Elinor Purrier Makes The Jump

The most decorated athlete in University of New Hampshire history transitioned smoothly into the professional ranks since graduating last year.

The road from successful collegiate runner to solid pro athlete isn’t always a smooth or linear one, but Elinor (Elle) Purrier—an 11-time All-American—is already etching her name alongside the sport’s superstars. In a wild one-week span in June, the Vermont native unexpectedly achieved the Olympic standard in not just one, but two events, the 1500m (4:02.34) and the 5K (15:08.61), making her the fourth-fastest American this year in the former event and the sixth-fastest in the latter. Rachel Schneider is the only other athlete to run the standard in both the 1500m and the 5K.

We recently talked to Purrier on the phone about adjusting to pro runner life with New Balance Boston and hitting the Olympic standard in multiple events, and her first Diamond League appearance.

Note: Purrier will race just the 5K at the USATF Outdoor Championships next week, but at the time of this interview, she was undecided. 

How would you reflect on your first year as a pro?

It’s been good. I just passed my one-year anniversary a couple weeks ago and it helped me reflect a little bit on how far I’ve come in a year. I didn’t know what to expect as a pro, and there were a lot of unknowns in the transition—not knowing who my teammates would be, where I was going to be [living], who I was going to sign with, things like that. Even what pro life would be like.

How did you decide on joining the New Balance Boston group?

I’m an east coast girl, for sure. That was a big part of it. I did look other places—on the west coast—but I knew I would be happiest and most true to myself on the east coast. I started researching more and looking more closely at the Boston groups. I thought the dynamic worked well. Mark Coogan, my coach, was actually good friends with Hop, my college coach, and that gave me confidence choosing him. 

The dynamic [on the team] works so well. All of the girls are so supportive of each other and down to earth. We’re all really tough and can relate to each other really well. 

Did you train by yourself in college? What’s different about training with the New Balance group?

I did do quite a few workouts by myself [in college], but regular runs, I hardly ever ran by myself. Other people on the team were incorporated into my workouts, so I still had help in those tough workouts. The training now is quite a bit different; definitely have amped it up a little bit. 

A little bit higher mileage, that’s mostly it. I knew I was ready for that this year. In college, [my mileage] was pretty low—I would increase every year by 10 miles per week. I started at 30 mpw freshman year and got up to, in cross country, in the 60s sometimes. Now, we try to consistently be around the high 60s, low 70s.

I was able to get in more base this fall [not doing cross country], which has really helped.

Watch Purrier's Workout Wednesday from 2018:

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Did it surprise you to get the Olympic standard in both the 1500m and the 5k?

Honestly, it did. The Olympic standard seemed like a serious goal—obviously—I knew it was going to be hard and I was really happy with myself for being able to do that so quickly, back to back. 

Editor’s note: Elle ran the 1500m standard on June 6 at the Diamond League race in Rome, then ran the 5k standard seven days later on June 13 at the Adrian Martinez meet in Massachusetts.

I honestly did shock myself a little bit, but I knew I was ready for it. I was really happy.

That was just your second-ever 5k race, right?

The [5k] in California [15:23 at Payton Jordan] was my first 5k. I was disappointed in the way it played out. It was not what I was hoping for. I knew there was a lot left in the tank. Everyone who ran that day could run at lot faster than we did. It was at least good to feel what it was like to run a 5k. [Purrier placed fifth, two seconds behind winner Jenny Simpson].

Originally, I was in the 5k at Prefontaine, but they changed that to a 3k, so we decided to race Adrian Martinez to get a standard. It was [kind of a bummer], but it ended up being better because I didn’t have to fly all the way to California. I did the races right together and was able to get in a good training block after that.

The conditions weren’t optimal in Boston, either. It was a little cold and rainy, but I was definitely happy to get the standard there. I wasn’t sure it would happen until towards the end. [Purrier won the race by two seconds in 15:08]. The last lap I was definitely going for the world standard. I could hear my coach yelling and I just sprinted and was able to get it by a couple seconds. Definitely had to push for that.

