials.
But shortly after, she had another setback. The elbow pain that she had been dealing with had become too serious to ignore, so she underwent surgery in February 2022, which required six weeks off from running.
Groner hoped to take a shot at Deena Kastor’s American 40–44 age-group record of 2:27:47 at the 2022 Chicago Marathon, but the summer leading into the race, she got Covid while traveling. She decided to run New York City instead, to help out her Central Park Track Club (CPTC) team. In hot conditions she went out hard, hoping to run 2:30. That backfired. “At mile 17 my quads tightened up and I basically had to jog it in,” she said. She finished in 2:43:06.
Groner still had hope. She did some of the best training of her life heading into her last two marathons. And in 2023, things are starting to click again. Groner turned 45 on January 4, and in February, she broke the American 45–49 10-mile record, running 55:13. Next up, she’ll run the Copenhagen Marathon on May 14. She’s aware of Colleen De Reuck’s American 45–49 record of 2:30:51 (also run in Copenhagen), but her main goal is to run a PR and break 2:29.
Groner, who lives in Ledgewood, New Jersey, works full-time as a nurse in a primary care office. That, raising three sons, and high-level running kept her plenty busy. But just over a year ago, she was given the opportunity to help coach the CPTC. She had always wanted to give back to the sport, so two days a week after work, and on select weekends, she braves the traffic and joins the team for their workouts in New York City.
She works alongside head coach Devon Martin, and during each workout, Groner coaches 50–100 athletes, whose ages might range from 20 to 70. Until last year, Groner was coached remotely by Steve Magness. In joining the CPTC, it made sense for Groner to try something new. Now she’s coached by Martin, and she does some of her training with the club. Groner draws extra motivation from having in-person coaching and being surrounded by a team of people who are also working hard to get better. “They’re like my second family, they’re my running family,” Groner said. “They’re out there supporting me, I’m supporting them as a coach, too.”
At her peak, Groner’s weekly mileage is in the 90s to low 100s. The biggest change she has made as she has gotten older is adding strength training two days per week. She also prioritizes sleep, doing her best to get eight hours per night. During her past two training cycles, she has gone without alcohol, and she feels like it’s helping her sleep and recover better.
The CPTC is supported by Tracksmith, but Groner doesn’t have any personal sponsors, and she’s learned that she doesn’t need them to run at a high level. And without them, there’s less pressure to post on social media, which she barely has time for anyway.
Groner believes the 10-year break she took from the sport has helped extend her career. “My message every day, even to my kids, is just show up consistently and if you have a passion and you love something, it doesn’t mean it’s over when you’re 25,” she said.
She knows a day will come when she can’t run PRs anymore. She’s taking nothing for granted. “I want to make sure I’m living in the moment and enjoying it,” she said. “My goal is to go to the Trials fit. And I’m going to finish. I’m going to crawl to the finish line this time, no matter what.”
A pair of Sara(h)s win at Cherry Blossom 10 Miler
Early on at Sunday’s Cherry Blossom Ten Mile, held in Washington, DC, it was clear that the women’s field would not go after Keira D’Amato’s women’s-only world record and a share of the hefty bonus that came with it. In the cold, windy conditions, everyone was content to let last year’s champion, Susanna Sullivan set the early pace.
Around halfway, Uganda’s Sarah Chelangat put in a big move. Ethiopia’s Weynshet Weldetsadik initially went with her but soon thought better of it. Three minutes later, Weldetsadik had intentionally slowed and was back in the chase pack. Chelangat ran alone the rest of the way and won by 33 seconds, in 52:04.
Because the event was hosting the USATF 10 Mile Championships, the streaming coverage opted to stay on the national championship race. Emma Grace Hurley did much of the pace pushing in the closing miles, but Nell Rojas came up to challenge her late, with Sara Hall and Molly Grabill right behind. With two minutes to go, Hurley dropped back quite a bit, but then she put in a big surge to reestablish contact with the leaders. (Usually when people drop back that late, they’re gone, so this was impressive.)
