Reid Coolsaet tried to run another marathon, Mary Cain continues to send shockwaves through the running world and more.
It was a random week for running news, so this is a newsletter of random stuff
Mary Cain’s opinion piece for the New York Times broke open the floodgates on articles and podcasts and interviews about running culture. I round up the best ones below.
I also round up some other running news and some links about running performance worth reading too.
It’s a bit of a grab bag this week, so enjoy!
The Philadelphia marathon is this weekend, if you are running it, good luck to you!
More news came out because Mary Cain spoke out that’s worth reading
Last week, I wrote about how Mary Cain went to the New York Times to share her story about how she went from being the fastest girl in America to having her mental and physical health shot because of her time with Alberto Salazar the Nike Oregon Project. Over the week, several outlets have published follow-up pieces, opinion pieces and more athletes and experts have spoken out.
I’m rounding up some of the best pieces here for you to check out.
→ Mary was a guest on the Clean Sport Collective podcast. The Clean Sport Collective is a group of those invested in running — athletes, brands, organizations, trainers, coaches, health professionals and more — that are dedicated to, well, clean sport. They are 20 episodes into their podcast, in which they talk to athletes about the issues impacting level playing fields and safe sport environments. The podcast is hosted by Kara Goucher, Shanna Burnette, and Chris McClung.
In this episode, Mary talks with Kara and Shanna about her journey to joining NOP, her experiences there, why she finally left and why she’s speaking out now. It’s one of the more comprehensive interviews Mary has done since the New York Times piece came out. It’s raw and powerful.
→ Chris Chavez of Sports Illustrated wrote a follow-up piece, where he spoke with nine athletes who were also with the NOP at various points. He also spoke with Mary’s dad about the situation and got a response from Alberto Salazar via email, in which he denies the allegations. He also spoke with Pete Julian, Salazar’s assistant coach at the time who is now leading the post-NOP team. It’s also revealed that the “psychologist” and the “nutritionist” the team used were not certified. Nike also announced that they would launch an internal investigation into the matter.
From the article:
Sports Illustrated contacted nine former Nike Oregon Project members, including Cain, about the culture under Salazar, and their accounts, extending back to 2008, validate her claims and paint a picture of a toxic culture where female athletes’ bodies were fair game to be demeaned publicly. Multiple authority figures appeared to lack certifications. Former team members now describe it, in retrospect, as “a cult.” Now leaders from the anti-doping world and even Salazar’s de facto successor as coach are calling for a third-party investigation of The Oregon Project.
Read the whole thing, it’s an excellent summary and overview of where things are at because Mary spoke out.
→ Erin Strout at Women’s Running wrote a piece about where running needs to go next and making the argument for why women will save running. She writes about how the entire system needs to change, how coaches need to step up and how we need to make running — and all sport, really — a safe space for the most vulnerable:
In the Larry Nassar-era, the dialogue heating up in running sounds all too familiar. Cain ignited a flood of #MeToo stories from the spectrum of people competing and participating in running who have felt pressured to lose weight, suffered disordered eating, and have been ridiculed by coaches for their appearance or sent to practitioners for treatments or counseling who lacked proper credentials.
“There’s plenty of research available about training principles and creating healthy cultures for athletes,” says LaVoi. “The problem is that you have to get that research to the right people who are actually working with the athletes—if they’re a bunch of old white guys, they’re going to do what they’ve always done. The idea isn’t ‘how do we coach women?’ It’s ‘how do you coach human beings.’”
→ Lauren Fleshman, the American professional middle-distance runner, who is now a coach and co-founder of Picky Bars, wrote an op-ed for the New York Times about her own experiences and relationship with her body. Even though she was a 15-time All-American in college, she still fought to have her body be slimmer and believes she, like Mary, developed RED-S:
But rather than change the culture, people talked about me as if I were an exception to the rule that thinner was better. During my final season, with the transition to pro running on the horizon, I began to believe them. I restricted my diet to make my 21-year-old body, still soft from the new estrogen infusing it, look like the leaner 28-year-old women I saw making Olympic teams. I wasn’t ready for that kind of body. I made myself into it anyway. I may have looked the part, but I lost my energy. I lost my period, and injuries set in, derailing the first half of my professional running career.
I was one of the fastest distance runners to never make the Olympics. I’m certain that relative energy deficiency in sport, or RED-S, the same problem Mary Cain encountered, caused me to leave some talent on the table. I don’t mind the missed podiums, the missed chances. What gnaws at me is that nothing has changed. Until we acknowledge and respect that the female performance curve is different from the male version that sports was built on, girls will continue to face institutionalized harm.
“His opinion could change in a matter of days,” said Yoder Begley, now a coach with the Atlanta Track Club, a longtime running organization that is training elite athletes. “If I had a bad workout on a Tuesday, he would tell me I looked flabby and send me to get weighed. Then, three days later, I would have a great workout and he would say how lean I looked and tell me my husband was a lucky guy. I mean, really? My body changed in three days?”
→ Kate van Buskirk — a former national record holder and current host of Canadian Running’s The Shakeout podcast — was a guest on CBC’s Metro Morning this week to talk about Mary’s New York Times piece. She spoke with Matt Galloway about how Mary’s problems aren’t an isolated experience, the sport’s obsession with weight and the importance of sport being a safe space.
→ In the interview, Kate references Safe Sport Canada, an organization dedicated to making all sport in Canada a safe space. It emerged out of allegations of sexual abuse by coaches, but it’s for all issues of abuse, power and unhealthy environments. If you’re an athlete or connected to sports in some way and you see behaviour that’s inappropriate, you can report it to the Canadian Sport Helpline, which you can contact via phone or email. Here are more details from the government of Canada and the Athletics Canada website.
In September, CBC looked at how the program is doing. The conclusion is that the hotline is a step in the right direction, but there needs to be more awareness about the program and more communication from the program itself to the various sporting organizations to make it truly effective and impactful.
→ Geoff Burns, a PHD student at the University of Michigan who is studying biomechanics, had a Twitter thread about how Salazar’s obsession with form contributed to his downfall.
Click the tweet to get the whole thread:
Who will be World Athletics’ athletes of the year?
World Athletics — the organization that until recently was called IAAF — has announced their finalists for athletes of the year.
The female finalists
Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce was the fastest woman in the world in 2019. The 32-year-old Jamaican won gold in the 100m and the 4x100m at the world championships in Doha. Her time of 10.71 in the 100m and 41.44 in the 4x100m were world bests this year. She also won the 200m PanAm title this summer.
Her performances are all that more remarkable because they came after taking a break from her athletic career to give birth to a son. The 100m win was her fourth world championship at the distance — more than any athlete, including Usain Bolt. Fraser-Pryce might not win athlete of the year this year, but she will go down as one of the greatest sprinters of all time.
Hassan has shown to be one of the most versatile distance runners in the world right now. The 26-year-old Dutch athlete set the mile record at the Monaco Diamond League event this year, running 4:12.33.
Then at the world championships in Doha, she completed the unparalleled 1,500m/10,000m double in completely dominant fashion.
Hassan was being coached by Alberto Salazar when he was banned in the middle of the world championships in Doha. The controversy did not slow Hassan down, but it does put a cloud over all her results.
The 24-year-old Kenyan won two world major marathons this year: Chicago and London. And in Chicago, she broke the women’s mixed marathon record that has been held by Paula Radcliffe since 2003 by more than a minute. On the marathon scene, no one was as dominant as Kosgei.
Kosgei’s agent is Federico Rosa. He’s represented several athletes who have been banned for taking illegal performance enhancers, including Rita Jeptoo, Jemima Sumgong and Asbel Kiprop. Kosgei has never failed a drug test, but shady associations, like with Hassan, mean your performances will be met with skepticism.
Dalilah Muhammad won two world championships this year. The 29-year-old American broke her own world record in the 400m hurdles to take gold in that distance and she was on the 4x400m relay team that won gold. She had previously set the 400m hurdles world record in July. It was the first world title for Muhammad, as she placed second at worlds in 2013 and 2017 in the event.
Winning the world title meant that she’s only the second female to win and Olmypic title, a world championship title and set a world record in this event.
Yulimar Rojas is a triple jumper. The 25-year-old Venezuelan won the world championship. She also jumped 15.41m this year, which is the second-best jump of all time.
The male finalists
Eliud Kipchoge won the London marathon in 2019. Then in the fall, he became the first person to run under 2:00 in the marathon distance when he ran 1:59:40 at the INEOS challenge in Venice in October.
Whether Eliud wins this, I think, depends on how seriously World Athletics wants to take the INEOS challenge. It was an exhibition, after all. Using controversial shoes. I personally think few performances this year captured the world’s attention in a similar way and that alone should be enough, but we will see. No matter what happens, Eliud is one of the greatest athletes of all time, in any sport. He’s changed the sport. He inspires people to be better.
