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Lap 98: Sponsored by OLIPOP
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Sisson breaks US Half Marathon Record 🇺🇸
Breaking the American record is an accomplishment worth celebrating, but it probably doesn’t come as a surprise when it’s your own to break, and you’re on a heater. The last time we watched Emily Sisson in action, she broke the American marathon record in Chicago.
Her splits in the Windy City were a masterclass in marathon pacing, with the first half of 69:26 and a second in 69:03. This is all to say, what she did in Houston this past weekend, without having to warm up for 13.1 miles first, while wildly impressive, was fairly predictable. Sisson ran 66:52 — 23 seconds faster than the bar she set for herself in Indianapolis this past May.
But unlike Sisson’s other two AR performances, this one was much more of a race, thanks to Ethiopia’s Hiwot Gebrekidan, whose opening 5k was a remarkable 15:14. While Gebrekidan did not hold that pace, the move created a big enough gap to fully separate herself from the pack. And even though she faded a bit late, she still won in 66:28.
Although it wasn’t executed with perfect splits (she got sucked into Gebrekidan’s hot early pace, and split a 15:31 opening 5k!), this race solidified Sisson as the best road racer in the country. She now holds four of the top six times in American history for the half and eliminated the need for an asterisk because of Kara Goucher’s 1:06:57 from a non-record eligible course at The Great North Run in 2007.
But while we celebrate these national accomplishments, we shouldn’t lose sight of their place in the larger context of the sport – the top American distance specialists who have their sights set on global medals certainly don’t! The United States is still quite far down the global depth chart in the event: Sisson now ranks 93rd all-time (Ryan Hall’s record is 167th on the men’s side).
Other notable performances included:
Third-place finisher Jessica Warner-Judd, though not just because of her 33-second improvement to run 67:19. Remember, she ran a 1:59 800m nine years ago during her teenage phenom years. She only turned 28 last week and yet it feels like her career has somehow spanned multiple generations of competitors.
Molly Huddle, who ran 70:01 nine months postpartum, and Jenny Simpson, who debuted in 70:35. According to Fast Women, there were eight additional Olympic Trials qualifiers in Houston.
The full distance race, which was won by Japan’s Hitomi Niiyain 2:19:24, painfully just short of the 2:19:12 national record set by the 2004 Olympic champion, Mizuki Noguchi.
It’s pronounced Houston, not Houston 💁♂️
There is no doubt in my mind that Wesley Kiptoo was the fittest man in the Houston Half Marathon field. You may not recognize the NCAA XC champion without his signature hat and gloves, but he is already thriving on the roads as a new professional. As the HOKA NAZ Elite athlete spent the majority of his last mile looking around, it was only ever Leul Gebresilase beside him.
Kiptoo was weaving in and out of the narrow final chute and appeared to do everything in his power to not let Gebresilase by, except speed up. But as they say on the hardwood, “ball don’t lie” – we could really use a similar expression for running – and the Ethiopian finally slid by at the last minute to break the tape. Race officials rightfully let any wrongdoing go, because – to borrow from hoops again – “no harm, no foul.”
If you need a crash course on Gebresilase, he’s run 2:04 for the marathon and finished second in both London and Rotterdam in 2022. If that’s the sort of guy Kiptoo can go shoulder-to-shoulder with right now, then the future is bright. (Hell, the now is also bright!)
Conner Mantz was the top American finisher in sixth place, running 61:12. The Olympic Trials Standard for the half is 63:00 and now open, though only two guys who hadn’t already qualified got it: Brian Shrader (62:17) and Awet Beraki (62:40).
I had never heard of him before, but Beraki is now at the top of my list of people to cheer for. Currently a senior at Adams State, Awet has personal bests of 13:36 and 28:12. And while 62:40 is an incredible half time for a college athlete, that’s not the sole reason we should know his name. Stop reading this newsletter and instead read this incredible story about Beraki’s journey to the United States after being kidnapped as a child in his home country of Eritrea. I have chills.
The marathon was won again by the 2017 champion, Dominic Ondoro of Kenya in 2:10:36, just one step ahead of Tsedat Ayana. Ondoro has the course record at both Grandma’s and Twin Cities, but he’ll have to return to Houston if he wants to chase Tariku Jufar’s 2:06:51. Either way, I’d expect his $30,000 payday will help console him.
Fast 600s in Fayetteville! 🐗
With all the strength I can possibly muster from within, let me not be one of those guys that says every good 400m runner who blasts a 600m ought to just move up to the 800!
Arkansas’s Britton Wilson first really turned heads during the SEC meet last spring when she won both rounds of the 400H in 54.23 and 53.75, both rounds of the open 400m in 51.20 and 50.05, and then also split 48.6 in the 4x400! Most of us had a tough pandemic, but we all know that one person who used it as an opportunity to teach themselves how to code and learn three languages – that was Britton – before 2022 her best open 400m was north of 52.
Wilson would go on to win an NCAA title, make the World Championship team, and then finished fifth there in the 400mH. Plus, there’s the gold medal she earned on the 4x400 by running the fastest split of the race by anyone not named Sydney. So why would we be surprised that she could also run the 600? That SEC meet told us she was strong!
Running 1:25.16 to set the NCAA record only confirms that fact. Especially when you consider who previously held the record – Athing Mu, who ran 1:25.80 in the same season she ran the indoor record of 1:58.40. And later that year she won the 400m at NCAAs, and oh yeah! The Olympics!
While Britton’s record-setting run may have stolen the headlines, you may have had to actually watch the race to know she did not win. That honor was reserved for Shamier Little. Her time of 1:24.65 is the 7th fastest of all-time! That’s objectively good, right? Well that’s five seconds quicker than she ran in the same meet last year! She went on to finish fourth at the World Championships and is seemingly lightyears ahead of that trajectory already.
I’m not saying someone is going to beat Sydney over hurdles this year, but McLaughlin-Levrone will not be the only athlete under 52 seconds for much longer. (Also, I think I held it together pretty well in this section, but c’mon… how fast could they go in an 800?)
Shawnti is rewriting history 📖
Now I know how the contemporaries of the John Gregoreks and Matt Centrowitzes of the world must feel. I’ve officially reached the stage in life where I’m watching the children of the stars from my own era, become the stars. Case in point: Shawnti Jackson is no longer just Batman’s daughter (that’s 4x World Champion, Bershawn Jackson, to the uninitiated). She has fully made a name for herself by breaking her FOURTH high school national record.
At the aptly Virginia Showcase in Virginia, Shawnti blitzed the 300m in 36.63 to break Sydney McLaughlin’s former record. The Arkansas-bound senior has proven that she has the start and the stamina as her other three records are at 50m, 55m, and 60m. But arguably her most impressive performance of the weekend was the battle versus middle-distance specialist, Sophia Gorriaran.
The pair battled over 500m and Gorriaran won in 1:11.35 to 1:11.93. But guess who had the two-second lead after the first lap?
Op-Ed: Reasons to change coaches
With so much movement happening amongst professional runners signing new contracts, or college kids transferring, it got me considering all the various reasons why an athlete should change their coaching situation in the middle of their career.
Growing up with a childhood hero like Derek Jeter, I always valued the dedication to one franchise he exhibited throughout his career. But if you thought that was the formative experience that shaped my outlook on the topic, think again.
During my seven years with the New Jersey-New York Track Club, coach Gagliano literally always screamed the words “LOYALTY!” in my ear. Of course not everyone is fortunate enough to be in a circumstance where they’re eternally happy and blessed to be greeted each day with the booming voice of a Bronx-bred ex-football coach, and there are plenty of legitimate reasons to make a change.
Someone whose opinion I respect a great deal once shared that they think it’s a good idea to change coaches every three to four years regardless of how it’s going. The idea being that the body adapts to what it’s fed and if the variables being used to stress the body are no longer a surprise, then fitness will stagnate. This is something that great coaches are well aware of and protect themselves against. With that in mind, I think there are three good, broadly applicable reasons to go a new direction:
You are running slow – This one is obvious since the entire point is to go fast. Athletes and coaches should be permitted a one year grace period before any judgment is made about either of their abilities. There’s a commonly held sentiment that if a college freshman can just match their personal bests from high school then that’s a successful year. When you are trying a different system in a new environment there might be an adjustment period and it might take a moment to figure each other out. If after a few years things haven’t clicked, then most reasonable coaches would be understanding and support the desire to find a better fit.
You aren’t happy – I believe that most happy runners are fast runners, but the opposite may not always be true. Occasionally athletes make a deal with the devil to run fast and although their times on paper may give the impression that things are working out, behind each personal best is a lot of misery. Whether that’s unhealthy eating habits, intra-team rivalries, an abusive relationship, homesickness, or something else, being comfortable is how you sustain long-term success.
You want more money – While we may idolize the purity of running, it’s okay to make decisions that prioritize financial gains. That may mean scholarship money in college or a better contract as a professional. On paper, a big number might give the best first impression, but the length and bonus potential is worth considering. Ultimately, athletes are going to make the most when they’re winning the most – follow the decisions that will produce fast times.
Treat your career like a Choose Your Own Adventure book and take ownership of each decision. You’re the one who has to live with your personal bests and bank account for the rest of your life!
Marc Scott joins NN Running Team ✍️
When Marc Scott kicked it in to win the NCAA 10,000m Championships during his senior year at Tulsa University with a blistering last lap, it was just a glimpse into the sort of strength and speed combination that he possessed. After graduating he joined the Bowerman Track Club and improved steadily, representing Great Britain with regularity at global championships, most notably to win a bronze medal in the 3000m at 2022 World Indoors. With personal bests of 3:35/7:36/12:57/27:10/1:00:39, Scott has demonstrated the range and talent to compete with the very best.
Our Mac Fleet caught up with Marc during his training camp in Iten, Kenya to discuss his decision to join the NN Running Team.
What all went into the decision to leave Bowerman?
I’ve been a bit over competing on the track recently. I mean, I had a good run during indoors, but outdoors was terrible. I'm just kind of in that headspace where I wanted to try something new and go on to the roads. I’ve had a bit of success on the roads in the past, so I kind of wanted to explore that a little more.
At the same time, my visa has also expired for the US, which I could’ve renewed and probably will at some point just to have the opportunity in the future to come back and train. But one of the big reasons was I didn't really want to move to Eugene, honestly.
I was happy with the setup in Portland. And I thought with Jerry [Schumacher] taking on the Oregon job that we wouldn’t quite get the attention that we previously were getting. Those are kind of the main reasons.
I don’t blame you for not wanting to live in Eugene. It was amazing for school, but once I graduated I wanted to get out of there. What were your proudest moments with the team?
This past year, it was definitely running 12:57 and in that same race Mo [Ahmed] went 12:56 and Grant [Fisher] went 12:53. That whole night was special too – I think all of the guys who ran the 5,000 in Boston that night all hit the world standard, which is pretty cool.
I know we got ripped for doing the intrasquad meets, but they were actually enjoyable and we ran some really good times. They were some of the most fun times I had with Bowerman. I just liked being around the guys. Training camps were really great. The camaraderie between everyone was fantastic.
It was just a super supportive group and team and I think that's what really, really makes it special, and it gets results – thriving off one another and enjoying what we were doing.
How’d you get in touch with the NN team?
I would always tag on some road races to the end of my track seasons, just for a bit of appearance and prize money, that sort of thing. And, NN would always be at all these races I would do. So over time I kind of built a relationship with an agent there with Global Sports, who I’m now represented by.
I’ve always wanted to be part of a team environment and I knew just being a fan of the sport – with what Kipchoge and Kamworor and Bekele do, all representing team NN and doing some great things on the road – that's why I looked at that group in order to be more successful. So I kind of just went on from there.
How much of the year are you planning on living in Kenya?
Probably for all the build-ups for the major races, I'll be here. I'm planning on eight weeks, as of right now. I'm in Iten for four weeks just kind of adjusting and getting some good running in, then I'm going to transfer to Kaptagat for the last four weeks and train with Kipchoge’s group, and to be under the guidance of Patrick Sang.
