Discover more from Fast Women
Fast Women: Thrilling world championships come to an end
Mary Moraa wins the highly anticipated 800m final.
Issue 254, sponsored by New Balance
Mary Moraa wins world championships 800m showdown
The women’s 800m was one of the most anticipated races of the 2023 World Athletics Championships. And while I thought NBC did a lot of things right with their coverage, for some reason, they decided to frame the final as mostly Athing Mu vs. Great Britain’s Keely Hodgkinson.
Hodgkinson came out guns blazing this season, running a world-leading 1:55.77 in her first 800m. But the next time she raced an 800m, she finished second to Kenya’s Mary Moraa. Meanwhile Moraa came into the meet undefeated. NBC also framed Mu as the favorite and treated any outcome other than her winning as a surprise. While she was a favorite based on her resume, looking at this season, we didn’t have much information. She was almost an underdog because of it.
After she got tripped up during the semifinals, Mu decided her best bet in the final was to get out front and stay there. But Moraa, who has struggled with tactics at times in the past, timed her finish well and swept by Mu on the homestretch to win in a personal best of 1:56.03. (Her leap across the finish line was impressive, and her post-race dancing is always great.)
Hodgkinson passed Mu on the inside and earned her third-straight 800m silver in a global championship, running 1:56.34. And Mu earned bronze (1:56.61). For now, the three medalists are in a league of their own, and it will be interesting to see if anyone can break them up in the coming years.
Mu told reporters afterward that she was proud of her race and that she was “fighting to find the excitement this go around.” On NBC, she said her past couple of months have been really rough and “my mental just wasn’t super great.” Mu said that she was dealing with a lot of criticism and speculation leading up to worlds, so she deleted her social media apps three weeks ago. Honestly, I’m impressed by how well she ran given how little racing she’s done this year. And hopefully finishing third here removes some of the pressure going forward.
Raevyn Rogers produced her best race of the season by far and finished fourth in 1:57.45. And Great Britain’s Jemma Reekie (1:57.72) nipped Nia Akins (1:57.73, PR) for fifth place at the line. Three runners in the top six is a really strong showing for the U.S. And Akins was particularly impressive. A year ago, she didn’t make it out of the semis at USAs. Now she’s sixth in the world. She was pleased with her race, but she told reporters that now that she has competed well on this stage, her goal is to get a medal.
Akins warmed up for the race with her Brooks Beasts teammates Josh Kerr, who pulled off an upset to win the 1500m, and Isaiah Harris. Their coach, Danny Mackey, wasn’t in Budapest because of what he’s been through this year, and his struggles make the Beasts’ accomplishments all the more impressive. Jonathan Gault reported that Mackey’s fiancee died by suicide in March, which left him to raise their five-month-old daughter solo.
Rogers was pleased with her race, too. She got a late start to her season due to some health problems, but she timed her fitness just right. This race did not disappoint, and the women’s 800m will continue to be one of the best events to follow in years to come. (Race replay | Results)
Femke Bol closes out worlds with perfect moment of redemption
Alexis Holmes and Femke Bol will forever be linked by the 2023 world championships. On the first night of the meet, Holmes played the role of the hero for the U.S. In the mixed 4x400m relay, she ran down Bol, who fell to the track, which led to a DQ for the Netherlands. But on the final two days of the meet, their fortunes reversed.
Holmes was supposed to run in the final of the 4x400m relay, but at the last minute, she subbed in for another runner in the heats, on the anchor leg. Quanera Hayes and Holmes botched their handoff, and because Holmes didn’t get the baton within the exchange zone, the U.S. was DQed and didn’t get to run Sunday’s final. You can watch what happened, and the post-race interview with Lewis Johnson, here. (Holmes said it was tough to process it all immediately after the race, on live TV, but she later shared more thoughts here.)
