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Fast Women: Sifan Hassan demonstrates her incredible range
Emily Sisson, Molly Seidel, and Sara Vaughn lead the American women in Chicago.
Issue 260, sponsored by New Balance
Sifan Hassan wins the Chicago Marathon
Two-time defending champion Ruth Chepngetich of Kenya is known for going out hard in her marathons, so it wasn’t surprising to see her leading the way early on in Sunday’s Chicago Marathon. In the opening miles, it looked like the men pacing Chepngetich were slowing her down, if anything, as she ran up on them, looking antsy. A pack of five—Chepngetich, Sifan Hassan (Netherlands), Joyciline Jepkosgei (Kenya), Megertu Alemu (Ethiopia), and Ababel Yeshaneh (Ethiopia)—ran the first 5K in 15:42.
Then Chepngetich picked up the pace. She hit 10K in 31:05 (a 15:23 5K split), on pace to run a 2:11:06 and break the world record. Only Hassan dared go with her. Hassan made it clear in her pre- and post-race comments that it wasn’t the pace she would have chosen, but she’s a competitive person, so she went with it.
The pace was less of a stretch for Chepngetich, whose PR is 2:14:18. Hassan, on the other hand, came in with a PR of 2:18:33 and this was only her second marathon. She was in uncharted territory. But if watching her races has taught running fans anything, it’s to never doubt Sifan Hassan.
Just before 20K, Chepngetich started to open up a lead. By halfway, which Chepngetich hit in 1:05:42 (2:11:24 pace, still ahead of the world record), Hassan was six seconds back, and the gap appeared to grow a bit after that. But given how fast they were running, and the fact that Hassan had stopped to stretch and still won April’s London Marathon, it was clear she wasn’t out of it yet.
And the next time the TV coverage showed the women’s leaders, around 15 miles in, Hassan was right back in the picture. A mile later, Hassan seemed to be the one who was feeling good, as she started to drop Chepngetich, who managed to keep the race relatively close through 30K, perhaps helped by the fact that Hassan had to circle back briefly at an aid station, to get a missed bottle. But Chepngetich dropped farther back after that. Hassan wasn’t picking up the pace, but she was slowing down less dramatically.
Hassan ran the first half in 1:05:48 and the second in 1:07:56, for a total time of 2:13:44. Two weeks earlier, it would have been a world record, until Ethiopia’s Tigst Assefa ran an incredible world record of 2:11:53 in Berlin. But Hassan won the race with the second-fastest time ever, a course record, the fastest time ever run in the U.S., and a PR by almost five minutes. She earned $100,000 for the win and $50,000 for the course record.
"I'm so happy," she said at the finish line. "But the last five kilometers I was telling myself never again." (Professional marathoners—they’re just like us!)
The most incredible thing about Hassan’s run in Chicago is that it came only six weeks after her World Athletics Championships triple, where she won silver in the 5,000m, bronze in the 1500m, and was in position to medal in the 10,000m as well, before she fell in the final meters. Not only does Hassan have a superhuman ability to bounce back from races, she also seems to be able to race any distance, any time.
Behind Hassan, Chepngetich hung on to take second in 2:15:37, her second-fastest time ever. She did it the painful way, with a 1:05:42 first half and a 1:09:55 second half. (By contrast, when Assefa ran the world record in Berlin, her first half was 1:06:20, and then she picked up the pace.) Alemu (2:17:09) and Jepkosgei (2:17:23) finished third and fourth, respectively, both setting PRs. There was a gap back to Ethiopia’s Tadu Teshome, who took fifth in 2:20:04.
Emily Sisson leads a strong American field
With many women using the Chicago Marathon as a checkpoint heading into February’s U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, the race had a deeper-than-usual U.S. field this year. Some athletes had confidence-boosting days, while others had more humbling experiences, which will provide valuable information going forward.