Rojas and Hall then pulled away again. Hall, who has been known for summoning some memorable kicks throughout her career, took the lead with 10 seconds remaining and won the national title (finishing second overall) in 52:37, just ahead of Rojas (52:38). Hurley’s move paid off and she held off Grabill for fourth overall, 52:41 to 52:42. (Results)
Hall said on Instagram the day before the race that what she thought was a “nasty flu” turned out to be Covid, but she recovered just in time to do one last race before she runs the Boston Marathon in two weeks.
Four-time Olympian Colleen De Reuck, who still holds the Cherry Blossom course record at 51:16, won the 55–59 age group in 1:07:01. Perry Shoemaker had an impressive run in the 50–54 age group, winning in 1:00:37.
Des Linden’s Choosing to Run launches tomorrow
People who love to read about women’s professional running have been spoiled recently as Lauren Fleshman, Kara Goucher, and Steph Bruce have released books in short succession. And Des Linden’s book, Choosing to Run, comes out tomorrow.
I appreciate how frank Linden is in her book. I never want to give anything away, because I think all of these books are best enjoyed without spoilers. I’ll just say that I was surprised by the extent of the rift in her relationship with the Hansons, and I really appreciated her opening up about her medical condition, because there’s so much misinformation about it in the sport.
Linden and Goucher had a good conversation about the book on their podcast, Nobody Asked Us, last week. “I just kept doing the wrong thing, ironically, and things just kept falling into place,” Linden said of the 2018 Boston Marathon. The episode gives away some of the details in the book while still leaving some room for surprise. (Linden was also on Running Rogue.)
World Athletics ruling will affect domestic competition as well
World Athletics announced March 23 that starting March 31, transgender athletes who have gone through male puberty would no longer be able to compete in the female category in “world rankings competition.” It wasn’t entirely clear to me how much jurisdiction World Athletics had over events happening in the U.S., so I asked those who would know.
A USATF spokesperson told me by email last week that the ruling will affect all world rankings events, which are listed in the World Athletics calendar. “As they are included in the World Athletics calendar, this ruling affects both the USATF Championships and Olympic Trials,” she wrote.
Most major events in the U.S. are on World Athletics’ calendar, but how much jurisdiction does World Athletics have over events like the major marathons in the U.S.? I asked New York Road Runners, because I couldn’t imagine complete exclusion flying in a place like New York City. They confirmed that the policy will only apply to their elite fields.
“NYRR is deeply committed to ensuring equity and inclusion throughout everything we do,” a spokesperson wrote. “At all NYRR races, participants can register as the gender they identify as. Participants have the ability to register among three categories: male, female and nonbinary. For the elite invitational fields at NYRR races, we follow USA Track & Field and World Athletics rules.”
Other News and Links
UK Athletics confirmed on Friday that Laura Muir and Jemma Reekie have parted ways with their longtime coach, Andy Young. The duo abruptly left their training camp in South Africa after a series of events, including Young allegedly telling them (The Times, paywalled) they could not visit a coffee shop because they had already eaten out twice that week and refusing to let them use the rental car. According to the article, this was the tipping point in a series of events. Earlier in the week, Young denied there was a falling out. Gabriela DeBues-Stafford trained with Young’s group before she went to the Bowerman Track Club, and she said in a February 2022 episode of the Run Your Mouth podcast that she didn’t leave on good terms. She said he was a micromanager and very controlling, which seems to mesh with the story above. It’s good to see athletes put their feet down, and hopefully Muir and Reekie can find a better training setup quickly.
Triathlete and former professional runner Chelsea Sodaro finished second at the Ironman 70.3 Oceanside on Saturday after announcing in advance that she would donate her prize money ($5,000) to Moms Demand Action, an organization working to end gun violence. In a New York Times article published last week, Sodaro, the reigning Ironman world champion, talked about her ongoing struggles with anxiety and depression and recently being diagnosed with OCD.