It’s impossible to say how the U.S. would have fared in the final, but their DQ guaranteed there would be a new champion. And fittingly, Bol took advantage and closed out the meet with a nice moment of redemption. She entered the homestretch in third place, pretty far back, but timed her finish perfectly. She nipped Jamaica’s Stacey Ann Williams at the finish line, and the Netherlands won its first world title in the 4x400m in 3:20.72. (Race replay | Results)
Thanks to New Balance for sponsoring Fast Women this month
I’ve enjoyed watching some of the women sponsored by New Balance compete at worlds this week. When running for their country, they don’t get to choose the sponsor logo on their uniforms, but they do get to choose their shoes. Femke Bol (400mH gold, 4x400 gold), Gabby Thomas (200m silver, 4x100m gold), and Natalia Kaczmarek (400m silver) are among those who won medals at worlds wearing New Balance spikes.
Faith Kipyegon is first woman to win the 1500m/5000m double at worlds
Much like the 1500m, most of the field was still together with one lap remaining in the 5,000m. And exactly like the 1500m, Kenya’s Faith Kipyegon outran them all. In the 1500m, she closed with a 56.63 final lap. This time, she went a tad faster, running 56.59. Kipyegon crossed the line in 14:53.88. I was impressed by Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands staying as close as she did; she took second in 14:54.11. And Beatrice Chebet of Kenya earned bronze (14:54.33).
The race didn’t really pick up until about 250m to go, and it was impressive how much distance the medalists put on the field between there and the finish. Last year’s winner in this event, Gudaf Tsegay, who won the 10,000m earlier in the meet, was still in it with 250m remaining, but she faded badly and finished 13th in 15:01.13.
No American woman has ever finished higher than sixth in the world championships 5,000m, and that streak remained intact as Elise Cranny, who looked more like herself than she did in the 10,000m, finished ninth (14:59.22) and Alicia Monson took 14th (15:04.08). The duo did an interesting post-race interview where they did some thinking out loud about what it’s going to take to compete with the world’s best.
Latvia’s Agate Caune, who got attention for her gutsy frontrunning in the prelims, withdrew in advance of the race. “Unfortunately, in the last few days I felt pain in my pelvis and therefore I will not start for health reasons,” the 19-year-old wrote on Instagram. I’m glad she, and those around her, are putting her health first, especially because she has a potentially long career ahead of her. (Race highlights | Results)
Winfred Mutile Yavi earns Bahrain’s first medal in the women’s steeplechase
With one lap to go in the steeplechase, Winfred Mutile Yavi and world record holder Beatrice Chepkoech of Kenya were together. But Chepkoech couldn’t match Yavi’s kick, and Yavi won in 8:54.29, the fourth-fastest time ever in this event. Chepkoech earned silver (8:58.98) and fellow Kenyan Faith Cherotich earned bronze in 9:00.69.
Behind them, France’s Alice Finot (fifth, 9:06.15) and Slovenia’s Maruša Mišmaš-Zrimšek (sixth, 9:07.37) set national records. Courtney Wayment was disappointed to finish 15th in 9:25.90, saying she knows she’s fitter than that. She thought maybe she got out a little too aggressively—she went through 1K in 3:00.77 and 2K in 6:05.92. She’ll get right back on the horse, though, as she plans to race in Thursday’s Zurich Diamond League meet. (Race Highlights | Results)
Amane Beriso Shankule puts an exclamation point on a breakout year
Ethiopia’s Amane Beriso Shankule outran a strong field and tough conditions to win a world title in the marathon Saturday morning in Budapest, running 2:24:23. It’s been an incredible year for Beriso Shankule, 31, who made a name for herself with a surprise win at the Valencia Marathon last December. She ran 2:14:58, a nearly six-minute PR, and it made her the third-fastest marathoner of all time. She followed that up with a runner-up finish at April’s Boston Marathon.
Though the race started at 7:00 a.m. local time, conditions were tough, with the temperature rising from the low 70s into the 80s. The pace started out conservatively and the lead pack of 24 athletes hit halfway in 1:14:29, with Keira D’Amato leading the way. (D’Amato didn’t do a lot of leading, she just happened to be up front at that time.)