American record holder Emily Sisson and Emma Bates, who was fifth at the Boston Marathon in April, were the headliners going in. Early on, they worked together, hitting halfway in 1:09:31. But at a water stop soon after, Bates said she took an awkward step and hurt her plantar fascia, which she was already having some trouble with. She still made it to the finish line, but she was in pain for the last 10 miles, and had to stop twice. She finished 13th in 2:25:04.
Sisson was focused more on racing than on time, but as her pace crept down through the 18-mile mark, it looked like her American record (2:18:29) might be in reach. But then she developed a side stitch. She slowed down to ease the pain and focused on making it to the finish line. It wasn’t her best day, but she still finished seventh in 2:22:09, leading the way for the Americans.
As an Olympic bronze medalist, Molly Seidel is hardly an underdog, but she has dealt with so much in recent years (Runner’s World link) that some of the pressure was off heading into this race. Seidel hadn’t completed a marathon since the 2021 New York City Marathon, so she was looking for a solid step in the right direction heading into the Olympic Trials. She got that, and more, going through halfway in 11th place and moving up to eighth by the finish. Her time, 2:23:07, was a 95-second PR. (Post-race interview with Seidel)
Sara Vaughn, who finished 10th in 2:23:24, ran one of the best-executed races of the day, going through halfway in 1:12:06 and negative splitting with a 1:11:18 second half. “Stayed patient early on, but then I saw my family at mile 16 and got a liitttle excited,” she wrote on Instagram. “Dropped it down and (mostly) held it.” It was particularly satisfying to see Vaughn run well after a DNF at Boston in April. She took 2:59 off of her PR.
And what a day for Gabi Rooker, who has a great story. She was a gymnast growing up and didn’t run her first marathon, a 2:54, until 2021. In 2022, she made a huge leap, running 2:34 at Grandma’s Marathon. Later that year, at CIM, she lowered her PR another five minutes, to 2:29. She ran 2:27 at Grandma’s in June, and improved another three minutes, to take 11th in Chicago in 2:24:35, mixing it up with some of the best marathoners in the country.
Dakotah Lindwurm finished 12th in 2:24:40, a PR, but said it wasn’t quite the performance she was looking for. Tristin Van Ord continued her steady improvement, taking 14th in 2:25:58, a 69-second PR.
And Des Linden, 40, won the masters race, finishing 17th among the women in 2:27:35. She took 12 seconds off of Deena Kastor’s American masters record (Runner’s World). Linden was on pace to run in the 2:25s mid race, but slowed a bit at the end. “It all went really well…until it didn’t,” she wrote on Instagram. (Race highlights | Results)
Other Chicago Highlights
Catherine Debrunner, who set a world record two weeks earlier in Berlin, won the wheelchair race. She and Susannah Scaroni battled neck-and-neck throughout, before Debrunner won in a sprint finish. Her time, 1:38:44, was a course record, and Scaroni finished two seconds back.
By my count, six women earned new qualifiers for the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in Chicago, by running 2:37:00 or faster: Mimi Smith (2:34:24), Hailey Bowes (2:35:36), Billie Hatch (2:35:47), Kathryn Fluehr (2:35:56), Britney Romero (2:36:07), and Jo Butler (2:36:19). That brings the total to 138. With just under two months remaining in the qualifying window, it’s clear that the Trials field isn’t going to be a large one this time out, thanks to the standard being eight minutes faster than it was in 2020.
Great Britain’s Rose Harvey also had a banner day in Chicago, taking 3:59 off her PR and finishing ninth in 2:23:21. Harvey has been a runner for a while, but she started taking it more seriously when she was fired from her job as a lawyer during the pandemic, and look at her now.
Both Jenny Hitchings and Jeannie Rice set age-group world records in Chicago. Hitchings won the 60–64 age group in 2:49:43 and became the first woman over 60 to break 2:50. And Rice, 75, won her age group in 3:34:32. She ran a little faster in Boston in April (3:33:15), but Boston’s course isn’t record-eligible.