I led a majority of that race and that takes a lot of energy to do. I definitely feel I could run a lot faster in that event, especially since it was only my second time. I feel like I have a lot more.

What was it like to be race in Rome at your first Diamond League event?

It was really cool. I studied abroad there for a summer in college, so Italy has a special place in my heart. I was super excited to be back there in Rome and competing in the Olympic Stadium. I was pretty nervous for it and being my first Diamond League, I didn’t know what to expect. 

I knew the race was going to be fast and that’s pretty much it. I followed Jenny [Simpson] a little bit in the race. I guess it just gives me a glimpse of what the future looks like. I feel I belong in that field and I ran 4:02, obviously, I still have a lot of work to get up there but I will keep building off that in the years to come. It was really amazing to be racing against those girls anyway. It was an honor to learn from them.

What are some of the challenges of competing abroad and what are your strategies?

When I’m over there, I’m out of my comfort zone so I lose any expectations of being comfortable. I just focus on the race. I was only there for two days before so I didn’t even try to get on the time zone. I would sleep in the afternoon, so a night time race was really an afternoon race for me.

It’s challenging with different cultures, you never know what’s going to be at the hotel [for food]. With night races, I try to eat a big lunch. It’s always helpful to bring packets of oatmeal and I ate that maybe three or four hours before the race. 

Do you want to pursue the steeplechase again at some point?

[Purrier is a three-time All-American and 2016 Olympic Trials qualifier in the steeplechase].

I’m probably not going to. I feel like I always had more fun in the 15 and mile in college. Steeple was something I tried. My third-ever steeple was Junior Nationals and I ended up having success so then I got known as a steeplechaser but it was never really where my heart was. It’s pretty rough on my body, sometimes I would struggle with the barriers, with form and everything. I was burnt out of it.

What’s a typical day look like for you?

I usually get up around 8 am and have a cup of coffee -- I make it the night before and just push a button in the morning. I almost always have oatmeal with maple syrup.

Usually, we’ll meet around 9 or 10 am and usually run on trails a little out of the city on Battle Road. We’ll do 8 to 10 miles in the morning, sometimes less, then some days we go to the gym right afterward. Then I call it lunch, but it’s really breakfast, I eat a lot of eggs and toast. I’ll have a snack before I go out for my double. We’ll double maybe two to three times a week. My day revolves around eating, sleeping and running. I live with one of my teammates, Heather McLean, so we make dinner together a lot or we’ll all go out as a group. I have a lot of friends who live around here so they’ll come over and hang out on my down time.

Is there anything about the pro athlete lifestyle that took some time to get used to?

Probably taking my rest and sleep more seriously. It’s part of my job to take naps and sleep and make sure I get to bed on time. I feel like the culture of me growing up and in college, you didn’t necessarily get a lot of sleep and if you did, maybe you were considered lazy. For a pro, it’s essential and responsible and what you’re supposed to be doing, so that was a big transition, I guess.

What are your long-term goals?

Definitely to make the 2020 team. That’s the ultimate goal, just keep PRing and staying healthy and being in this good rhythm. It’s a lifestyle, so having all the factors come together to be able to stay in shape for a long time and stay healthy and do well is my ultimate goal.

Would you rather break four minutes in the 1500m or 15 minutes in the 5k?

I think I’d rather break four because breaking 15 is gonna be a little bit easier.

Craig Engels Is Off And Running In 2020 As Only He Can

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By itself, Craig Engels’ weekend in Boston was routine enough— the 2019 U.S. 1500m champion was tasked with pacing the men’s 5,000m on Friday night before racing the mile the next day. His training partners Paul Tanui and Eric Jenkins ultimately missed the 13:13.50 standard as Engels strained to get through 2600m— “I definitely underestimated what 4:12 pace felt like”, he said— and yet he came back on Saturday to win the mile in 3:56.85 on tired legs.

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Nico Young will begin his final track and field season with quite the record attempt. 