After that, the pace began to pick up, and in the 30th kilometer of the 42.2K race, a group of six runners broke away: the four Ethiopians—Tsehay Gemechu, Gotytom Gebreslase, Yalemzerf Yehualaw, and Beriso Shankule—plus Kenya’s Rosemary Wanjiru and Israel’s Lonah Chemtai Salpeter.
Right around 33K, the four Ethiopians pulled away. But the move was too much for Gemechu. Roughly two minutes after opening the gap, she grabbed her side and stopped to walk, limping. When the marathon hits, it can hit hard. Especially in hot conditions.
“We knew if we worked together, we could get a better result, and we worked well as a team today,” Beriso Shankule told reporters afterward. “We got the lead group down to six and then we pushed away with four of us. That was our plan because there was such a strong field. After we got rid of the rest, then it was a battle with my tough teammates.”
Once Gemechu dropped, it looked like Ethiopia would still sweep the medals. Right around 36K, Beriso Shankule made a big move and quickly gapped her teammates. After that, no one would challenge her. Yehualaw initially responded better to Beriso Shankule’s move, dropping Gebreslase, but Yehualaw began to fade significantly in the 39th kilometer.
Just over 2 hours, 20 minutes into the race, approaching 41K, Yehualaw began flailing, doing a windmill motion with her arms, and Morocco’s Fatima Ezzahra Gardadi, who had closed the gap, pounced, moving into third. From there, the medals were set. Gebreslase made up some ground on Beriso Shankule, but couldn’t close the gap. Gebreslase finished second in 2:24:34, 11 seconds back, after winning this event a year ago.
Gardadi was 33 seconds out of third place at 38K, but she ran a smart race, moving up gradually. She finished in 2:25:17, earning bronze and becoming the first Moroccan woman to win a world championship medal in the marathon. It was a breakthrough run for the 31-year-old, who finished only 14 seconds off her PR in tough conditions. Her personal bests coming in—15:24.99 for 5,000m and 32:10 for 10K—didn’t suggest she’d be mixing it up with some of the world’s best, but that’s why they run the race.
Salpeter took fourth in 2:25:38. And the struggling Yehualaw made it to the finish line in fifth (2:26:13) but she needed medical attention. Her teammates interrupted their celebration to help her.
Lindsay Flanagan learns from a tough race, has a strong run in Budapest
Lindsay Flanagan led the U.S. marathoners in Budapest, finishing a strong ninth in 2:27:47. Like everyone who finished in the top 10, she ran a negative split. Her first half was 1:14:30, and she closed in 1:13:17.
Flanagan said after the race that she chose to run the world championships marathon in part because she knew it would be good preparation for the Olympic Trials in Orlando. Flanagan struggled in the heat at last year’s New York City Marathon, though she still finished 11th. She said she didn’t want a repeat of that experience, so she tried not to respond to as many moves in Budapest. She also prepped for the heat by spending a lot of time in a sauna in the four weeks leading up to the race, and she thought it helped a lot. (Flanagan discussed the race more in this Kofuzi Run Club video. She said her sauna protocol was 20 minutes, five days a week, as soon as she was done running. She also changed her fueling plan.)
D’Amato was the next American across the line, finishing 17th in 2:31:35. Though it wasn’t the day she wanted, she still raised her arms in celebration at the finish line. She said after the race that she thought about dropping out every step of the final 20K. But she didn’t, knowing her kids were watching. “If you can keep going, you do it,” she said.
Going into the third loop of the race, D’Amato’s hip flexor gave out, and her glute, hamstring, and calf followed. She provided more detail in this thoughtful post. I particularly appreciate what her husband told her after the race: “Look around, Keira, you just finished the World Championships Marathon. For a while, we didn’t even think a dream like this existed.” D’Amato talked about her race more during this Citius Mag livestream.
Susanna Sullivan did some of the leading early on in the race, even opening up a decent gap at times. She was running a reasonable pace, but no one else wanted to go quite that fast that early. The pack reeled her in, and by 13K, she had started to drop back. Sullivan struggled the rest of the way and finished 58th in 2:44:24. She said on Instagram that some knee inflammation derailed the last several days of her marathon buildup, and it didn’t let her perform the way she had hoped. (Race highlights | Results)
Other World Championships News
Jamaica’s Shericka Jackson would have been tough to beat in the 200m; she ran the second-fastest time ever, 21.41 seconds, to win gold. Only Florence Griffith-Joyner’s world record, 21.34 from 1988, is faster. Gabby Thomas, who missed worlds last year due to injury, earned silver in 21.81. And Sha’Carri Richardson, who was in lane nine once again, ran 21.92, a personal best, to win bronze. I appreciated this post-race interview with Jackson, from Tiara Williams, because it really brought out her personality. (Race replay | Results)
Thomas and Ricardson teamed up with Tamari Davis and Twanisha Terry to win gold in the 4x100m relay. It was an exciting race (watch here), and I enjoyed the team’s celebration with the U.S. men’s 4x100 squad that also won gold right before. The women survived a scare in the heats, barely completing their second baton handoff within the exchange zone. (Results)
Chase Ealey took the lead in the first round of the shot put and stayed there, winning with a mark of 20.43m. Last year, Ealey became the first American woman to win gold in this event, and now she’s a repeat champion. (Competition highlights | Results)
Venezuela’s Yulimar Rojas had a rough triple jump competition, but she pulled through on her final jump and won her fourth-straight world title with a mark of 15.08m. Ukraine’s Maryna Bekh-Romanchuk, who had led throughout the competition, won silver (15.00m). (Competition highlights | Results)
Similarly, Japan’s Haruka Kitaguchi came through with a clutch performance on her final throw and won the javelin with a mark of 66.73m. (Results)
Ukraine’s Yaroslava Mahuchikh won the high jump, clearing 2.01m and winning Ukraine’s first title in the women’s high jump in 24 years. (Results)
On Friday, USADA announced that Allie Ostrander was banned for four months after a positive drug test. Her violation was the result of using a topical acne medication. She had a prescription for it but did not get a therapeutic use exemption (TUE). Ostrander’s ban, which is a reminder of how meticulous the pros have to be about what they put in—and on—their bodies, coincidentally ends today. Ostrander posted a video yesterday explaining her side of the story. (Though in her video, she talks about taking the medication, so now I’m confused whether it’s topical or oral.)
In an Instagram story, Britton Wilson shared an update written by her mother, LeYuani Wilson. LeYuani said that Britton has been running with stress fractures in both of her legs all year and that when she pushed out of the blocks during her 400m heat, she felt excruciating pain. Britton is now taking time to heal. “There’s no telling what she will be able to do when she’s at 100%,” LeYuani wrote.
Norway’s Karoline Bjerkeli Grøvdal wasn’t happy about finishing 11th in her 5,000m heat at worlds four days earlier, so she found another race and ran 14:46 for 5K, a national record.
Ababel Yeshaneh won the Buenos Aires Half Marathon in 1:06:10.
Ethiopia’s Mestawut Fikir won the Antrim Coast Half Marathon in 1:06:44.
Sarah Pagano won California’s Alameda 10 Miler in 55:29.
Allie Buchalski won the Magnum Mile, a track race in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in 4:35.91, edging out Kristie Schoffield by 0.06 seconds.
A few podcasts
I sent out a few podcast recommendations on Friday, and my world championships watching time cut into my podcast listening time. So just a couple to recommend here:
Keira D’Amato was fun, as always, on a pre-Budapest episode of The Run Eat Sleep Show.
Thanks again to New Balance for sponsoring this newsletter. Have a great week!