Amy Cragg’s Massive PR Foreshadows Big Year For U.S. Women’s Marathoning

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On Sunday, Amy Cragg finished third at the Tokyo Marathon with a time of 2:21:42, slashing more than five minutes off her personal best. But given Cragg’s credentials on the roads, the time served more as an affirmation than a breakthrough. 

Her previous personal best came from her first marathon — a 2:27:03 in Los Angeles in 2011 — a time she equalled three years later at the Chicago Marathon. Since then, she has won the Olympic Trials and taken a bronze at the world championships, so while she was a 2:27 marathoner, that was almost as misleading as calling Meb a 2:08 marathoner. Sometimes accomplishments outpace the number affixed to an athlete.

But Cragg's new personal best does help quantify how strong the American women will be in the marathon this year. Her time in Tokyo put her fifth on the U.S. all-time list. Two of the four women in front of her — Shalane Flanagan and Jordan Hasay — are actively competing. 

Since 2008, no more than two American women have put up a top 60 mark on the yearly list. Cragg’s run in Tokyo guarantees that they will have at least one before the spring marathon season even begins. 

Number of American Women With Top 60 Marathon Times
2018 (as of February 28th)1

However, times aren’t always to best metric to demonstrate marathon success. The variability of courses and conditions makes it tough to compare performances. Cragg is a perfect example. When it comes to race selection, she’s zigged where others have zagged. She’s only raced New York once and has never run in Boston. She ran the world championships last summer when other top Americans passed on the race. 

All total, Cragg has run against Shalane Flanagan and Desiree Linden only three times in her career, the 2012 Olympic Trials, the 2016 Olympic Trials and the 2016 Olympics. She’s never raced against Huddle or Hasay in a marathon, though those two are new to the distance. 

So perhaps a better metric to assess American strength is performance is in World Marathon Majors. There, the numbers bear out that last year American women had their best year in the marathon since the World Marathon Majors series was created in 2006.  

Top-5 Finishes At World Marathon Majors By American Women
2018 (as of February 28th)1

**Tokyo became a World Marathon Major in 2013. In 2010, 2014, and 2018 there is one less opportunity to run a World Marathon Major because there are no World Championships or Olympics**

With Shalane Flanagan, Molly Huddle, Jordan Hasay, and Desiree Linden all set to race in Boston, the numbers for 2018 will surely increase in April. If most of that group races again in the fall, they could top last year's output. What is the cause of the upswing? Shalane Flanagan’s victory in New York City was an clear signal that American women could win major marathons even in this deeply competitive era, but this rise in performance isn’t confined to one person. 

The U.S. seems to be getting the benefit of having runners of overlapping eras capable of performing at a high level. The next crop of American women — led by 26-year-old Hasay — is already competing with the best in the world. At the same time, marathon veterans Flanagan (36 years old), Cragg (34), and Linden (34) haven’t seemed to slow down. In many cases they are running better than they ever have in their career. 

This phenomenon isn’t confined to the United States. Three of the best women in the world — Tirunesh Dibaba, Mary Keitany, and Edna Kiplagat — are 32, 34, and 38, respectively. None is showing any sign of slowing.  

Boston could be Flanagan's last race. She has spoke openly about retirement before her victory in New York City. But even if she retires after Boston, it won't be enough to slow the ascendence of the American women. All the pieces are in places for a historic year. 

After Eight Month Layoff, Costello Returns to Racing at NYC Half

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By Rich Sands, @sands(c) 2018 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

Photo: Liz Costello (third from right, back row) visiting Public School 1 in New York City in advance of the 2018 United Airlines NYC Half.  

NEW YORK (16-Mar) -- When Liz Costello toes the line in Sunday's United Airlines NYC Half it will be her first race in eight months. The Princeton grad had to scrap most of her summer and fall racing plans after her debut marathon left her in a physical and emotional crater.

MSU T&F Grad Assistant Resigns In Protest Of Nassar Case Handling

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Michigan State track and field graduate assistant Kassie Powell resigned from her position on Thursday in protest of the university's handling of the Larry Nassar sex abuse scandal.

Ritz Gears Up For Boston, Sisson Takes On Tough Field: NYC Half Preview

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With the 2018 World Half Marathon Championships scheduled for next weekend and major marathons in Boston and London on tap for April, the spring road racing season is in full swing. 

House Of Run: When A World Record Isn’t A World Record

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On this week’s episode of the House of Run, Jason and Kevin discuss the abundance of records at the NCAA Indoor Championships including Michael Norman’s world record in the 400m, Kendall Ellis and Sydney McLaughlin both running under the 400m American record, Eli Hall’s 60/200m double and the nonsensical tale of why USC’s men’s team won’t hold the 4 x 400m world record.

WATCH: Clarence Munyai Runs 19.69, Smashes South African 200m Record

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Clarence Munyai stunned the track and field world on Friday with a 19.69 clocking in the 200m. The 20-year-old from South African entered with a personal best of 20.10. The mark lopped 0.15 seconds off Wayde Van Niekerk’s South African national record and makes Munyai just the 10th man ever to run under 19.70. 

The Houston Men Might Break 31-Year Power Five Win Streak At NCAA Outdoors

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The Houston men finished seventh overall in the team standings at the 2018 NCAA Indoor Championships with 26 total points, 20 of which came from Eli Hall's impressive 60/200 sweep. But don't expect the Cougars to be anywhere near the bottom of the top 10 this outdoor season. In fact, the Houston men are legitimate outdoor team title contenders for three reasons.

The New Mexico XC Team Might Score 50 Points At The 2018 NCAA Outdoors

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The New Mexico women have an opportunity to pull off an incredible feat at this year's 2018 Division I NCAA Outdoor Championships. 

Kyron McMaster In The Hurdles, Sang/Goule In The 1500: 49er Classic Preview

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The indoor season hasn’t been over for an entire week and attention has already turned outdoors. This weekend UNC-Charlotte hosts the 49er Classic, a meet that features collegians and professionals all itching to get an early start on their outdoor season. 

On The Run: A Record Bonanza At NCAA Indoors | Episode 78

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Jojo, Grant, and Kevin convene to discuss the lightning-quick 2018 NCAA Indoor Championships. The group shares their favorite moment from the meet, the biggest surprise, and the hypothetical scenarios they've wondered the most about.

FloTrack Presents The Very Unofficial Off-Event NCAA Champions

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The great thing—or annoying thing, depending on your viewpoint—about indoor track is the number of off-events that are contested at invitationals and even conference championships at both the high school and collegiate level.