Joshua Cheptegei is the only person who can really rival Eliud Kipchoge for this award. The 23-year-old Ugandan began his year by winning the world cross-country title in Aarhus, a spectacular event that brought renewed interest to cross-country. He closed his year by winning the 10,000m world championship title in 26:48, which was the fastest time run this year at that distance. It was Uganda’s first 10,000m gold at worlds.
Noah Lyles won two world championships this year. The 22-year-old American won the 200m world championship and was on the team that won the 4x100m world championship. He ran the world’s best 200m time this year when he ran 19.50 at the Diamond League in Lausanne. He also won the 100m and 200m Diamond League titles.
Karsten Warholm is a 400m hurdler. The 23-year-old won the world championship in the event and in the summer he ran 46.92, which is the second-fastest time ever in this event.
Sam Kendricks is an American pole vaulter. The 27-year-old won the world championships and had the best pole vault of the year at the U.S. national championships when he cleared 6.06m.
Winners will be announced on Nov. 23
The winners will be announced on Nov. 23.
The winners were chosen through a three-pronged voting process. The World Athletics' Council’s votes count for 50%, the World Athletics Family’s votes count for 25% and online fan voting count for 25%. Voting closed on Nov. 4 and the finalists were announced after that.
You should also check out the #WorldAthleticsPhotoOfTheYear hashtag on Twitter, there are some stellar photos being shared, including this one from Canada’s national track & field championships:
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Reid Coolsaet went for sub 2:13 in Shanghai, came up short and dropped out at 30K
Reid Coolsaet went to Shanghai to run their marathon and go for the sub 2:13 time that eluded him in Toronto and that he believes will be fast enough to qualify for the 2020 Olympics on IAAF points. He was on pace until 25K, then the wheels came off. He dropped out at 30K.
He wrote about the race on his blog. According to the post, he had no intention of running a second fall marathon, but after a different race offered him a spot on the starting line to increase the presence of international elites, he figured why not. That original race fell through, he decided he’d keep with the plan, just at Shanghai instead.
The race didn’t go as plan, but Reid is A-OK with that. His post made the attempt seem like one big adventure:
I know the plan seemed ludicrous from the get-go. How was I going to run faster than I did at STWM where the conditions were perfect, there was a pacer and guys to run with? And yes, I didn’t have a 14-hour flight and 13-hour time change to contend with. On top of that I had three solid months of training that peaked for STWM. Surely running a 2:15 marathon, taking a week off, then two weeks of mediocre workouts and 1 week taper was not going to net me a better result.
But something went wrong at STWM and I really felt as though that day could have been a 2:13. I needed to take another shot.
Had the weather been 10C today who knows what would have happened. I felt just as good coming through halfway in 65:58 as I did in Toronto coming through half 50 seconds slower in 66:48. But I faded hard at STWM after 38km and that very well could have been the outcome again.
I am stoked that I ran 65:58 thinking that I still had 21.1km to run, that alone is a confidence boost moving forward.
Kara Goucher had quite the week
Kara Goucher, the elite American who blew the whistle on Nike and Alberto Salazar in regards to doping, had a WEEK. That’s the only way to put it.
She called out Nike for investigating itself and spoke about how she felt she didn’t do enough to change things. From Oregon Live:
Goucher said she’s also done her share of soul-searching, particularly after her former teammate Amy Yoder Begley went public this week about her painful experience at the Nike Oregon Project.
“I don’t have a problem with tough love,” Goucher said. “I don’t have a problem with being accountable. But at some point, it crosses the line of what is acceptable. A coach should never discuss the size of your breasts or butt in front of other athletes. That’s shaming.”
“Honestly, I feel really sad,” Goucher added. “I didn’t stand up for Amy. I didn’t stand up for myself. I was not the person I wished I would have been.”
“I’m never going to put on a USA kit again. I’m never going to make another team. I’m finally accepting that,” Goucher said. “But I still really like to prepare for something. I get so much out of a training block. It brings so much to my life. So now I’m at this crossroads: Do I give up something I love so much because I’m never going to be who people remember me as? Or do I say it doesn’t matter; I love this, I’m still able to do it, and maybe some people will be disappointed but this is my life. Obviously I chose the latter.”
And she placed third in her first ultra, the North Face 50K championships.
Letesenbet Gidey breaks 15km world record
Ethiopia’s Letesenbet Gidey broke the 15km world record this weekend. She ran 44:20 at NN Zevenheuvelenloop in the Netherlands. She broke the record by more than a minute and her split from 5K to 15K was 29:12, which is the fastest 10K split ever recorded by a woman on any surface, according to IAAF’s Jon Mulkeen. The IAAF does not formally recognize the 15K as a distance.
The record was previously held by Kenyan Joyciline Jepkosgei — the runner who just won the NYC marathon in her debut at the distance.
Gidey is 21 years old. She won the silver medal in the 10,000m at the recent world championships in Doha. She also won the 2015 and 2017 under 20 world cross-country titles. This season is her first on the senior international scene.
“I am so so happy to have won here in a new world record. I felt I was in good formin preparation to the NN Zevenheuvelenloop and my legs felt good all race. I was quite surprised to see how much time I was able to get off the previous world record, to be honest, but I had great legs and it was a really nice race. To finish with this result makes me so proud and so happy,” she told the press after the race.
And, yes, she was wearing Nike Vaporflys.
The men’s 15K world record was set by Uganda’s Joshua Cheptegei last year at the same race.
The Manitoba Marathon profiles Chris Balestrini
Chris ran two marathons in 2019. He debuted in Rotterdam, running 2:22:10. Then he ran Toronto, running 2:19:40 to finish ninth Canadian and 22nd overall.
He’s also coaching at Western University, where he is studying for a double PhD and medical degree.
The Q&A is a good one, he talks about wanting to be the best he can be and focusing on that, as opposed to say, an Olympic berth.
If you could travel back in time to the start of your running career, what would you tell yourself?
At first, I thought my answer would be something along the lines of “stick with it early, be consistent, and take it seriously,” but I don’t think I would have the same drive to train and race if my life was focused on running for that long. I’ll go a little more philosophical on this one: “Create an ideal image of yourself, and then surround yourself with people that drive you to get there.” It’s simple: as independent as I seem to my friends and family, I’ve really just been a sponge my whole life; soaking up wisdom, motivation, and a few other attributes from those I’ve been lucky enough to have in my life.
CBC reporter runs NYC marathon, finishes with unforgettable story
Jason Warick is a reporter for CBC Saskatchewan. Along with 53,000 other runners, he lined up at the start of the NYC marathon. He knew that running the biggest race in the world would be memorable, but even he wasn’t expecting what happened.
According to his essay for CBC Saskatchewan, he came across two fellow athletes with about 7K left in the race: handcyclist James Akaka and Ben Parore.
Ben was pushing James — they also just met — because James, who only uses one hand to power his bike, had reached his limit. James had a stroke in 2011, which limited his mobility and speech. He dreamed of completing the NYC marathon since his stroke so he could inspire others.
Ben was from New Zealand and was gunning for a personal best until he came up James and knew that helping him was more important than running his own fast time.
I was inspired by the sight of James still giving everything he had, and amazed Ben would sacrifice his own goals to help a fellow athlete, so I asked Ben if he wanted me to take a turn pushing.
He said he'd try to push the rest of the way, but there was something I could do. Ben asked me to clear a path for them.
By this point in the race, the road had narrowed to four lanes. It was clogged with thousands of exhausted runners struggling to dip under their target finish time.
James' racing chair was nearly two metres long and not meant to steer in crowds. He's also nearly horizontal in the chair, so it's tough for runners in a crowd to see him.
“There were so many people, as you saw. When we got to you, it was pretty hard to get through everybody,” Ben said later.
I joined their team.
You should join your local YMCA
I’ve been a member of my local YMCA since it opened in 2015. This article nails why it’s such a special, community-oriented place that’s about more than fitness.
This paragraph is pretty much what I see every time I go:
On the top floor, where I strength-train, you’ve got dudes with full-body tattoos deadlifting 500 pounds next to tiny 80-year-old women curling three-pound weights. While bench-pressing, I’ve been spotted by gay people, trans people, and straight people, big people and small people, white people and black people. On the second floor, spin classes attract community members of all shapes, sizes, and abilities, including those who are blind and missing limbs. The basketball court, meanwhile, is usually buzzing with pickup games consisting of white, black, Indian, and Asian people, some of whom seem like they are an inch away from playing in the NBA, and others who seem like this is the first time they’ve handled a ball. The bottom floor houses the yoga room, where, unlike every other yoga studio I’ve ever been to, you see all kinds of bodies — not just 20-to-40-year-old slim, white ones. And then there are the kids (a surprisingly rare site in metropolitan gyms these days) running around pretty much everywhere. Everyone is respectful to each other. Everyone gets along.
The final kick
That’s it for this week! Thanks for reading!
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