Five Takeaways From The Weekend: Jessica Hull On The Rise

The 2020 track season got started in earnest over the weekend as droves of top professionals debuted and many impressive collegiate performances took place. Here were the takeaways from Boston, Albuquerque and New York:

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The 2020 track season got started in earnest over the weekend as droves of top professionals debuted and many impressive collegiate performances took place. Here were the takeaways from Boston, Albuquerque and New York:

Donavan Brazier Is Still In Monster Shape

At the risk of overanalyzing a season opener in an off distance, Donavan Brazier’s 1:14.39 600m in Boston on Saturday was further proof that the 2019 world champion remains in a league of his own among 800m runners. Although his competition at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix was overmatched as expected, Brazier hammered away alone to the second-fastest indoor 600m ever, behind only his 1:13.77 world best from 2019. And it was easy. So easy that the 22-year-old managed a shrug across the line as if to say sorry, not my best but it will have to do.

Just look at this gear change as he assumes control of the lead:

Word is that Brazier isn’t planning to run World Indoors this year, but his brief indoor campaign could still bring more fireworks as he next targets the Millrose Games 800m on Feb. 8. A lowering of his 1:44.41 indoor American record will be the expectation given his dazzling season opener.

A New Name Emerges In The NCAA Women’s 60m

Texas sophomore Julien Alfred wasn’t expected to be a contender in the women’s 60m dash this season after posting just a 7.36 best as freshman. But after running 7.10 (#6 NCAA all-time) over the weekend in Albuquerque, the St. Lucia native is in the thick of the title hunt. Just 18 years old, Alfred had a modest freshman season highlighted by a second place finish in the Big 12 100m. That’s why her defeat of reigning NCAA 60m champion Twanisha Terry is such a surprise.


Tyler Day Puts Edwin Kurgat On Notice With 13:16 5k In Boston

The race featuring Olympic silver medalist Paul Tanui and 13:05 man Eric Jenkins disappointed in that no one hit the 13:13.50 Olympic standard (Tanui won in 13:15), but the silver lining was the performance of Northern Arizona senior Tyler Day, who ran 13:16.95 to surpass Galen Rupp as the third-fastest collegiate all-time indoors. It’s not like the time was a total shock— Day ran 13:25 in May— but eclipsing arguably the greatest distance runner in U.S. history carries significantly more weight than simply a nine-second PB.

Naturally, the question now becomes whether Day can translate his stellar performance into an NCAA title in March. Although he’s a standout cross country and 10k runner, Day was just 13th in the 5,000m at NCAA indoors last year and then failed to qualify for nationals outdoors despite his 13:25 being the fastest mark of the season. A great time-trialer, but it remains to be seen if he can thrive in a championship 5k setting.


That, and the presence of 2019 NCAA XC champion Edwin Kurgat, will make winning in Albuquerque a tough task come March, but this just might be a different version of Day than we’ve seen before. He did push a 12:58 man to the line, after all. Add in NCAAs being held at 5300 ft. above sea level (he trains at 6900 ft.), and it would seem that Day has a real chance to avenge past shortcomings in the 5,000m this March.

BYU’s Whittni Orton Remains On A Tear

It will be interesting to see which events BYU star distance runner Whittni Orton competes in at NCAAs, as Orton secured another outstanding mark on Saturday (4:29.76 mile at Dr. Sander Invite) to go along with her 15:22.98 5k from December. Orton, who placed seventh at NCAA XC in November, continued her ascent over the weekend from solid collegiate runner to stud collegiate runner by finishing just a step behind 2019 World Championship finalist Nikki Hiltz and breaking the Cougar school record.

Orton has previously been a miler, so her running the mile-DMR double at NCAAs seems most likely. The 5k is also stacked with Katie Izzo (15:13 PB), Weini Kelati (15:14 PB) and defending champion Alicia Monson representing significant roadblocks. All three beat Orton at nationals in cross country. The mile could ultimately feature four-time NCAA champion Dani Jones, so it’s not like any path to the top will be easy. But Orton’s continued rise should make her a threat in any event that she chooses, and whichever route she takes will have a significant impact on the distance races at nationals.