Sarah Lorge Butler wrote an article for Runner’s World about collegiate runners and name, image, and likeness (NIL) deals, and wow, it has generated a lot of discussion. She looked at the two routes to earning large deals—having a large following, like Emily Cole and Tori Ortiz, and standing out performance-wise, like Katelyn Tuohy and Talitha Diggs (which tends to then lead to a large following).
I watched Boston College’s Marne Sullivan race at Boston University in February, and I didn’t realize until after the race, when I was tagging her in a photo on Instagram, that she is deaf. That led me to her popular TikTok account, where Sullivan, who used to hide her hearing loss, now shares her story to help others. I enjoyed learning more about Sullivan last week in this Runner’s World article from Taylor Dutch.
The London Marathon was originally going to include a showdown between the last two American record holders, Keira D’Amato and Emily Sisson. But D’Amato withdrew from the race a couple weeks ago and Sisson announced last week that she’s out now too. Sisson said she tweaked something in her hip during a workout and it didn’t heal fast enough. She’s back to ramping up her training again, and she plans to do a marathon later this year.
Christine Mboma’s coach, Henk Botha, said last week that they don’t have the money to sue World Athletics over its new rules for DSD athletes. Instead, he said, Mbomba will undergo hormone therapy, because her only other option is to quit the sport. Mboma, who represents Namibia, won Olympic 200m silver in 2021.
Camille Herron talked to iRunFar after her 48-hour world record and said she had a really rough patch 18 hours into her race, during which her body was rejecting all forms of fuel. She said she was thinking about quitting the race. “I couldn’t wrap my head around being 18 hours in and going another 30 hours,” she said. But a combination of Maurten and water eventually worked for her. Herron said on Twitter that she didn’t run the race in carbon-plated shoes because they “become really painful at slower paces.” She said she wore two different shoes, including a pair of 10-year-old racing flats.
Steph Bruce announced that she is pregnant with her third child, who is due in September.
Sara Hall has some good advice for dealing with a long injury layoff. (Runner’s World)
This is a good five-minute video on Josette Norris.
Last week, ESPN+ released a documentary on former Utah track & field athlete Lauren McCluskey, who was murdered in 2018. She was also the subject of an episode of 20/20. But if you’d prefer to read her story, ESPN has a very long article on McCluskey’s life and death.
Former Huntington University coach Nick Johnson’s sexual battery case will go to trial. If he’s found guilty, he could go to jail again.
Utah’s Emily Venters ran a fantastic 31:48.35 10,000m at the Stanford Invitational, which puts her sixth on the NCAA all-time list. She doesn’t run the event often, but the time was a 79-second personal best. Venters did a lot of the leading and pulled away from the field with 7+ laps to go. (You can watch a few race highlights here, and her post-race interview was emotional) Venters has an interesting story, including being a childhood cancer survivor. She was diagnosed with leukemia just after her third birthday. Runner-up Everlyn Kemboi of Utah Valley became the 10th-fastest NCAA 10,000m runner of all time, running 32:03.30. Loras College’s Kassie Parker (eighth, 32:36.22) broke her own NCAA Division III record by 27 seconds. China’s WuGa He won the 5,000m (15:26.58) and Oregon State’s Grace Fetherstonhaugh was the top collegian (15:30.55). Washington’s Kayley DeLay won the steeplechase in 9:48.44 and BYU’s Claire Seymour won the 800m in 2:01.96. (Results)
Kentucky’s Masai Russell broke the collegiate record in the 100m hurdles (watch here) at Texas Relays, running 12.36 seconds. Texas had a fantastic meet, setting collegiate records in the sprint medley, 4x200m, and 4x100m. Valery Tobias anchored Texas’ record-setting sprint medley with a 2:01.33 800m leg. LSU’s Michaela Rose didn’t have anyone with her when she got the baton in the 4x800m relay, but she anchored her team with a very impressive 1:58.40 split. (Results)
Multi-event star Anna Hall won the 400m hurdles, high jump, and 800m at Florida Relays. The 800m went out relatively slowly (~61.8 seconds), and she negative split the race to win in 2:03.23. (Results)
During her London Marathon buildup, Eilish McColgan seems to be walking the line between injury and fantastic fitness. After skipping other races due to injury, she won Sunday’s Berlin Half Marathon in 1:05:43, breaking her own British record by 43 seconds. She said on Instagram after the race that she felt her hamstring tighten badly around 1K to go. “Fingers crossed it’s just a cramp,” she wrote.
