New American road racing star Molly Seidel broadcast the Houston Marathon on January 16 and saw another American, Keira D’Amatobreak the 16-year-old national record in the women’s marathon.
Seidel could have been jealous. Instead, she texted D’Amato to tell him how amazing it was that she ran 2:19:12. D’Amato responded with a throwback to the previous generation of the American women’s marathon.
You are next.
This weekend was supposed to mark the gathering of an emerging trio of American stars in Boston, where the oldest annual marathon in the world takes place for its 126th edition on Monday (broadcast schedule here).
Seidel, a surprise bronze medalist at the Tokyo Olympics, has signed up for her first Boston Marathon. Sara Room also entered, coming off major marathon podiums over the past two years and an American record half marathon on the same day in January in Houston. D’Amato runs the Boston Athletic Association 5k route on Saturday.
Hall retired last week citing a knee injury, but that doesn’t change what’s happened over the past two years. A new era of the American women’s marathon is born. This is the one that no one predicted.
For much of the 2010s, Shalan Flanagan, lime trees, Kara Goucher and Amy Cragg occupied this elite level. They were in the top four at the Olympic trials in 2012 and 2016. Cragg won a bronze medal at the world championships in 2017. Three months later, Flanagan became the first American runner in 40 years to win the New York Marathon. York.
Linden watched this show from his home in Michigan. Five minutes before Flanagan crossed the Central Park finish line, she tearfully tweeted from her iPhone, “Thank you @ShalaneFlanagan for giving us something to believe in.”
Flanagan replied, “Now it’s up to you,” with emojis of a fist, a flexed bicep, and an American flag.
Linden answered the call. Five months later, she broke a 33-year winning drought for American runners at the Boston Marathon. Now Linden is the only remaining active marathoner of that 2010s quartet, who is set to run her ninth Boston Marathon on Monday.
“The future has arrived,” said Linden, 38, who doesn’t know how much longer she will run marathons at the elite level. “I’m watching the youngsters take over and push the sport forward, and kind of hang in there and hopefully have a moment here and there where I can compete with them.”
They are not all young in the traditional sense of the term. Hall turns 39 on Friday. D’Amato turns 38 next Thursday. Emma Batessecond in the Chicago Marathon last October, is 29 years old. Seidel is only 27, but like the others, he has taken an unexpected path to marathon stardom.
On his 26.2 mile debut, Seidel finished second Aliphine Tuliamuk at the Olympic Trials on Leap Day 2020. This came after she spent much of this Olympic cycle in therapy after enrolling in an eating disorder recovery program.
Then at the Tokyo Games, she finished less than 30 seconds behind Kenyan superstars Peres Jepcherchir and Brigitte Kosgei to win the first U.S. Olympic women’s marathon medal since Deena Kastorin bronze in 2004.
Seidel was an NCAA star at Notre Dame, but unlike Flanagan, Goucher and Cragg, she didn’t make any U.S. national team at the track before her marathon.
Reaching the Olympics and winning a medal may have surprised many, but his main goal has always been the same: to get on the podium in the big marathons. She came close to doing it again in New York on November 7, posting the fastest time ever on the tough course for an American (2:24:42) and placing fourth.
“If anything, [the success] maybe it happened a little earlier than I thought,” said Seidel, whose media inquiries went through the roof leading to Boston. “But it gave me a lot more confidence to pursue some of these big, scary goals that I set for myself.”
You could say it manifests itself outside of racing. Formerly a barista and babysitter, Seidel is currently working on his MBA and a pilot’s license. She has also trained with Hall, who with husband Ryan has raised four adopted Ethiopian sisters since 2015.
Over the past seven years, Hall has gone from a track runner whose national best outdoor result was fifth to the only American woman to beat 2:23 in the marathon four times. All arrived after turning 36.
“I almost walked away from the sport several times,” before turning to the marathon in 2015, Hall said. “On the track, I always had these high expectations for myself…but my marathon career, I had very low expectations.”
Hall called his first marathon a disaster – a 2:48:02 in Los Angeles in 2015, now 27 minutes, 30 seconds off his personal best. She continued, breaking 2:30 for the first time in 2017, then 2:23 in four of her last five marathon finishes. That included a London 2020 runner-up, seven months after the biggest heartbreak of her career, dropping out at the 23rd mile of the 2020 Olympic trials.
If Hall could accomplish one more thing in sports, it would be to make her Olympic debut at age 41 in 2024. She would be the oldest American Olympic runner in history, according to Olympedia.org. She has competed in six different Olympic events – the first in 2004 – covering the 1500m, 5000m, 10,000m, 3000m steeplechase and marathon.
“This sport was never just Olympic for me, but at the same time it’s something I would love to experience,” said Hall, whose husband ran the Olympic marathon in 2008 and 2012.
D’Amato was also disappointed with her 2020 Olympic trials. She crossed the start line in Atlanta believing, when few others did, that she could make the three-man squad. women. She finished 15th.
Ten months later, she went 11 minutes faster at the Marathon Project, finishing second to Hall in an event specially created to produce fast times amid cancellations or postponements of major marathons due to COVID.
She followed that up by placing fourth in the October 2021 Chicago Marathon, as part of an American two-three-four behind Bates and Hall.
Then came Houston on January 16. D’Amato lowered his personal best by 3 minutes, 44 seconds, to break Kastor’s American record by 24 seconds.
D’Amato received a phone call from Kastor before his post-race press conference.
“Joan Benoit Samuelson had called [Kastor] in 2003, when she broke Joan’s record and said, “Congratulations, I’m officially passing the torch to you,” D’Amato recalled. “And so [Kastor] said, “I’ve been waiting for this call for a long time. I thought it would happen sooner. But congratulations, I pass the torch to you.
Like Seidel and Hall, D’Amato did not have a linear path to success. She spent nearly a decade between competitive races after a middle-distance career at American University. She got married, had two children and worked in real estate before taking up running to lose weight.
D’Amato started the 2017 Shamrock Marathon in Virginia Beach with three goals. The first was to complete it without walking. That day, the woman who five years later would be the fastest American in history ran 3:14:54 a.m. in sleet, hail and wind that tossed sand from the beach on his face.
After that record-breaking January day in Houston, D’Amato and Hall had a casual chat about how fast an American woman of that era could run 26.2 miles.
Hall believes something in the high 2:18s, thanks in part to global gains in shoe technology. D’Amato thinks it would be cool to reach the qualifying time for the men’s Olympic Trials marathon. It’s 2:18:00. Eleven women did it, but of course none from the United States
“There are a lot of ways to get there,” Linden said of the US Marathon summit. “I certainly admire them all.”
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