Right now it’s mostly just finding my feet at altitude and getting used to it all a little bit. And then I'll move into the camp and get fully, fully submerged in it all.
Iten is pretty open in the way you can be coached by who you want, and there's no obligation to train in any location or environment. So that's really nice. But I wanted to be fully committed while I test the waters to see if I fit in with the group.
Has anything stuck out to you during your first week there?
I haven’t really done anything high intensity just yet, but yeah, literally, you just see hundreds of people rolling down dirt trails. It’s pretty spectacular to see – the videos and everything you see don't really quite do it justice until you see it in person.
There’s like one flat field – what does surprise me is how hilly it is here! – where people do strides, or if they have a flat run, they run around and around and around. It’s crazy how much that field gets utilized. Hundreds of people at a time on it.
Well, you should be pretty used to that after training with BTC around the Nike Campus fields.
I wanted to get away from the turns every couple hundred meters! I swear we would feel really good at altitude camps just because we didn’t have to turn so much. Miles and miles around those fields, but it was flat and it was soft so it worked.
Alright, goals for 2023?
Hitting the Olympic standard for the marathon is my main goal. I’ll be debuting at some point. I’m not allowed to say exactly where, yet. But I am quite excited for it! And I guess if there's a secondary goal, running under 60 for the half would be nice to get as well.
Rapid Fire Highlights 🔥
Abby Steiner opened up her season with a rare open 400m in 51.70, which would be the number one time in the world if not for being on an oversized track. Steiner vs. Gabby Thomas in the 300m at Millrose is must-watch television as Chandra Cheeseborough’s American record of 35.46 was set in 1984.
10,000m World Championship qualifier Natosha Rogers has left Hansons Brooks and joined Puma Elite.
The UW Invite got the fast times started this year! Stanford had three men run 3:55-56-57. Washington’s Sam Ellis and Joe Waskom ran 2:18 for 1000m. UW’s Kieran Lumb ran the NCAA leading 3000m in 7:43. Kaela Edwards ran 4:32 to win the mile. And the Stanford freshman duo of Juliette Whittaker (2:02.4) and Roisin Willis (53.6) are undefeated as collegiates.
I can’t believe Yalemzerf Yehualaw running 29:19 for 10k is in the Rapid Fire section and not the main page! How many times can we talk about how good she is at running? I’ll save up the next one for when she breaks her own record again – this time she was five seconds short in Valencia. On the men’s side Weldon Langat ran 26:55 to win by two seconds. For added perspective as to how good the Kenyan team is gonna be at World XC, Langat was the first man off the roster.
Amanda Moll set the high school national pole vault record, clearing 15-1.50 and her twin sister, Hana, was not far down making 14-9.50. They’ll both be attending the University of Washington next year.
Usain Bolt has reportedly lost $10M of his retirement funds as part of a fraudulent investment firm. As much as we’d all love to see a comeback, hopefully he can recoup his losses without resorting to lacing them back up. Is he the only track athlete ever who earned enough in his career to lose $10m?
Kara Goucher and Des Linden launched their podcast, Nobody Asked Us, to rave reviews. With three episodes out, it’s already hitting the top of the charts. They start out by sharing that they don’t actually know each other all that well, which is surprising given the number of times they’ve raced.
In addition to being a five-star football recruit, and not a wide receiver or cornerback, the 6’5” and 225 pound Nyckoles Harbor is throwing down world class times on the track. He just set ran the US#1 over 300m in 33.90.
Kenya’s Gideon Rono Kipkertich and Beatrice Chebet won the Cinque Mulini cross country race in Italy, which, yes, is the one you might have seen pictures of featuring athletes running inside a mill.
The Australian Cross Country Trials may have featured kangaroos hopping around in front of the camera, but it did not feature a preview for the World Cross Country course. Jack Rayner and Rose Davies took top honors in Canberra, as Stewart McSweyn and Abbey Caldwell secured their spots on the mixed relay.
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