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

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. 

The Best Performance Of Every Men's Bowerman Finalist

The six finalists for The Bowerman racked up a ridiculous list of accolades during the indoor and outdoor seasons. With so many collegiate records and all-time marks it was hard to settle on each athlete’s best showing, but here’s one attempt and nailing down the three men’s nominees single best performance of 2018.

House Of Run: Ranking The Best Marathoners Of 2018

Jason and Kevin wind down 2018 by reading listener emails about the best hopes for American marathoning, biggest track and field fears, compiling a yearly marathon top-ten list, must-see running films, watching Wayde Van Niekerk’s world record in person and Lebron vs. Ashton Eaton.

Jordan Hasay, Sara Hall Join Elite 2019 Boston Marathon Field

(c) 2018 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

Best Of 2018: Newcomers Of The Year

Some of the most entertaining and accomplished stars of the 2018 track and field season were either under-the-radar names before this year, or competed in their first season at a specific level of competition. Here are FloTrack’s top five newcomers of the year:

Which NCAA Stars Will Go Sub-4:30 For The First Time In 2019?

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Women's Mile, Heat 1 - Elinor Purrier 4:26.55, NCAA #2 ALL-TIME!

Among NCAA female milers, sub-4:30 provides the ultimate designation of elite status. 

The Best Moments In Bowerman History

On Thursday in San Antonio, Texas, the 2018 Bowerman Awards will celebrate a decade of crowning NCAA track and field’s brightest stars. And through those 10 years, the event has featured some of the greatest athletes in collegiate history.

FloTrack Is Confident About The Bowerman 2018

As we look ahead to 2019, we must first look back at the year of track and field that took place in 2018. The finalists for The Bowerman are as follows:

Which NCAA Program Would Win An All-Star Track Meet?

Who would win the NCAA indoor title if every school was allowed to enter their top all-time athletes in program history? We decided to take the all-time top-8 indoor lists and see who wins a team title when scored based on collegiate personal bests.

2018's 10 Most Improved In NCAA Cross Country

The Ultimate 2018 DI NCAA XC Championship Highlight

Within every NCAA cross country season there are always individual performers who improve dramatically from the year before, from total irrelevance to the very front of the national championship pack.

Tara Davis Reportedly Transferring From Georgia to Texas

Update (Dec. 13): Georgia head coach Petros Kyprianou announced that Tara Davis is transferring to Texas, though she has yet to personally respond with her official plans for the future.