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Lap 84: Sponsored by Bandit Running

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The NEW American Record 🇺🇸

Is it wrong for me to start the Chicago Marathon recap by focusing on the second-place finisher? If it is, then I don’t want to be right! I just need to talk about Emily Sisson setting the American Record! That’s because her final time of 2:18:29 took down Keira D’Amato’s mark of 2:19:12 from the 2022 Houston Marathon.

Over a week before the race, we knew there was the potential for it to be a special day. There was already chatter among meteorologists (by meteorologists I mean me, checking the weather app on my phone) about how perfect the weather was shaping up for race day — so the main external variable was cooperating.

Then there’s the general high level of excitement around Sisson’s potential in the event since she ran 2:23 in London three years ago, the second-fastest debut ever by an American. Since then, the American Record holder at the half marathon’s only other attempt at the distance was a DNF at the Olympic Trials, but the promise of her popping off a truly great marathon always loomed large.

The quiet confidence of her team leading into Sunday let fans know she was ready. Her build-up had gone according to plan, following an extended battle with Covid. Last month when I joined Emily on her cool down after the USATF 20K Championships, she shared that the dry air and altitude in Flagstaff aggravated her symptoms. As someone who has never played nicely with thin air, I welcomed her back to sea level with the warm welcome of its official ambassador.

An added perk of returning east and basing in Rhode Island meant she would have closer oversight from her coach, Ray Treacy. As someone who visited Providence on occasion during college for reasons we don’t talk about, I’ve seen him in action — despite the incredible resume, he somehow remains underrated. As a standout in Missouri who would set the then-high school 5000m record of 15:48, Emily initially followed in her father’s footsteps and went to Wisconsin. Now eleven years later, that decision to transfer to PC looks like a good one.

Two others that deserve some serious credit are Emily’s pacers: Brian Harvey and Jonny Mellor. For a guy whose marathon best is 2:17, Harvey did an incredible job supporting the record chase all the way through to the finish. I am less impressed by Jonny, who has a 2:10 to his name!

Emily came through composed at halfway in 69:26 and immediately the coy pre-race posturing of “I am just aiming for 2:20” seemed to fly out the window! However, Sisson shared afterward that she wasn’t aware of what pace they were going — she was just following her rabbits. And this may inadvertently be commentary on the coverage, but Emily noted that due to the lack of TV cameras around her, she assumed herself to be off the pace. Never doubt the metronomes we call Brian and Jonny!

It took 15 years for Deena Kastor’s record to be broken, but less than one for Keira’s. Looking at the current roster of American women, this one likely won’t last long either — especially if Emily keeps up this trajectory!

(Listen to Emily talk about her performance on the CITIUS MAG Podcast.)

Okay, so Emily didn’t win — that honor went to defending champion, Ruth Chepngetich. Remember a week ago when we all lost our minds at Yalemzerf Yehualaw’s 4:43 mile that was actually a 4:59? Well timing mishaps in London aside, this was WAY crazier!

Chepngetich went out in a legitimate 4:50 for the first mile before coming through the 5k in 15:11 — and the visible representation of just how fast that is came in the form of former NCAA XC Champion and 27:22 10,000 meter man, Pat Tiernan. The towering Aussie was behind her at this point on his way to his own 2:11:02 debut.

It’s not like Ruth took a few hard steps off the line and then settled in. She came through 10 miles in 49:49 and the half marathon in 65:44. The most surprising part of this is that she was just following her pacer. Was this part of the plan?

Saying this with all due respect to the woman who won the race by four minutes and ran 2:14:18 — a time much better than I am personally capable of — but she cost herself the world record by going out so hard. Even Steve Prefontaine is shaking his head at this level of poor planning. The missing 14 seconds between her and Brigid Kosgei’s mark were surely left somewhere in that first half.

But why even bother with beating the world record by a few ticks? At some point we are going to get Chepngetich, Yehualaw, Jepchirchir, Jepkosgei, Assefa, and others in the same race, and someone is going to run 2:12.

Before this weekend’s Chicago Marathon, Benson Kipruto was 89th on the all-time descending order list — no offense, but not exactly the most riveting bit of barroom trivia. But ahead of the race, we all knew that he would be vying for the win. That’s because some things matter more than time.

Granted, his eventual 2:04:24 moved him up the ranks to 33rd, but still… it’s not like you know who is 32nd. The point is that he runs fast and he has won before, and that’s where there is weight. With now ten sub-2:10 marathons to his name, Benson has won in Prague, Toronto, and most notably Boston in 2021.

It was a slow grind to break the defending champion, Seifu Tura, before the pair hit 40k. While the 2:04 didn’t scare any records, Kipruto joined his brother, Dickson Chumba, as another Chicago winner in the family.

The Americans had a good day, and not too far behind, as Conner Mantz made his debut going 2:08:16. The Hanson Brooks-Distance Project’s Zach Panning improved six minutes on his debut last year, to run 2:09:28, good for 10th overall. And both Matt McDonald (2:09:49) and Nico Montanez (2:09:55) performed great to make it four Yanks under the 2:10 mark on the day.

@TrackJenny ➡️ @RoadJenny

If you’re like me, you learned everything you know about locating a person in a crowd from the Where’s Waldo series. This strategy of identifying a person based on a signature outfit generally works pretty well in life, but it’s almost foolproof on the track. However, occasionally it fails — like in the recent case of Jenny Simpson.

Scanning a pack of runners, searching for Simpson’s standard New Balance ensemble, you’d have come up empty. Time to grow up and forget everything Waldo taught you. One of the most decorated middle-distance runners in American history has announced a major switch of brand allegiance. Jenny’s now a Puma athlete!

Since turning pro in 2010 as a six-time NCAA record holder and already an Olympian, then-Barringer truly became the face of your dad’s favorite shoe brand in 2011 when she won the World Championships.

Jenny notably had a pair of New Balance shoes in her hands during her celebration (athletes looking to maximize their value to their sponsor and get resigned in the future, take note!) and that poster lived on the walls of every high school cross country runner’s bedroom and shoe store in America. An eight-time winner of the New Balance 5th Avenue Mile, her image is also plastered all over the NYRR Run Center next to Central Park. And in a rare move for any shoe company, and an even rarer move for this sport, New Balance even named a model after Simpson (shout out also to Andy Baddeley)!

This is all to say, it’s a bit jarring to see her in a new kit! She was the face of New Balance running for over a decade, so surely Jenny was offered something. Maybe not as much as she was once making, especially taking rollover bonuses into consideration. But the long-term potential of the deal likely extended beyond the remaining term of her running contract — a lifetime ambassadorship seemed inevitable. And as a smart, well-spoken, and super knowledgeable athlete, there could have been a long list of fitting roles within the corporation afterward.

So why end the relationship?

I am speculating, but knowing how top athletes operate, Jenny is betting on herself to successfully transition to the roads. And so is Puma, who continues to invest deeply in the sport of distance running. So far, we have only seen Simpson in her new domain in 10 mile increments. First at last year’s Cherry Blossom, where she ran 52:16 to finish second to Nell Rojas, and this past weekend at the Army 10 Miler, in 54:15.

Now running 10 miles isn’t necessarily a huge jump for a miler who has likely been doing tempos that long for many years, so it’s tough to glean too much from these performances. But between her pedigree as a racer and the self-belief I’m sensing from her sponsorship decision, you’d be nuts to write her off.

(Personally, I would have run down the safer road and cashed in on my likeness. but then again there’s a reason why Jenny isn’t blogging about me and Waldo right now.)

Chelsea Sodaro wins the IRONMAN 🤘

Here is the problem with Chelsea Sodaro winning the Kona IRONMAN — every elite runner is going to think if they made the switch to triathlons that they’re next. Just because you know how to ride a bike and haven’t drowned in the ocean doesn’t mean you can do what she did!

Now before winning the 140.6 mile long journey in Kona, Sodaro was a four-time All-American at Cal. After graduating she won a US title indoors at 3000m and ran 15:10 for 5000m. Then following disappointment in 2016, she officially made the switch and competed in her first triathlon in 2017. And 18 months after giving birth to her daughter Skylar, Sodaro became the first American woman to win the World Championship since 1996.

I know this is supposed to be a running newsletter, but once a runner…

CJ breaks the 50K World Record 🌎

*In an ominous movie trailer voice* From the man who brought you marathon world records indoors and on the treadmill (presumably also indoors), comes another insane exploit… CJ Albertson has done it once again, taking back what was once his.

In 2020, completing 125 laps on his high school track, Albertson set the 50k World Best in 2:42:30. But that record has since been broken twice, and until this weekend, South Africa’s Stephen Mokoka held it at 2:40:13. CJ headed to a park in San Francisco, looking for revenge.

On the 4.5-mile asphalt and dirt loop around Lake Merced that comprises the course of the Ruth Anderson Memorial Run 50k, CJ demolished the old record, averaging 5:07 per mile. Just for a little perspective, that’s a 2:14 marathon, then continuing onward and maintaining that pace for just shy of an additional five miles.

The course was certified, and while the normal ratification process in order to be an official world record still has to occur, the casualness of it all makes this whole thing so fun. Like, of course he posted about it on Strava with no real context. Blink and you’ll miss the 5 mile run he did that afternoon.

But what else would you expect from the man who built a sauna cubby in his bedroom? CJ’s a favorite marathoner of ours over here at the Lap Count. There’s just something you gotta love about a guy who’s always in great shape and who’s always down to chase after a record that’s not only super physically demanding, but that seems awful from a psychological perspective as well.

I feel like if you laid out a few cones and had the perimeter measured and certified, you could probably get CJ to show up and run a 2:12 marathon in your backyard if you billed it as a world record attempt.

NYC Marathon Training - Vol. 7

This week, I was watching a friend run a marathon via updates on an app and it got me thinking about the race day experience from the perspective of those following along from afar. You’re just sitting in the dark, waiting 20 or 30 minutes for another update, feeling helpless, and hoping for good news. It also had me reflecting on a couple of conversations this week, which if I prepare for now, should be helpful in the near future.

One friend shared that he doesn’t get nervous for marathons because there’s no rush in the beginning — you have two and a half hours to figure it out and the beginning is gonna feel easy anyway. The other mentioned how taking off across the Verrazzano with “New York, New York” blasting through the speakers is the most intense adrenaline rush imaginable and how easy it is to get caught up in the excitement. I want to be like that first friend.

The highlight of this week and training block thus far was the long run, which almost got derailed. Monday, things started off great as I popped up early out of bed with some favorable jet lag to get a solid 12-mile run with a few 5:15 miles scattered in the middle just to steal some pace in a fresh pair of super shoes I was trying out.

Due to my wife’s and my work schedules, the best opportunity for a workout was on Wednesday morning, which unfortunately also coincided in a downpour. The originally scheduled 10 x Mile got scrapped because I feel like my stride has been lacking efficiency. I’ve been neglecting my X-factor and the entire thing that gives me a fighting chance in this marathon, so I opted for some track work, doing four sets of 1200, 1000, 800, all on 90 seconds rest, averaging 3:42/3:02/2:22.

It wasn’t earth-shattering, but it was necessary and good for me. The only problem is that the 9 miles of running on the wet track for the first time in months predictably irritated my left soleus. In years past, this is where I’d mess up. Rather than taking a few days to jog lightly to allow it to heal, I’d get caught up with teammates and refuse to back off. The perk of training alone and not being quite as obsessive anymore is that I could treat it appropriately, which meant I did some stretching and strength work for the first time this cycle.

On Sunday morning, I was ready to go again. Needing to practice fueling, I met up with Coach Nohilly who was going to bike along with me. Fortunately, he brought some company, which included his son Eion and Josh Hoey. The plan was to do four miles easy, then 16 miles at a marathon pace progression and then cool down four miles. It was as perfect a day as one could hope for — the type of fall day in the Hudson Valley that Washington Irving would write about.

The miles flew by. After spending a good chunk of the tempo in the 5:20’s, I was given the green light to drop it down, finishing the last 6 miles at 5:08 pace. All in all it was 22 miles at 5:37 with the middle 16 at 5:19 (which is 2:19 pace). This was the confidence boost I needed — standing on the start come November 6th, this is the run I will be thinking about. (I will ignore the fact that it came during another measly 66-mile week.)

When my family and friends are tracking me on the app, I hope to mitigate all worries and I hope to do that by running the same way as on Sunday. Every notification that comes through needs to be steady or an improvement on the last. I want to negative split my way through the five boroughs.

My relationship with running is at an all-time high. It feels like there is no pressure, nothing on the line, and the only motivation is to see what I can do.

Rapid Fire Highlights 🔥

  • Molly Seidel opened up about her ongoing health struggles to Runner’s World. The Olympic medalist shares the difficult situation of being expected to serve as a role model while actively battling her own eating disorder.

  • In the famed Manhattan Invitational at Van Cortlandt Park, Devan Kipyego (12:14) and Karrie Baloga (13:55) had the fastest times of the day on the 2.5 mile course.

  • Erika Kemp won the Boston 10k for Women in 32:15 to win the $9000 prize. Have to give a shout-out to fifth-place finisher, Allie Hays of NC State, who doesn’t have XC eligibility. She is now officially faster than either of her brothers ever were at Columbia over 10k.

  • Want some insight into the daily routine of Emily Sisson? Training partner Molly Huddle penned a day in the life.

  • The marathon course for the Paris Olympics has been revealed and with more than 1400 feet of elevation gained, it’s considered a hilly one. It runs by most major tourist attractions I have heard of, and finish line seats will cost €24.

  • The New York Road Runners named a new CEO, Rob Simmelkjaer. As a graduate from Harvard Law and a former anchor on ABC, ESPN and NBC, he is clearly smart and charismatic. Although he has run the marathon on a couple occasions, he is not necessarily an industry insider — which is not necessarily a bad thing!

  • The former group of BYU women turned professionals now have an official group under the leadership of coach Diljeet Taylor — Taylor Made Elite.

  • An elite field was reintroduced to the Munich Marathon for the first time in over 20 years, and Philimon Kipchumba (2:07:28) and Agnes Keino (2:23:26) set course records.

  • Here is the qualifying procedure to make the 2023 World Championship marathon team. Hopefully we see the same enthusiasm from top Americans to participate in Budapest as we saw in Eugene.

  • Justin Kent (1:02:48) and Jenn Bergman (1:12:50) won the San Jose Half Marathon.

  • Susanna Sullivan was the second fastest American in Chicago, posting a huge personal best of 2:25:14. A few months ago, I was asked by a friend who would be the best value add to a professional contract, and am feeling very validated in my answer right now!

  • Ali On The Run featured special guest Kyle Merber talking about his running and The Lap Count.

Thanks so much to Bandit Running for supporting this week’s newsletter and my pursuit of a New York City Marathon victory! If you have made it down here then you have to recommend this publication to three friends.