The Marathon Project Is Upon Us

Hear the latest from Scott Fauble, Sara Hall, Cam Levins and some of the pros running in this weekend's Marathon Project in Chandler, Arizona.

This is the CITIUS MAG Newsletter, a weekly round-up of the biggest stories in the running and track & field community with analysis and commentary by me, Chris Chavez. If you’ve been forwarded this email or stumbled upon a link online, you can sign up and subscribe here:

We’re not quite done with live running action in 2020. This Sunday some of America’s best marathoners will descend upon Chandler, Arizona to participate in The Marathon Project. A flat, fast criterium course will serve as one last opportunity for elites to notch personal bests and possible Olympic qualifying times ahead of 2021.

The women’s elite field is headlined by Sara Hall, who is coming off her runner-up finish at the London Marathon in 2:22:01. The men’s race could see a handful of men break 2:10 as there will be pace groups for 2:09 and 2:11:30 (the Tokyo Olympic standard) and a field that includes five of the top 10 men’s finishers from the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in Atlanta.

You can watch the race live online on USATF.TV (subscription required) starting at 10 a.m. ET. The race will also be on NBC Sports Network from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. ET. 

I was in attendance for Wednesday’s virtual press conference and here were some of the notable things shared by the professional runners in attendance…

From the women’s contenders:

– Sara Hall told LetsRun’s Jonathan Gault that she would bill Sunday’s race as an American record attempt. Her husband and coach Ryan Hall said that she was planning to go out in 69:40 through the half marathon mark.

“I’m not really calling it an American attempt,” Hall said. “Not because of the pressure but because I just want to go into this race with the mindset of trying to run as fast as possible...I can be kind of all-or-nothing. I don’t want to be in a scenario where if I’m running really well and I’m just off American record pace then it feels like I’m failing. That would still be a big success and a big PR. That’s my main focus: Running as fast as I can. With London, it just wasn’t a great opportunity to run fast and I think it makes you appreciate coming off that to have the chance where the weather’s looking good and hopefully I’ll have company out there. That’s my main focus. With that being said, I’ve done a good amount of work faster than that pace. I think that’s definitely possible based on my training. That would be an exciting goal out there if it’s looking like my best day would be under that.”

All of the different pace groups (the other pace groups are set for 2:23, 2:26 and 2:29:30) will be paced by men.

– Emma Bates says she was “hoping to redeem herself from the Olympic Trials a little bit sooner.” She placed seventh in Atlanta in 2:29:35. She explained that she was not thrilled about her performance due to the place but because of her tactics and way she ran it. Shortly after the Olympic Trials, Bates had a bit of a COVID scare. When asked by Fast Women’s Alison Wade if there was any further information that came from it, Bates said she was unable to get tested at the height of the pandemic. She just “assumed” that she got COVID and went through all the quarantining procedures.

With regards to her present fitness, Bates said that she has been running workouts faster than she ever has before. She believes she was the fittest that she’s ever been heading into the trials.

“I would’ve said I was in 2:24 shape going into the trials,” Bates said. “I said that I would hope to run 2:24 or faster at Chicago and ended up running 2:25:27. We can always say that we’re in certain shapes but I’m really excited to get out on Sunday to see what I can do. I’m going to go out with the 2:23 group, which is very, very fast but I think that having time in the bank would be nice for that second half.”

– Keira D’Amato scratched from running at the Sound Running Track Meet in California due to food poisoning earlier this month. She says she is feeling 100% and ready for Sunday’s race.

– Stephanie Bruce shared some great advice on how she found the motivation to continue training throughout the pandemic: 

“What I tried to remind myself is almost similar to when you’re going through an injury – or for me when I was coming back from kids – even though you don’t have a race on the schedule or you don’t have a timeline, you’re always training for that next opportunity that you have. This year felt no different. Even if there were no races, we’d still be training to get better. One training cycle does not make a runner. The idea was just to keep stacking week after week. Stay healthy. Essentially we tried to mimic what our training cycle would be like next year for the Olympic Trials on the track...I just reminded myself that this is my job. I get paid to lace up and run. It’s one of the best jobs in the world. At the end of the day, motivation comes from within.”

– Kellyn Taylor said they were initially just planning on running the 10,000 meters to knock out the Olympic standard but the field for The Marathon Project started to come together and they knew they needed to seize the most out of the opportunity. She was eighth in the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials but came off the race with a stress fracture that sidelined her for eight weeks. She appears to be back at full health and notched a 10,000m personal best of 31:15.65 at The Track Meet.