Kenya’s Irine Kimais won the Prague Half Marathon in 1:06:00.
Kenya’s Helah Kiprop went from third to first (links to highlight video) in the kick to narrowly win the Paris Marathon in 2:23:19. Deena Kastor, now 50, negative split a 3:12:15. On the Marathon Talk podcast, which she hosts, she made it clear that she had never been less prepared going into a marathon, thanks in part to the record snow in Mammoth Lakes, California, this winter. I’m still impressed. Laura Green posted a fun reel last week of Kastor picking up her race number at a marathon expo for the first time ever. (Results)
Laura Galván dominated the Carlsbad 5000, winning the 5K road race in a Mexican record of 15:05. (Results)
Jessica Hull won the 1500m (4:04.19) and the 5,000m (15:05.87) double at the Australian T&F Championships. Abbey Caldwell gave her a good race in the 1500m; you can watch it here. The finish of the steeplechase was dramatic, with four women still in it at the bell. You can see the last lap here. (Results)
Grayson Murphy won the Mill Town Half Marathon outright in 1:10:34 (chip time) and qualified for the 2024 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials with lots of room to spare. (Results)
On a very windy day in Charleston, Cynthia Limo won the Cooper River Bridge Run 10K in 32:29. Annie Frisbie, who will run Boston in two weeks, was the top American, finishing fourth in 33:53. (Results)
I enjoyed scrolling through the results of the World Masters Athletics Indoor Championships, which took place last week in Toruń, Poland. Michelle Rohl of the U.S. won the 55–59 1500m in 4:53.07 and the 3,000m in 10:27.11. (She also earned silver in the 800m in 2:25:12.)
At the USATF Masters 10 Mile Championships, Katie Hynes, 40, was the top masters runner, in 58:25. Jenny Hitchings, 59, won the 55–59 age group in 1:02:03 and Fiona Bayly, 55, wasn’t far back, running 1:03:06. (Results)
It was good to hear from Mary Cain on The Mindset Experience, because it had been a while. I appreciated the honesty in her response around the 29:00 mark. “I really feel the majority of power players, not people, but power players within the sport world are just performative,” she said.
Women’s Running Stories did a good episode with professional trail runner Dani Moreno, who will try to qualify for the Olympic Marathon Trials at the Boston Marathon.
If you need evidence that there’s more than one way to go after one’s running goals, listen to Ashlee Powers on the Beer Mile Podcast. Powers talked about how she uses her CBD company and her OnlyFans adult content to help fund her pursuit of her running goals.
Additional Episodes: Kaitlin Goodman on More Than Miles | Alisa Harvey (who’s running the Boston Marathon) on Run Farther & Faster | Jacky Hunt-Broersma on C Tolle Run (the menopause discussion was particularly interesting) | Viki Bok and Alda Cossi of the Liberty Athletic Club, the country’s oldest all-women’s track club, on Keeping Track | Natalie Cook on The Running Effect (she said near the end that she will miss the outdoor season due to a stress reaction in her navicular bone) | Marie Mulder on Starting Line 1928
Things that made me smile
If you haven’t seen the much-shared video of Olympic and World champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce taking part in the parents’ race at her son’s sports day, it’s worth a watch.
Des Linden and her dog, Boston, running part of the Boston Marathon course.
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I hope you all have a great week!