Other age-group winners included Mai Fujisawa (45–49, 2:41:43), Elisoa Crawford (50–54, 2:53:19), Jill Wilkie (55–59, 2:57:16), Elizabeth Waywell (65–69, 3:14:18), Meifang Zhu (70–74, 3:43:20), and Patricia Gibson (80+, 5:55:37).
I loved Molly Seidel’s uniform, which was unlike the uniforms the other Puma athletes in the race wore. I’d love to see more one-of-a-kind uniforms in the sport, or at least see them change more often.
There’s no such thing as perfect marathon coverage, because you can’t please everyone. But NBC Chicago’s coverage of Sunday’s race left something to be desired, despite the fact that they had some knowledgeable people on their broadcast team. I try to keep my expectations low any time a local TV station is handling the coverage of an event, but an event of Chicago’s caliber deserves better coverage.
Thanks to New Balance for sponsoring Fast Women this month
This is the last month of our New Balance sponsorship, and we’ll be giving away one more pair of shoes, but this month, I’d love to see the shoes go to a newsletter subscriber. As long as you’re subscribed to this newsletter, you’ll be entered to win.
The top American woman at this year’s Chicago Marathon, Emily Sisson, is sponsored by New Balance, and this is the shoe she races in. It’s mainly meant to be a 5K to half marathon shoe, but it obviously works for the marathon as well. And if you’re looking for a more substantial marathon shoe, check out the SuperComp Elite v3.
Also, the Fresh Foam X 1080v13, a popular daily trainer, comes out on Friday. New Balance even has a countdown on their site.
Annie Rodenfels wins the Boston 10K for Women
Since she joined the Boston-based B.A.A. High Performance Team, Annie Rodenfels has been tough to beat at home. First there was her surprise breakthrough 5,000m win on the BU indoor track in 2021 (Runner’s World). She pulled off another big win at the B.A.A. Mile in 2022, she had a strong race to take third at April’s B.A.A. 5K, and she has won a handful of additional track races. And on Saturday, she added another big win at the Boston 10K for Women, running 32:08 in her first 10K, and earning $9,000.
“I feel like I can have a mediocre year the rest of the year and then when I get a race in Boston, I knock it out of the park,” she told event organizers after the race. “I feel like I get more cheers because I am from around here.”
Rodenfels said her plan going in was to hang back and kick to a win, but she changed her mind mid-race. “Besides maybe Jenny Simpson I think I’ve probably got the best kick in the field,” she said. “But I just felt too good, I figured I’d just go for it. What do I have to lose?”
In the fifth mile, Rodenfels began to break away from Emily Venters, who set the pace early and had managed to hold on the longest. Rodenfels won by 23 seconds and Venters took second in her pro debut for the Union Athletics Club, running 32:31. Jenny Simpson, the 2011 world champion in the 1500m, who is transitioning to the longer distances, finished third in her second 10K ever, running 32:39.
“I think when people talk about trying something new, there’s a lot of hope there,” Simpson said after the race. “But the truth is, once you dive in deep, there’s a lot of doubt.” Simpson quieted her mid-race doubt and ran a 21-second PR, and a race she was proud of.
Erika Kemp, last year’s champion, finished fourth in 32:44, and her training partner, Molly Huddle, finished fifth in 32:50. A week after having to withdraw from the half marathon at the World Athletics Road Running Championships due to SI joint pain, Sara Hall finished 12th in 33:19 and won the masters race by seven minutes. But she was less than thrilled with the result. “Rrrrough race for me today in Boston,” she wrote in an Instagram story. “Been feeling pretty overcooked and going to listen to my body and recharge.”
Other News and Links
Rachel Levin wrote an in-depth feature on Molly Seidel for Runner’s World, and I appreciated Seidel’s honesty. It includes the detail that coming out of college, her Saucony contract was $34,000, which doesn’t go far in Boston. And Michelob dropped her when she returned to eating disorder treatment. “Whatever,” she said. “You have watery-ass beer anyway.” And she told Levin, “People would be shocked to know how many pro runners smoke weed.”