SHOE TALK: Bruce and Taylor will be running in the HOKA Carbon Rocket X... Bates will be running in the same shoe that Sara Hall ran in London and added that it will be “released soon by Asics”... Hall is sticking with the London kicks… D’Amato says she’s not quite sure yet on her choice. 

From the men’s contenders:

– There will be two pace groups for the men. The first group is targeting 64:00 through the half marathon mark and will be manned by Frank Lara and Mason Ferlic. The second group will be going for a 2:11:30 finish and will be paced by Ben Flanagan and Dylan Marx.

– Scott Fauble said he’s been feeling better and his 62:18 half marathon performance in Michigan is a bit more indicative of his fitness.

“I just want to compete to win,” Fauble says. “I think we can get focused on times. We can get focused on splits and stuff like that. All my PBs have come from racing. I’m going in there with the goal of winning and anything great that comes from that will be a product of the racing. The win is not going to come from trying to run a fast time. I think it will be the other way around.”

We’ll have more from Fauble on an episode of the CITIUS MAG Podcast this week. We’re jumping on an Instagram Live to do it on Thursday afternoon at 5 p.m. ET.

– Marty Hehir, who turns 28 this weekend, is a medical student at Sidney Kimmel Medical College in Philadelphia but was able to take some electives remotely and traveled down to Virginia to train with some of his Reebok Boston Track Club teammates. He said that he has spent the past two weeks working in the intensive care unit and warned “it’s just as scary as it’s hyped up to be” when someone contracts the coronavirus and ends up there. 

“It’s definitely getting worse,” Hehir said. “The headlines aren’t really lying. It’s just with the holidays and everyone getting together, there’s definitely more risk-taking occurring but it’s a tough time for everyone.”

Don’t sleep on him after his sixth-place Atlanta finish in 2:11:29.

– Cam Levins is still going for the Olympic qualifying time of 2:11:30 in hopes of being selected for Canada’s national team in 2021. His personal best of 2:09:25 was set in his marathon debut in 2018 in Toronto. Most recently, he dropped out of the London Marathon after 35K due to the cold and wet conditions. There was lots of pre-race chatter about optimism regarding his fitness and he went out at about 2:08 pace before fading. He said that it is unlikely to happen this weekend and he’ll play it safe.

“I think I’ll be staying behind the pacers,” Levins said. “I think at this point it’s much safer to go out and get the Olympic standard. I don’t even know what other races are going to be available in the future.”

As of right now, Trevor Hofbauer is the only lock on the Canadian marathon team for Tokyo since he won the 2019 Toronto Waterfront Marathon, which served as their respective trials. Tristan Woodfine got under the qualifying mark with a 2:10:51 in London. Athletics Canada will make its picks next spring.

– CJ Albertson, who ran a 2:09 marathon on the treadmill a few weeks ago, shared some more insight into how that maybe fit into his preparations for the Marathon Project.

“My average heart rate was about 166 in that,” Albertson said. “My average heart rate was 166 running 4:57 pace the other day on the roads so I know I can hold that heart rate for two hours and 15 minutes or whatever...It really doesn’t mean much but you can take the heart rate and do whatever you want with that.”

Ward chimed in the chat box in the press conference zoom and wrote: “CJ That’s fantastic! I’ll hit 166 at 5:40 pace…” Albertson replied: “Lol, if I’m going off Wrist HR, I can hit 190 at 7:00 pace.”

– When asked by Gault how many people they think will break 2:10, here’s how they responded: Albertson said 10...Fauble said 10...Hehir said 5...Levins said 7...Ward said 4.

SHOE TALK: Ward will be wearing the Saucony Endorphin Pro...Albertson is going with the Brooks Hyperion Elite 2s...Levins will wear the HOKA Rocket X...Same for Fauble...Hehir says he is still deciding and it will be a last-minute decision.


NEWS, RESULTS AND NOTES

– A major announcement was made by the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee that they “will not sanction Team USA athletes for respectfully demonstrating in support of racial and social justice for all human beings.” This comes just one year after the USOPC put thrower Gwen Berry and fencer Race Imboden on probation for protest demonstrations at the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, Peru. Here is the conversation that I had with Gwen Berry for Sports Illustrated in June amid the Black Lives Matter protests across the country. I also wrote a profile on Imboden in the fall about how he has dealt with making his voice heard as a white athlete taking a stance. After the news came out last week, I traded text messages with Imboden and he said, “It was a win, internally for the athletes to have their voices heard. We still need these organizations to act accordingly.” More to come…

– Jesse Williams of Sound Running announced a 2021 track circuit in the United States. “This sport is not only important in an Olympic year. This sport is full of amazing performances and stories each year and a formal season via this domestic Track & Field Series gives us the ability to build a long-lasting and continuous fan base.”

As of right now here’s the schedule: 

May 14 – Track Meet, Los Angeles 

May 29 – Portland Track Festival, Portland 

May 31 – Iowa High Performance, Des Moines

June 5 – Music City Carnival, Nashville

July 10 &  17 – Sunset Tour, Los Angeles

Aug. 14 – Ed Murphey Classic, Memphis

Keep an eye out for other meets in the United States. The Trials of Miles race organizers, who popped up as virtual racing took off during quarantine, will be hosting a meet in Austin, Texas in late February. They will also be putting on other meets in hopes of getting people qualifying marks for the U.S. Olympic Trials.

– 16-year-old Jenna Hutchins is still on a tear. The junior out of Science Hill High School in Johnson City, Tennessee ran 15:34.47 for 5,000 meters at a meet in South Carolina. The time breaks Katelyn Tuohy’s U.S. high school girls record of 15:37.12. It’s also faster than Molly Huddle’s 15:36.95 U.S. junior record that was set in April 2003. The fastest time clocked indoors by a U.S. under-20 athlete remains Sarah Disanza, who ran 15:20.57 as a sophomore at Wisconsin in 2014. [h/t David Monti of Race Results Weekly]

– Here’s a little result that flew under the radar...Ben Flanagan, the surprise 2018 10,000m NCAA champion and a past guest on the CITIUS MAG Podcast, clocked a 63:19 for his half marathon debut and won the Mortgage Network Half Marathon. Don’t expect a jump to the marathon yet. He told the CBC that he is still eying the 5,000m or 10,000m for the Tokyo Olympics.

– The NCAA Men’s and Women’s Track and Field and Cross Country Committee announced that fans will not be allowed at the Division I Indoor Track and Field or Cross Country Championships in March.

– A few weeks ago, I noted how James Li announced his retirement from the University of Arizona but he was just announced as the head coach for the E-House Marathon Club and will be relocating to Shanghai, China in 2021.

– My friend David Kilgore, who was a past guest on the Runners of NYC Podcast, ended up running 73 miles throughout New York City’s five boroughs to raise money for FoodBank4NYC. He completed the run in 12 hours, 24 minutes and 48 seconds. He has raised more than $6,700. $1 you donate creates 5 meals for those in need. The GoFundMe page is open through Dec. 26, if you’re feeling generous and consider donating.

– “I view this day as the day Ali gained the confidence that she could truly run a full marathon.” Have you gotten enough Aliphine Tuliamuk content yet? There’s no such thing. This is a very nice and short race recap by Ben Bruce on pacing Tuliamuk at the 2019 Rotterdam Marathon.


From the CITIUS MAG Podcast Network

“The fact that I made a movie that got someone laid is a really high compliment.”

My buddy RJ McNichols joins me on the CITIUS MAG Podcast to peel back the curtain on some of the documentaries he’s put together within the running world. He is a filmmaker based in Los Angeles and he’s produced some really cool projects including 16 2 1 and Beyond”; “Running Away to Flagstaff”; “Year of the Bison”; “Fear and “Loathing from Pier to Strip” and “The 41st Day”. They’re excellent and make for a great complimentary watch to this podcast. Plus, with all this extra time at home before the holidays, it’s the perfect time to catch up on some running films you maybe weren’t aware of.

LISTEN NOW

If you check out the complete show notes, you can find links to all of the films.

You can catch the latest episode of the podcast on iTunes so subscribe and leave a five-star review. We are also on Stitcher, Google Play and Spotify!

Also on the network…

– I hadn’t heard much from NAZ Elite’s Dani Shanahan on a podcast before but she joined David Melly on ‘Run Your Mouth’ about her breakthrough at the Sound Running Track Meet and how her teammates helped propel her to that next level of pro running. They also talked about The Mandalorian, Christmas wish lists and the best music albums of 2020.

– If you watched the new ESPN 30 for 30 “The Infinite Race” on the Rarámuri, otherwise known as the Tarahumara indigenous community in Mexico, then this Social Sport podcast episode with director Bernardo Ruiz will interest you. Emma Zimmerman talks to him about the ways in which this community has been misrepresented in international media and the importance of telling stories about power.

On Running Things Considered, Avery Bartlett shares the story of his car recently getting totaled and then chasing after the suspected culprit.


That’s it from me in the latest edition of the CITIUS MAG Newsletter. Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this, learned something new or have any questions or commentary on anything featured in this issue, feel free to hit my inbox: chris@citiusmag.com

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