Jessica Hull Might Be On The Cusp Of A Breakout

No performance at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix on Saturday was more expertly crafted than Jessica Hull’s 4:04.14 1500m win, as the former NCAA champion let training partner Konstanze Klosterhalfen do all the work before cutting her down in the final 10 meters.

It is just one race, of course, but beating someone of the caliber of Klosterhalfen-- the 2019 World Championship 5k bronze medalist and 4:19 miler-- proves that Hull’s finishing speed is elite. The 23-year-old missed the 1500m World Championship final last October, but only after she ran a 4:01.80 PB. The type of form she showed in Boston indicates she could be a medal threat at March’s World Indoor Championships. 

Beyond that, it’s going to be tough to make serious noise in an event as deep as the women’s 1500m outdoors in just year two as a pro, but Saturday suggests that the best of Hull is yet to come.

Brazier Solos #2 All-Time 600m, Hull Kicks Down Klosterhalfen At NBIGP

(c) 2020 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

Three Events To Watch At BU: Jenkins/Tanui/NAU 5k, Engels In The Mile

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The 2020 BU John Thomas Terrier Classic is this Friday and Saturday (Jan 24-25) in Boston and will be Live on FloTrack. A fast men's 5k and the season debut of Craig Engels in the mile are among the top events to watch this weekend:

Weekend Watch Guide: Fast Boston 5k, Elite Sprints In New Mexico

Several of the top distance runners and sprinters in the country will be on display this weekend on FloTrack as we stream two days of action at the BU John Thomas Terrier Classic in Boston and the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Collegiate Invitational in Albuquerque this Friday and Saturday. U.S. Olympic hopeful Eric Jenkins and training partner Paul Tanui will chase the 13:13.50 Olympic 5k standard along with several NAU stars on Friday at BU, while reigning 60m hurdles world champion Keni Harrison will face 2019 NCAA champion Chanel Brissett in the hurdles at New Mexico on Saturday. That, and so much more, can be seen on our live slate Jan. 24 - 25:

As Trials Approach, Three Contenders Speak On State Of Shoes

As the 2020 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials rapidly draw near, tensions surrounding the fate of Nike’s controversial Vaporfly shoes are at an all-time high. Reports in recent weeks that World Athletics is set to ban the shoe have led to speculation of when a potential rule change would be made and what specifically the governing body seeks to outlaw. With less than 40 days until Atlanta, both action or inaction by World Athletics will be a major storyline in the race for Tokyo. 

Eight Sub-2:21 Women Set To Contest 2020 Boston Marathon

(c) 2020 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

Houston Organizers Award 'Top U.S. Male' Prize Money To Two Runners

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The Houston Half Marathon organizers decided to award their "top U.S. male finisher" prize money ($2,000) to two athletes this year.

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The Houston Half Marathon organizers decided to award their "top U.S. male finisher" prize money ($2,000) to two athletes this year.

At first glance, the top American at the 2020 Houston Half Marathon appeared to be Jared Ward, who crossed the finish line first in 1:01:36. Finishing less than two seconds behind him was former BYU runner Nico Montanez, who currently trains with the Mammoth Track Club under Andrew Kastor.

Heading into this race, Montanez's resume (1:04:29 PB) wasn't enough for the elite field; therefore, he was relegated to the American Development Program field. As a result, Montanez had to start in the second corral behind the elites.

The initial results recorded Montanez's chip time as four seconds faster than his gun time. Nico confirmed in his post-race interview that he took about five seconds to get to the starting chip mat. 

Here's a screenshot of Montanez's splits after the race—his start time is set to 7:01 a.m. and 3 seconds (the time of day when he crossed the starting mat).

Because Montanez's chip time of 1:01:34 was faster than Ward's chip time of 1:01:36, the Houston organizers took a page out of the Boston Marathon's book and decided to award the 'top U.S. male' prize money to both Ward and Montanez.

Niiya Sets Japanese Record In Dominant Houston Half Performance

(c) 2020 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved