Women’s US Distance Running

Amy Cragg with the US flag after medaling in the marathon at the world championshipsMaybe it’s just me, but I am finding American women’s distance running fascinating at this point in history. As I’ve said before, I’m a big track and field fan. Primarily of the distance events; the 800 meters and up. On Sunday I got twitter updates throughout the women’s marathon at the IAAF World Championships. Mostly from Steve Magness who was out on the course. The course was three loops in London so Magness was able to give updates throughout the race. Amy Cragg got third. She is the first American woman to medal in this event since 1983. Let that sink in for a minute. She hung in there with the pack and led a breakaway in the final miles. Two east Africans took first and second. Amy out kicked a Kenyan to get third in the final 400 meters. She got third place by less than a second. Toughness. Grit. Determination. Confidence. Moxy. You name it, she had it in that marathon. Ridiculously impressive. This is impressive yet truly not surprising. After seeing the great showing that the American women put on in Rio last year you could have expected something like this. The thought in the back of my mind is what impact Shalane Flanigan could have had on this race. Amy and Shalane were training partners going into Rio and worked together at the Olympic trials and in Rio to put up great performances. If Shalane was healthy, could we have seen American women go 2 and 3, or maybe even 1 and 2 ? Who knows. The point of my post is that save for Paul Chelimo (just follow Chelimo on twitter or Instagram and you’ll see what I’m talking about), the men’s side of the American distance running equation is pretty bland. Yes Rupp is a world class marathoner; he’s also got the charisma of a piece of wonder bread toast. Not to mention the controversy surrounding Salazar that never seems end. As Meb has retired there really is not anyone to fill the void he has left. Maybe Paul Chelimo will be that guy. Time will tell.

 

As I was following the women’s marathon action, a vast amount of support was being tweeted out for Cragg. Tweets from Molly Huddle, Kara Goucher, Emily Infeld, Emma Coburn, Sara Vaughn, and Stephanie Bruce were there supporting and cheering on Amy. There’s even a photo of Infield on the sidelines cheering for Cragg. There is genuine respect and admiration among the women runners. This is in addition to the fact that the most compelling stories are on the women’s side. From Huddle winning multiple national titles after letting up on the line at worlds. Emily Infeld staying healthy and making another world championship team. Gabe Gruenwald’s battle with cancer while still racing. Sara Vaughn coming from behind in the last 100 meters to make the world championship team at nationals (as a realtor and mother of three). Kate Grace running a personal best at the Olympics to qualify for the final and then running another one in the final. Kara Goucher finally getting the silver medal that she earned in the 10,000 meters. And Jenny Simpson. Wow. If you haven’t watched that 1500m final you really, really need to. Seriously. You could do an entire clinic on race tactics with just that race. Simpson turned it on the last 200 and made a great race one for the ages, coming away with a silver medal. So many compelling stories. These women, if you know even a piece of their stories, are super easy to root for. Not only is the camaraderie extremely attractive, their stories connect with us on a deep level.

 

Maybe because I spent Saturday listening to Joe Vigil tell stores about Deena Kastor, saying that she was “99 lbs and 98lbs of that was heart,” I have become biased towards the ladies. Maybe there are incredibly compelling stories on the US men’s side and I just haven’t seen them. Even if Chelimo becomes the new face of American men’s distance running, he’ll need some company to match what the women are doing. I’m not sure who else is waiting in the wings, ready to fill the void. Until that happens the American women are displaying values we can all get behind and are crazy fun to watch.

 

Enjoy the run.

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