Michelle Katami wrote a great piece about 800m world champion Mary Moraa, who lost both of her parents when she was two years old. And her grandmother, who took over raising Moraa and her siblings, died when she was 16.
This is a good article about Sifan Hassan.
BYU TV did a heartbreaking 12-minute feature on former BYU runner Sara Musselman, who lost her mother to suicide when she was young. It’s a heavy piece, but it also offers hope to those who have lost a loved one to suicide.
BYU TV also did a nice 9-minute piece on Courtney Wayment.
Former Saratoga Springs High School athletes, including seven former members of the cross country and track & field teams, have accused the school of having an abusive sports culture. A 77-page letter sent by the law firm representing the athletes claims that cross country coaches Linda and Art Kranick discouraged the girls from having boyfriends or doing other activities. They say they were encouraged to run seven days a week and, at times, forced to run through injuries. The school has long had one of the highest performing cross country teams in the country for many years, and the Kranicks’ methods have been the subject of scrutiny for just as long.
This is the track season that never ends, for some. USATF announced the U.S. team for the Pan Am Games, which begin on October 22 in Santiago, Chile.
Dot Sowerby, 90, was already a world record holder in the shorter distances, and in September, she set an American record in the half marathon, for the 90–94 age group, running 3:33:47. She didn’t run her first race until she was 50. (Women’s Running)
Race director Eli Asch explained the decision to cancel the Twin Cities Marathon and 10 Mile in this article from Runner’s World. As many suspected, the 10 mile cancellation had less to do with the heat and more to do with concern that the marathoners would jump in the shorter race, or run the marathon anyway.
This is a nice article about Camille Herron’s Spartathlon win. (Outside)
Kelyn Soong wrote about USADA requiring nonbinary runner Cal Calamia to get a therapeutic use exemption (TUE) to take testosterone as part of their gender-affirming care, and the wider implications. (Washington Post)
Sue McDonald set a pending 60–64 age-group world record in the 1500m at the Nevada Senior Games, running 5:02.38.
World champion Winfred Mutile Yavi of Bahrain won the steeplechase (9:18.28, event record) and the 1500m (4:11.65) at the Asian Games. India’s Parul Chaudhary won the 5,000m (15:14.75) and finished second in the steeplechase (9:27.63). (Results)
Repeat champion Sylvia Bedford won the St. George Marathon in 2:35:53.
Hellen Jepkurgat won the Boulderthon marathon in 2:42:19. Catherine Mwanzau won the half marathon (1:14:25), and Neely Gracey finished second (1:14:55). (Results)
Heidi Peoples won the Steamtown Marathon in 2:43:18. (Results)
Elvin Kibet won the Army 10 Miler in 54:51. (Results)
Keira D’Amato, who was part of the Chicago Marathon broadcast team, won the Chicago 5K one day earlier, in an event record of 15:51. (Results)
Canada’s Gabriela DeBues-Stafford won the 8K that accompanies the Royal Victoria Marathon in 26:43. (Results)
I enjoyed hearing from Dom Scott, of South Africa and Team Boss, on C Tolle Run. She finished 16th in Chicago in 2:27:31, a PR.
It was particularly interesting to hear Anna Gibson talk about her unconventional training on The Freetrail Podcast. The recent University of Washington graduate, who races the 1500m on the track and excels in mountain and trail running, said she only runs a few days a week. On what would be her recovery run days, she bikes or skis instead, depending on the season.
The latest episode of 2 Black Runners featured some of the Black women revolutionizing track & field coverage: Tiara Williams, Demitra Carter, and Katelyn Hutchison.
Additional Episodes: Sifan Hassan, pre-Chicago, on Citius Mag | Sabrina Pace-Humphreys on Women’s Running Stories | PattiSue Plumer, part two, on Starting Line 1928 | Bailey Kowalczyk on For the Long Run
This week’s newsletter is self-edited at the end of a very long day. I am telling you this mostly so that you won’t think my editor had anything to do with any of my mistakes.