The London Marathon was the debut marathon for Emily Sisson. Emily used the global showcase to run a fine 2:23.08. How good is that? Only Jordan Hasay has a faster debut (2:23.00). We asked Molly Hanson, a graduate student at the University of Edinburgh, and a former UW-Madison journalism student and UW Badger track athlete to cover the two Americans racing in London. Molly Hanson wrote this piece on Emily Sisson and Molly Huddle.This is her first piece for RunBlogRun.
Sisson Breaks Out as America’s Newest Marathon Heroine
On Sunday, April 28, Emily Sisson broke through into the lineup of America’s marathon superstars with sights set on the 2020 Olympic Games.
At the Virgin Money London Marathon the 27-year-old crossed the line in sixth place as the first American woman, clocking a 2:23:08 for her debut marathon. A measly 8-seconds off the American debut record set by Jordan Hasay in 2017. Winning the race was Kenya’s Brigid Kosgei in 2:18:20, just under five minutes ahead of Sisson.
Finishing in 12th place in 2:26:33 as the second American marathoner was Sisson’s teammate, Molly Huddle, 34. Both Sisson and Huddle run for New Balance and are coached by Ray Treacy.
“I did have pretty high expectations,” Sisson admitted. “I wanted to run faster than I did, but within the first fifteen [kilometers] I thought I was just going to have to throw time out the window because the race wasn’t going that way.”
Sisson said that she wanted to race in the low 2:20’s on Wednesday, and she did. But her shot at dethroning Hasay as the fastest debut marathoner was undercut but the slow start pace of the race.
The elite women were expected to begin the race at a 2:17 pace, but when no one wanted to take the lead, a 15-women pack passed through the five kilometer mark in 16:56, nearly six-minutes slower than the expected pace. Despite the unlucky pacing, Sisson proved her adaptability and remained composed. She was able to hang on to the lead pack until around 20 kilometers when Kosgei nudged the pace forward and the race raveled out. Sisson came through the halfway mark in 1:11:49, which was 49 seconds off what she planned.
“I think I got a little excited after halfway and when I saw when we went through quite a bit slower than I wanted,” explained Sisson.
Between the 20 and 25 kilometer marks, Sisson unleashed her fastest 5k of the race in 16:36, dropping Huddle, who she had been running with up until that point. From there Sisson ran most of her race in a windy no-man’s-land between the first and second wave of elite runners as she strode into the Buckingham Palace mall finish.
“I picked it up a little too fast too soon, so I think that was a learning experience not to get to excited too early and be a little more patient,” said Sisson, who felt the error haunt her 22 miles in as she tired.
Despite feeling like she has room to learn and improve, Sisson was satisfied with her breakthrough performance.
“Given the conditions, like the weather and just how the race played out, I think I ran really well. I would say it was a good day.”
Sisson’s swift ascension to the top of the American distance running world has been unwavering, and her performance didn’t necessarily come as a shock. Back in January, Sisson opened her 2019 season with a 67:30 half marathon in Houston — a number 2 all-time best in the distance, second only to her teammate, Huddle. Still, there is no formula for predicting the outcome of the full 26.2 mile beast of a race.
“There’s always uncertainty with the marathon, I think for me never actually having run the distance that was like what would kind of freak me out every now and then,” Sisson said, noting that to some degree ignorance had been bliss going into her first marathon. “I wanted to have a really good one and I knew I was capable of it.”
For her part, Huddle walked away from her fourth marathon disappointed. Explaining to LetsRun that her legs felt “achy”, Huddle chalked up her performance to the hard fact that, hey, sometimes you don’t feel great when racing a marathon. Despite her fatigue, Huddle ran a 11-second personal best time and snagged a 2020 Olympic standard.
As for what is to come for Sisson, she plans to compete in the marathon for the Olympic Trials. But she isn’t quite ready to set the 10k aside, which she raced last month in a blazing 30:49.5 The 3rd fastest ever for an American woman and an Olympic qualifying mark.
Sisson said she’ll “probably do both” the marathon and 10k in the trials.
As the future pends, one thing is certain: Sisson is on fire right now. She’s just established herself as a top contender in a thick mix of hopefuls fighting for a marathon spot in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
About Molly Hanson: