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Author: Kevin Liao

Sacramento-based amateur runner, photographer and writer. Once interviewed Taoufik Makhloufi in French. Enjoys politics a lot. Follow him on Twitter @RunLiao.

April 16, 2020

Track Rewatchables: 2017 World Championships Women’s 1500 Meters

The 2017 World Championship women’s 1,500m final is underappreciated.

December 30, 2018

CITIUS MAG Athlete of the Year – The Case For…Christian Coleman

Christian Coleman had one heck of a 2018 season full of ups and downs that make him worthy of not just an athlete of the year nomination, but also a nod for comeback athlete of the year.

December 28, 2018

CITIUS MAG Athlete of the Year – The Case For…Shaunae Miller-Uibo

Shaunae Miller-Uibo was one of the most dominant athletes of the year over two events.

August 9, 2018

The Lodi Mile Captures the Spirit of a Town

Unless you’re a big fan of wine, you may not have heard of Lodi, California.

The town with a population of nearly 65,000 is primarily known for its wine industry but often sits in the shadow of better known wine grape growing regions in the nearby Napa and Sonoma Valleys.

“We still have a small town feel even though the population has grown in recent years,” said Dave Phillips, co-owner of Michael David Winery, Lodi’s preeminent wine-making company. “Everyone is very proud of what we’ve developed with Lodi now being recognized as a great wine region.”

While runners are much more likely to down a beer than a glass of wine after a race or training run, the blue-collar spirit Lodi prides itself on has more similarities to distance running than you’d think.

“For both running and wine making, it takes a lot of hard work, grit and determination to produce something great,” said Jeff Merrill, race director of the Lodi Mile. “Distance running and Lodi’s culture go hand in hand. Neither of them may know that right now, but we’re trying to make that connection.”

A Lodi native, Merrill first found his love for the sport while running on the local high school cross country and track teams. Those teams drew from what Merrill affectionately described as “a nucleus of nerds and outcasts” that over time banded together as a team while developing a fondness for the sport.

“We had a decent football team, but it didn’t match what our cross country team was doing. So it made us wonder why we weren’t getting any attention,” Merrill said. “It made us think what we needed to do to make this sport popular and translate what we love about it to let other people get excited about it, too.”

That’s the genesis of the Lodi Mile started. Shortly after finishing his collegiate running career at the University of Michigan in 2010 (including competing at the Maccabiah Games, a.k.a. the Jewish Olympics, in 2009), Merrill began contemplating about how to bring an elite race to his hometown.

But having an idea for a race and learning the logistical hurdles to actually putting one on were two very different things.

“I had no idea what I was doing when we started it. I just assumed if I put this thing on lots of people would show up,” Merrill said. “I was pretty naive, which helped in some ways because I simply cold called and Facebook messaged different pro runners asking them if they wanted to compete.”

The first two editions of the race in 2013 and 2014 were run out on a country road that cut through plots of vineyards, inspired by the Fifth Avenue Mile in New York City that runs between Central Park on one side and city’s iconic skyscrapers on the other.

The remote location of the country road, however, made it challenging to get large numbers of spectators to watch the races.

Starting with the 2015 edition of the race, Merrill opted to move the race to the heart of downtown Lodi, which has helped the event become an attraction whether you’re a running fan or just out on the town for a few glasses of wine on a warm summer day.

“There are a lot of road races and track meets, but there aren’t many that are real spectacles that people go to like you go to a concert, movie or sporting event,” Merrill said. “You plan your day around it because you want to see a show.”

For the 2018 edition of the race, a big goal is on the mind of race organizers — a sub-four minute mile on the roads of Lodi.

Despite having the likes of Garrett Heath and the late David Torrence as past men’s race winners, the Lodi Mile has yet to produce a sub-four minute time.

If it was to happen this Sunday, it would be the first sub-four minute performance in San Joaquin County since Don Bowden became the first American to break four minutes in the mile when the Cal-Berkeley athlete ran 3:58.7 in Stockton in 1957.

Whether a sub-four mark is achieved, Merrill has grown the race, now in its sixth year, into something that is uniquely Lodi. Rather than traditional trophies, race winners are awarded decorative grapewood branches. The winning teams in the high school team competitions have their names engraved on large oak wine barrels, Stanley Cup-style.

For Merrill, it all comes down to athletes and spectators alike having an experience as unique as the spirit of Lodi itself.

“I want them to walk away saying, ‘Well, shit, that’s something I’ve never experienced before.'”

July 30, 2018

Kim Conley, Garrett Heath Headline Lodi Mile Elite Fields

The sixth edition of the Lodi Mile on Sunday, August 12 will feature two-time Olympian Kim Conley in the women’s race and 3:53 miler Garrett Heath along with four other sub-four minute milers in the men’s race.

Conley, who competed in the 5000 meters at both the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games, has the fastest mile personal best in the field by over four and a half seconds.

Conley will arrive in Lodi fresh off an altitude training stint in Flagstaff, Ariz. Her lone race of 2018 was a 15:49.08 5000 meter effort at the Portland Track Festival.

Among Conley ‘s competitors will be 4:06 1500 meter runner Stephanie Brown, former University of Washington standout Eleanor Fulton, and 2013 NCAA 1500 meter champion Natalija Piliusina.

Heath, the fifth place finisher in the 10,000 meters at this year’s USA Outdoor Championships, will be seeking his third Lodi Mile title having previously won the race in 2013 and 2017.

Heath will be joined in the elite men’s field by four other men who have broken the four minute mile — Henry Wynne, Brannon Kidder, Chad Noelle and Tripp Hurt.

The Lodi Mile course takes athletes on two half-mile loops around downtown Lodi, California. The starting gun for elite men’s race will be at 11:00 a.m. with the women’s elite race at 11:10 a.m. The full event schedule can be found here.

Women’s elite field
Kim Conley (mile PR: 4:24.54)
Stephanie Brown (mile PR: 4:29.06)
Eleanor Fulton (mile PR: 4:30.34)
Natalija Piliusina (mile PR: 4:32.67)
Ayla Granados (mile PR: 4:38.49)
Rebecca Mehra (mile PR: 4:40.46)
Baylee Mires (mile PR: 4:43.91)
Savannah Colon (mile PR: 4:46.31)
Tori Tsolis (1500m PR: 4:10.62)

Men’s elite field
Garrett Heath (mile PR: 3:53.15)
Henry Wynne (mile PR: 3:55.23)
Brannon Kidder (mile PR: 3:56.06)
Chad Noelle (mile PR: 3:57.02)
Tripp Hurt (mile PR: 3:58.54)
Isaac Updike (mile PR: 4:03.47)
Matt Palmer (1500m PR: 3:46.6)

June 24, 2018

Breaking Down Shelby Houlihan’s Incredible Double

Shelby Houlihan pulled off a historic achievement on Sunday by becoming just the second woman to ever win both the 1500 meters and 5000 meters at a single USA Outdoor Championships.

The only other woman to ever pull off the same feat was Regina Jacobs in 1999 and 2000, though her career is universally considered tainted by a later doping ban.

A couple things to address about Houlihan’s accomplishment:

First, the dominant fashion she did it in. Houlihan demolished Jenny Simpson over the final meters of the 1500 final, putting 0.73 seconds on her. That’s the same Jenny Simpson who’s the greatest U.S. middle distance runner of her generation. In the 5k, Houlihan still had company with Rachel Schneider on her heels with 100 meters to go but was able to seemingly change gears twice to ultimately win by 10 meters.

The term “strength is speed” really rings true in Houlihan’s case. The 5k training she’s focused on in the past two years has given her the aerobic stamina to not be as fatigued as her competitors at the end of races. Once they get to that point, it’s game over as Houlihan the best top-end speed of anyone in the field.

Second, one can only hope Houlihan, who is the best she’s ever been, can build upon this success in years to come and not have a magical season go to “waste” in a non-championship year. We saw a fellow Jerry Schumacher athlete Chris Solinsky have a career season in 2010, also an off year. While we all look back with awe at what Solinsky accomplished that season (first American under 27 minutes for 10k and three sub 13 minute 5k’s), he didn’t get the chance to prove himself at a major global championship while at peak fitness. At 25 years of age and in her third season as a pro, all indications are Houlihan is nowhere near the top of her game yet.

Third, this has to make you wonder what event Houlihan focuses on in years to come. To me, it’s a no brainer – she should run the 1500 meters at major championships.

While it would be easier for Houlihan to win U.S. 5000 meter titles in what’s a less competitive talent pool domestically, the 1500 meters has proven to be wide open on the international level and more favorable to American runners.

In the last ten years, U.S. women have made the finals of 5000 global championships more often than in the 1500, but when it comes to winning medals, the count is 5-0 in favor of the 1500 runners. In fact, the highest finish in the 5000 was Molly Huddle’s sixth place finish in 2013.

The reason for this? East African 5k runners often run brutally fast final stretches of races (often under 2:50 for the final kilometer) that Americans have simply been unable to hang on to. Though Houlihan is certainly capable of breaking through the U.S. glass ceiling in the 5k, it is simply more difficult than the 1500.

June 24, 2018

The Story of a Runner, an Italian Restaurant, and Dreams Come True

The timeless tradition of carbo-loading before races resulted in some fun social media traffic this weekend at the USA Track and Field Championships in Des Moines.

Here’s the backstory:

Due to a flight delay, world silver medalist Courtney Frerichs didn’t land in Des Moines until midnight the night before her steeplechase preliminary race.

Luckily, her husband, who was already in Iowa, picked up some spaghetti and meatballs from the local Olive Garden and had it ready for Frerichs to chow on in the early hours of Thursday morning.

We posted the clip of Frerichs talking about her late night meal after her steeplechase prelim.

The tweet caught the watchful eyes of Olive Garden’s social media team, who responded with well wishes to Frerichs.

The night before her steeplechase final, Frerichs tweeted photos from the West Des Moines branch of the famed Italian restaurant chain.

It turns out Olive Garden provided her entire family a free dinner — including dessert. The carb-heavy meal seemed to work for Frerichs as she finished in a strong second place less than a second behind champion Emma Coburn.

“I pretty much always go to Olive Garden when I’m racing in the states because I know their meals work,” Frerichs said.


June 23, 2018

The Dawn Harper-Nelson Exit Interview

Dawn Harper-Nelson competed in her first outdoor national championships in 2004. Fourteen years later, she will be racing in her last U.S. championships after announcing that the 2018 season would be her last as a professional hurdler.

Haper-Nelson walks away from the sport one of the most accomplished high hurdlers in history — a two-time Olympic medalist (including gold in 2008), two-time world medalist, four-time Diamond League champion, and four-time U.S. outdoor champion.

We had a chance to catch up with Harper-Nelson after the first round of the 100 meter hurdles for what we’re calling her exit interview:

Citius Mag: What’s the game plan this weekend? Is tomorrow it?

Dawn Harper-Nelson: Oh no, I have Diamond League races to come. But this will be it for USA nationals. In the finals, you guys are doing to have to drag me off the track. I’ve had so much fun competing for USA. I want to finish this up with a complete bang and obviously a W.

CM: You seem relaxed.

DHN: I kinda surprised myself with how relaxed I was [in the first round]. Before the race, you’re nervous, but as soon as the gun goes off, you know this is what you train for. I have 11 family members here, so we’re all just having fun.

CM: How hard was it to decide this was it for you?

DHN: Honestly, it wasn’t that hard for me. I’ve always known from the time I was a child I wanted to be an Olympic champion, a wife, and a mom. I never wanted track to run my life so much that at some age I realize there’s a world around me. I’ve had a great career. Me and my husband talk about it, and I’m personally ready to have some babies. I want to come to these events with my kids and say “mama did that.” It’s still bittersweet because I’m having fun with it, but it’s time. I find myself having a pull to do something else. I’m blessed that I can make the decision, and it’s not an injury or not being able to get a lane that forces me out of the sport.

CM: Every time we see you at a U.S. championships, the hair style is always different. What’s going on with this hairstyle?

DHN: They wanna call me “old lady in the field,” so my friends and family members are like, “Give them some gray hair since they want to call you old.” I was totally against it. They told me it’s my last year to play with it. So this is just me being silly.

CM: Different athletes in professional sports choose to handle their retirement differently. Was it tough deciding how to do it?

DHN: It really was. I initially thought I’d wait until the last race and announce this is it. I was talking to my agent to let him know this is how I want my plan to be. The whole time my husband was telling me I was crazy and that people want to celebrate with you. My agent told me meet directors will be mad if you run at their races and then never see them again. He told me we have to announce it and let fans know so they can take in all your joy and cartwheels and things. It was the right decision.

CM: What are some of the other races when you’ve found yourself bawling at the end?

DHN: Diamond League finals. I have four Diamond League championships, and each one of those came down to who crossed the line first in the final. It was all or nothing. For me, those were moments at the ends of seasons when I rose to the occasion. Obviously, there are my two Olympic medals. Those are like my kids. You put four years of sacrifice on the line to say this moment, for 12 seconds, this is it. Sometimes, I sit back and will cry thinking back on my career and how it’s been pretty sweet.

CM: After you retire and someone asks you what you do for a career, what are you going to say?

DHN: I’m going to say “I used to run.” That sounds better than “retired.” When you hear someone say they’re retired, you think of someone of retirement age — like almost 70. I will be proud to say I’m a retired track athlete. Because in conversation that will follow up with, “Oh, how did that go?” [Laughs.] I’ll be able to explain what track and field is and then say how it’s given me the life I have.

CM: Looking back, do you have regrets about how anything has gone during your career?

DHN: No, not really anything that when I walk away I hated it in the moment. Training with Bobby [Kersee] early in my career, he was very good at explaining the reasons for every time I died on the track in practice. I was blessed to also have Michelle Perry, a two-time world champion, and Joanna Hayes, an Olympic champion, training with me early in my career. I saw what they did and understood the sacrifices that have to be made. They have medals, so I knew I absolutely have to be doing this — and more. Now that I’m older, I do have the regret of not understanding that I don’t have to push my body as much. For the last two years, I’ve been hammering, thinking I have to do all this. My body is telling me it’s tired because I’m 33 or 34 now. It was right before this nationals that I learned that lesson. My husband was telling me, “I think you’re doing too much. You’re not recovering as well.”

CM: Is this the least amount of pressure you’ve ever felt for a U.S. championships?

DHN: In a sense, but I am so hard on myself. I have a goal here as if I’m trying to make another team. I’ll enjoy it, but I better be on that podium. That’s just the mindset I have. If that’s not the expectation, I shouldn’t be here.

CM: What’s the difference between the top hurdlers when you were first starting on the elite level versus the best hurdlers now? What have some of the advances been?

CHN: I feel like more hurdlers now are focusing on speed. I’m a technician and you can win a lot of races if you hurdle clean. But now they’re running clean and they’re fast. If you put them in the flat 100, they’re going to put up a competitive time.

June 22, 2018

Noah Lyles, Aleia Hobbs Run Away With USA 100 Meter Titles

The dream seasons of Noah Lyles and Aleia Hobbs continued Friday with victories in the 100 meter dash at the 2018 USATF Track and Field Championships.

Lyles, known primarily as a 200 meter runner, sneaked past Ronnie Baker in the final meters of the race to earn his first U.S. title.

He was pretty psyched after the race.

After giving his review of Incredibles 2 yesterday, Lyles rocked socks with the movie’s logo in the final. The superhero powers clearly transferred through.

Baker set a personal best of 9.90 despite finishing second. He’s headed to Europe after this to chase fast times.

Unstoppable on the collegiate level all year, Hobbs became the first woman since 1991 to win both the NCAA and USA 100 meter titles in the same year.

Ashley Henderson had a tough NCAA championships, missing the 100 meter final before finishing sixth in the 200 meters. The San Diego State junior bounced back with a stellar second place finish today in Des Moines and a personal best of 10.96 seconds.

Jenna Prandini struggled with injury throughout 2017. Now healthy, she looked confident winning her semi-final before finishing third in a season’s best 10.98 seconds.

June 22, 2018

Stephanie And Ben Bruce’s Consistency and Breakthroughs

Stephanie and Ben Bruce chat about their experiences at the 2018 USATF Outdoor Championships and the work it took to get there.

June 20, 2018

Shelby Houlihan vs. Jenny Simpson is the ultimate battle in Des Moines

If anything has characterized the 2018 track season thus far, it’s been the changing of the guard we’ve seen in many events, particularly in the sprints.

The aging Justin Gatlin and retired Usain Bolt have handed the torch to youngsters Christian Coleman and Noah Lyles in the short sprints. The name Allyson Felix is nowhere to be found at the top of the yearly marks, having been replaced by the likes of NCAA stars Lynna Irby and Kendall Ellis. And Sydney McLaughlin and Michael Norman have catapulted themselves into superstar territory in track and field circles.

We’ve seen less of this trend in the longer distance races, but could there be a shift in the power structure coming soon in the women’s middle distances?

Without a doubt, Jenny Simpson has been the alpha dog of U.S. 1500 meter running in recent years. She’s won the last four 1500m outdoor national titles and has four global medals over the metric mile distance, including a thrilling silver medal at last summer’s World Championships.

Despite her dominance, she showed a bit of vulnerability a few weeks ago at the Pre Classic, when fellow American Shelby Houlihan unleashed a furious kick on the final straightaway to pull off the upset in a personal best 3:59.06, besting her personal best by over four seconds.

The race was Houlihan’s first career victory against Simpson.

We have all witnessed Houlihan’s big kicks in the past (see her dominant U.S. indoor doubles the last two years) but never before had she exhibited that kind of closing speed on a stage as big as a Diamond League meet.

Houlihan’s progression makes you wonder if she might be prepared to take the U.S. women’s 1500m championship belt from Simpson in the near future.

If father time is indeed undefeated, that day may be coming sooner than later, as Simpson turns 32 years old this August, while Houlihan is just 25 years of age.

All of this makes the matchup between Simpson and Houlihan this weekend at the USA Outdoor Championships in Des Moines all the more fascinating, as both athletes return to a state where they have roots (Houlihan was a dominant runner on the Iowa prep scene, while Simpson spent part of her early childhood in the Hawkeye State) to race on the Blue Oval.

Editor’s note: Both have declared for the 1500 meters, though Houlihan is also entered in the 5000 meters. It’s a doable double, though it certainly isn’t easy — the 1500m prelims are on Thursday, 1500m final is on Saturday and 5000m final is on Sunday.

We know, of course, that winning in a fast, rabbited race like Houlihan did at Pre isn’t the same as doing so in tactical championships contests, which Simpson has mastered in her career.

With a gun to my head, I still pick the more experienced Simpson in the confines of this weekend’s championship meet, but don’t be surprised if Houlihan continues inching toward earning the title of America’s best miler.

April 13, 2018

It’s Finally Here: The Marathon Matchup We’ve All Been Waiting For

The U.S. women’s field for the 2018 Boston Marathon includes nearly every major contender for the 2020 U.S. Olympic marathon team at this point.

February 12, 2018

Remembering Jon Grey

Boulder Track Club distance runner Jonathan Grey took his own life after losing his battle with depression at 29 years old.

December 24, 2017

Christmas Wishes: The Matchups We Want to See in 2018

These are the the races and match-ups that we want to see from the track and field community in 2018 – a year without a world championship or Olympics.

December 19, 2017

Why It’s Foolish to Count Molly Huddle Out in Boston

While a lot of the attention for the 2018 Boston Marathon has been focused on Shalane Flanagan vs. Jordan Hasay, do not count out Molly Huddle.

December 18, 2017

U.S. Citizenship Still “The Dream” For Edward Cheserek

After a historic NCAA career at Oregon, Edward Cheserek is now chasing his professional running dreams, most of which his dream of representing the USA.

December 11, 2017

Boston Marathon Delivers With Incredible U.S. Fields For 2018

The 2018 Boston Marathon will feature Shalane Flanagan, Jordan Hasay, Galen Rupp, Molly Huddle Dathan Ritzenhein, Deena Kastor and more.

December 2, 2017

A Fun New Quirk to Elite Running Prize Money

Road races have been conducted more or less the same way for decades, so it’s promising to see any sort of innovation in the space.

That’s why it was exciting to see the bib displacement bonus system that the California International Marathon set up for the American athletes competing at tomorrow’s USATF Marathon Championships.

Here’s a brief description of how it works:

All the elite runners have been assigned bib numbers, #1 for the top man and woman on down.

Here are the top ten bib numbers in the men’s and women’s races:

For every place an athlete overperforms their bib number, they will earn a $100 bonus in addition to the standard prize purse. For instance, if the athlete wearing bib #10 finishes in ninth place, they will receive a $100 bonus. If that athlete finishes in eighth place, they’ll get $200. If that athlete wins, they’ll get a $900 bib displacement bonus, plus the $20,000 first place prize.

Athletes can only receive displacement bonuses by finishing in the top ten. Bibs #11 and up all start will the value of 11.

Here’s a visual representation of how it would work:


In any case, it’s a fun quirk to the elite race that should bring a little extra excitement to race day. Dark horses who might be underestimated coming in get an extra reward for overcoming the more seasoned veterans ranked ahead of them. The extra cash also gives runners an extra bit of incentive in a tight finish.

December 1, 2017

Five Storylines to Watch at the USATF Marathon Championships

With Sacramento and the California International Marathon set to host the USATF Marathon Championships for the first time, here are a few storylines for Sunday’s race worth keeping your eye on.

Stay tuned to CITIUS MAG throughout the weekend as we provide comprehensive coverage of the marathon. As always, click onto, and follow us on Twitter and Instagram for behind the scenes content from race weekend.

The Hall factor

Sara Hall surprised a lot of people when she announced her intention to run at CIM just five weeks after setting a personal marathon at the Frankfurt Marathon. Though we know Hall has attempted unthinkable doubles in the past (she finished 20th at the World Cross Country Championships just 13 days after her debut marathon), two marathons in such a short timeframe is a relatively unprecedented.

On paper, a fresh Hall would certainly be the race favorite. But if she’s not quite 100%, things could open up for the likes of Janet Bawcom and Lauren Totten.

A wide open men’s field

It’s hard to put your finger on a favorite in the men’s race.

Sure, there are guys like Nick Arciniaga and Fernando Cabada who have fast PR’s in their back pocket but whose best races are likely behind them.

If you had to go with the guy with the hot hand, the smart money is on Danny Tapia. The Northern California native set his half marathon personal best three weeks ago, running 63:35 for the win at the Monterey Bay Half Marathon. That’s coming off an impressive third place finish at CIM a year ago when he set his marathon PR of 2:12:28.

As for the two main marathon debutants in the men’s race, it’s a tale of two half marathon tune-ups. George Alex, the former University of Oklahoma standout, ran a solid effort to win the Rock n Roll San Jose Half in 63:40. Oregon Duck turned Saucony pro Parker Stinson, meanwhile, struggled at the same Monterey Bay Half Tapia won, managing just 66:44 for ninth place. While half marathons are by no means the end-all for marathon performance, it’s always preferable to come off a good performance than a bad one.

USA Running Circuit standings on the line

There’s a lot of money on the line as Sunday’s marathon also serves as the concluding race on the 2017 USA Running Circuit. For those unfamiliar, the circuit is a series of road races ranging in distance from one mile to the marathon. Runners accrue points for each top ten finish at circuit events, with those earning the most points receiving prize money at the end of the series.

On the men’s side, both Tim Ritchie and Jon Grey enter CIM sitting in the top ten of the 2017 circuit standings and could improve their positions with a strong performances.

Meanwhile, Sara Hall current sits fifth in the women’s standings. If she finishes fifth or better on Sunday, she jumps into second place, an upgrade of $12,500 in prize money.

See the complete USA Running Circuit standings here.

Just how many Olympic Trials qualifiers?

We found out this week from my colleague Scott Olberding’s statistical analysis that 25% of all women’s Olympic Trials Marathon qualifiers ran their marks at CIM. It’s a pretty remarkable figure.

It brings up the question — how many OT qualifiers will we see on Sunday? With a vast swath of sub-elites entered and damn near perfect weather forecasted, it’s safe to say we’re going to see a lot.

Two potential qualifiers of note are Sabrina and Regina Lopez. If you’ve never heard of them, they are twins sisters from Southern California both chasing the dream of making it to the 2020 Olympic Trials start line. From Jorge & Ed Torres to Jim & Joe Rosa to Miki & Lisa Barber, we’ve seen successful twin pairings in track and field, but to see twin sisters both run Trials qualifiers in the same race would be pretty neat.

The weather = perfect

Recent CIM races have seen their share of questionable weather — spanning from the pouring rain to the ridiculously frigid.

Luckily, as of Thursday night, the weather forecast for Sunday morning is pretty damn perfect — a high of 57 degrees (and an estimated low 40’s at start time), light wind, and just a 10% chance of rain.

That means an opportunity to chase some PR’s, if runners choose to push the pace.

Race footage of the USATF Marathon Championships will be archived by USATF.TV here

November 24, 2017

Two Marathons in Five Weeks? Sara Hall is Giving it a Shot

Just weeks after setting her marathon personal best, Sara Hall will be taking on the 26.2 mile distance again at the USATF Marathon Championships on December 3.

“I love championship style racing and feel it really brings out the best in me,” Hall told CITIUS MAG. “The California International Marathon is a race I’ve wanted to run for a while now, and the fact that it’s a national championship essentially in my backyard made it even more meaningful.”

Hall finished fifth at the Frankfurt Marathon on October 29, setting a personal best of 2:27:21. She has recovered exceptionally well since then, providing her the confidence to give the marathon another go just five weeks after Frankfurt.

“It’s probably my best recovery after a marathon yet,” Hall said. “I think recovery is my strength as an athlete. I don’t think I’m the most talented, but since I started in the sport I’ve always been able to train really aggressively and race often with my body absorbing it well.”

This won’t be the first time Hall has attempted a quick turnaround after a marathon. After her debut marathon in 2015, Hall finished 20th at the World Cross Country Championships just 13 days later.

“I listen to my body and trust my instincts,” Hall said. “Having trained a lot in Africa where they don’t overthink things, I’ve adopted a bit of that mentality where I don’t necessarily buy into some of the things we believe in American running culture, like you can only run two marathons a year spaced out by six months.”

Hall confided in her husband and coach, legendary American marathoner Ryan Hall, in her decision-making.

“At first, Ryan wasn’t sold on the idea,” Hall said. “But after Frankfurt when I didn’t execute some things well and had some challenges that weren’t in my control, he was like, ‘You can do better than that. Let’s see how you recover, and if you do as usual, let’s go for it.'”

A longtime contender for U.S. national teams on the track, Hall made her marathon debut in 2015 and has completed the distance six times. She dipped under the 2:30 barrier for the first time earlier this year in Tokyo with a personal best 2:28:26 before improving upon that time in Frankfurt.

“I really want to continue to improve in the marathon, and since I only plan to do two a year, any time I get a chance to race one is another chance to tweak things and fine-tune my approach,” Hall said. “There’s such a learning curve with the event, which is partly why it’s so addicting.”

Hall joins a USATF Marathon Championships field that features 2012 U.S. Olympian Janet Bawcom, 2:27 marathoner Renee Metivier and 2016 CIM third place finisher Lauren Totten.

Against that caliber of a field, Hall knows that her competitive instincts will need to be at tip-top shape.

“In a championship race, you don’t have the help of knowing there are pacemakers running designated paces,” Hall said. “I have to be prepared to run a lot of it alone to run the pace that’s right for me.”

Ultimately, the prospect of walking away with a U.S. title was one that was too good for Hall to pass up, particularly with the marathon championships in Sacramento, just a few hours from her hometown of Santa Rosa and current residence in Redding.

“You have the motivation of thinking, ‘I want to be the one holding the American flag at the finish,'” Hall said. “That feeling never gets old, and to experience it close to home with friends and family would be really special.”

Race footage of the USATF Marathon Championships will be archived by USATF.TV here

November 23, 2017

Edward Cheserek Wins First Pro Race at Silicon Valley Turkey Trot

After completing one of the most storied careers in NCAA history, Edward Cheserek won his first race as a pro on Thanksgiving Day at the Silicon Valley Turkey Trot in San Jose, Calif.

After a tactical early pace, Cheserek pulled away from Awet Habte (13:42) and Emmanuel Bor (13:43) to take the win in 13:38.

“I tried to play my race plan right and hang in there with the big boys,” Cheserek told CITIUS MAG after the race. “I was struggling with a little injury after [the 5th Avenue Mile] but have been back in training and things have gone well the last couple weeks.”

Gotytom Gebreslase of Ethiopia won the women’s race in 15:38 ahead of Monicah Ngige of Kenya (15:44). Emily Lipari outsprinted her BAA teammate Sarah Pagano to finish in third. Both were timed in 16:04.

Men’s results:
1 Edward Cheserek 13:38
2 Awet Habte Ghebrezghiabher 13:42
3 Emmanuel Bor 13:43
4 Haron Lagat 13:49
5 Alex Monroe 13:49
6 Reid Buchanan 13:56
7 Sam Atkin 13:56
8 Lawi Lalang 13:58
9 Pat Casey 13:59
10 Eric Avila 14:00

Women’s results:
1 Gotytom Gebreslase 15:38
2 Monicah Ngige 15:44
3 Emily Lipari 16:04
4 Sarah Pagano 16:04
5 Marisa Howard 16:09
6 Mel Lawrence 16:11
7 Tia Martinez 16:12
8 Stephanie Brown 16:18
9 Teresa McWalters 16:27
10 Megan Rolland 16:29

November 21, 2017

Marathon Mailbag: Questions You’ve Always Had for a Race Director

Here at Citius, we do our best to give the people what they what. So as part of our coverage of the USATF Marathon Championships, we wanted to help answer some of the questions you’ve always had about road races: Why can’t you mail me my bib? Why are there never enough porta-potties? What’s wrong with banditing, anyways?

Helping us with this task is Eli Asch, California International Marathon race director and the director of race operations for the Sacramento Running Association. Eli is a veteran of the race directing scene, always has insightful thoughts about the world of running, and is an overall good dude. If you enjoyed this musings here, give him a follow on Twitter at @Eli_Runs for insights like this:

Why can’t I get my race number in the mail?

At some races you can. But you almost always have to pay for it and usually more than you want to. Races that don’t allow you to get your number in the mail — like the CIM and other Sacramento Running Association races — have done the calculus and decided that, as an organization with finite resources (both in money but more importantly in staff time, especially during race week), they’re going to focus those limited resources on improving the runner experience in other ways.

I will say that there is a business opportunity for someone entrepreneurial here. I know of one company (Events Southwest, another best-in-class race production and operations shop based in Texas) that offers, along with their other suite of services, a large-scale bib mailing solution to the events they work with. If someone were to launch that in the Sacramento area, I think it could do well. Of course, they would have to quickly establish themselves as a competent, reliable organization for RDs to trust them with something as precious as our runners’ bibs. If someone like our timer Capital Road Race Management were to provide this service, we would consider it. But without a reliable outside option providing its own bandwidth, system, and expertise, very few race organizations have enough staff time race week to execute something like this on their own.

As an SRA-specific aside, at our non-CIM events we solve this issue by having race morning packet pick-up. We know some people can’t make two trips, so as long as they make it to the race site race morning (with at least a few extra minutes to spare before the gun) our unparalleled registration and participant services director Kris Benach and her team of volunteers will make sure they get their bib and any other race swag before they toe the line (or after they finish for everything except the bib, if they’re cutting it really close). At the CIM (where due to sheer volume race day packet pick-up isn’t an option), based on a post-race survey of participants the vast majority of our runners view the CIM Expo as a value-add, with its race merchandise, expert speakers, vendors, and general race weekend excitement, so mailing packets has never been a high priority. I imagine this is the case at many other major events that don’t mail packets, although you would have to ask their staffs to confirm this.

Lastly, for those who just aren’t able to make it to the CIM expo, on our expo page there is a Race Packet Pick-up Authorization Form which, when completed, allows someone else to pick up your packet for you. This has been a successful solution for the past several years for those who just can’t make it to the expo.

I’m sure you could go on and on about this, but in your view, why is banditing wrong?

To be entirely honest, under normal, non-litigious circumstances (more on that later) no single bandit is going to ruin a race. However, in order to protect itself and to keep a mass of bandits from descending on an event and turning it into chaos, I support any race in its decision to take a strict “no bandits allowed on the course” policy. Because no good deed goes unpunished, and if a race started saying “sure, hop on our course and get in your run for the day” to anyone who asked it would be creating a “tragedy of the commons” situation just waiting to happen.

But wait, what if I don’t take any race resources, you say? No shirt, no medal, maybe even no support from aid stations, not event a free beer in the beer garden. Well, there are at least three major issues with that.

First, have you considered that parking, medical staff, portalets (which all runners know you can never guarantee you won’t use — unless you use someone’s yard instead, and RDs want that even less!), and in some races maybe even space on the start line or in the finish festival are limited resources? Just by showing up you’re taking some of those limited resources.

Second, great, you say you’re not trying to weasel your way into a shirt or medal, and you won’t be taking any support from aid stations, and I believe you, but do I believe the dozens — or, depending on the size of the race, hundreds or thousands — of unregistered runners I’ve invited onto the course by publicizing that bandits are welcome? And if I don’t believe all of them, how do I assure that I have enough of these limited resources in place to support an unquantified but large number of bandits? And why should I have to have enough of these cumulatively expensive resources in place to support runners who didn’t pay for my race? I shouldn’t!

Third, by not having a “no bandits” policy I would be inviting people onto the course for whom I don’t have any information — a lack of information which, if something goes wrong, makes it difficult if not impossible for the medical team to provide appropriate care. But many lawyers whose pictures you can find prominently displayed on your phone book would say we are obligated to provide appropriate care to anyone we’ve invited out there, and that the lack of a specific policy stating that unpaid runners are not invited is the same as an invitation to those unpaid runners to participate. I don’t like that logic, but I’m an RD and I expect lawyers to defer to me on race directing matters, so I defer to the lawyers who tell me on this lawyering matter that we need to have a “no bandits” policy in place.

And one more reason beyond the three promised ones: On a race day you have infinity-minus-one options of where to run for free — anywhere except the race course. By choosing to run on the race course you’re saying that you value running there above anywhere else you can run, i.e. that the race is providing something of value to you. So you implicitly agree that the race is providing something valuable, and other people are paying for it while you’re taking it for free. We have a word for that: stealing. Bandits are thieves. Don’t be a thief.

If you want to run a race, pay for it. If you want to argue that you’re not getting anything of value by running in a race without paying for it, prove it by running somewhere else on race day.

How do you prioritize getting a quality field together while also making the experience appealing to the masses who pay for the race?

I don’t view these things as in conflict but rather as working in concert. Yes, both require resources, but we’re lucky enough to have a board that supports us expending substantial resources in both places and in having partners that work with us to achieve both goals.

Also — and this is part of why CIM aligns so well with my vision of a major event — because CIM is a performance race (we had the most Boston qualifiers of any non-World Marathon Major American marathon last year), more of our runners are interested in the types of race race day elements that will allow them to perform at their best: things like abundant portalets at the start line (more than three times the industry standard), not just one aid station with CLIF Shots but four spaced appropriately throughout the course, and a pace team consisting of performance-oriented runners themselves that understand how to best support their group.

Beyond that, the support we provide professional field — smooth logistics both in arrival to the city and on race day, elite fluids, pacers tied to the Olympic Trials qualifying standards, bonuses for certain performance standards (kudos to our elite athlete coordinator Danielle Domenichelli for this) — sets the stage for them to perform their best and to run times that enhance our brand as an event where all runners can run their best, whether that’s finishing under five hours, running a PR or Boston qualifier, or qualifying for the Olympic Trials. I encourage any race to think about how they can support performance running in a way that enhances their experience for the non-elite, and then to find the resources to do it.

How does one get to be race director for a major U.S. marathon? What’s the career path?

It used to be — 25-40 years ago, when many of the now-major marathons started — that the race director (RD) was the local runner who started the race. I’m part of a new, younger generation of RD’s who knew from the outset that working in mass-participation endurance sports events was a viable career path, and that’s because we get to stand on the shoulders of these giants (Carey Pinkowski in Chicago, Fred Lebow in New York, John Mansoor here locally in Sacramento, etc.).

As for what my path was, I was a decidedly mediocre D-III cross country runner (Missionaries! Missionaries! We’re on top!) who knew I wanted to work in running, so I enrolled in the San Diego State University Sports MBA program right out of undergrad. While there, I interned at the Chula Vista Olympic Training Center and at Competitor Group working on Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego, and as a capstone project for my MBA I interned at Conley Sports, a race operations and production company based in Austin, Texas which at the time owned and operated the Austin Marathon.

That internship turned into a job, and at that job I gained great experience there working with and learning from some people who are the best in the country or world at what they do. Little known fact: RaceWorks, which is a one-man operations shop out of Austin run by David Grice, is the secret weapon behind many major races’ finish lines. Then when the opportunity arose to direct the California International Marathon — a non-profit, community-based event that also does more than any other comparably-sized marathon to support the sport of performance running — I jumped at it.

I think many of my peers in the new generation of RD’s have shared a similar path: a passion (although maybe not a huge talent for) running, experience volunteering or interning in an unpaid capacity with an event or organization they believe in, some time spent in the event operations space professionally (directing smaller events and playing supporting roles in larger ones), and then seeing an opportunity emerge that aligns with your personal vision of what a major event can and should be (like the CIM does for me) and going for it — and then working your ass off to continue to make that event everything you know it can be!

The reason you want to be an RD can’t be because you want to be something, it has to be because you want to do something — for the event, for the sport, for your participants. At the CIM, what we want to do — from our board and executive director, to our operations and marketing staff, through what we call the “big team” of almost 150 part-time staff, contractors, and key volunteers that it takes to put on the CIM — is provide every runner, from the front of the pack to the back, with the forum to run their best marathon and then celebrate that accomplishment. Being able to play a role on a team doing that is what drew me to this race. I bet if you asked any successful RD, they could tell you what it is about their major event that drew them to it, and it won’t just be “being the RD.” The job isn’t glamorous enough to just want to be it. You’ll spend way to much time slinging fence, in the back of box trucks, and jumping into dumpsters for that. You have to want to do something specific through those efforts.

I’ve seen you in the chute of a race berating a race volunteer for doing something stupid. What’s the most furious you’ve gotten on race day, and what did they do?

I think you’re talking about the “little black backpack” incident of 2014? [Editor’s note: Yes, that incident.] This is not one of my proudest moments, and was actually stupider on my part than the volunteer’s. It was my first year directing CIM and we also had a new medical partner that year: the UC Davis Medical Center, who is still our medical partner and who we are very grateful to. About 15-20 minutes before the leaders were going to cross the finish line, some spectators called our attention to a little black backpack sitting on the ground inside the controlled zone fencing about 30 feet past the finish line (by the way, thank you to these spectators: “if you see something, say something” applies to all of us!). The bag was in an area that no one without credentials could reach, so I wasn’t concerned about it from a public safety standpoint, but if there’s one thing you don’t do at the finish line of a major marathon in the post-Boston bombing era it’s put down your backpack! So I went and picked it up, asked the medical volunteers who it belonged to, and then (very ungraciously) lit into the medical volunteer who had put it down (I think there was an F-bomb involved, maybe even two — like I said, very ungracious).

Most of the blame for this mistake, as with any volunteer’s mistake, falls on me, for at least two reasons: First, it’s a part of the job to make sure volunteers know what they’re doing. They’re volunteers, and unlike race staff haven’t spent the last 12-18 months preparing for this race. If in that 12-18 months we haven’t taken the time to explain to people who are volunteering their time what their job entails, including both the “dos” and the “don’ts” — especially major public safety “don’ts” — that’s on us.

The second reason it’s on me is that I made it worse by lighting into that volunteer. Two of the most important jobs of an RD are to keep your cool and to show appreciation for the people who make the race happen — which, in the case of the CIM, includes 3,000 volunteers — and I did neither of those in this case.

So, I guess that’s a long way of saying that volunteers can’t be stupid, only RD’s can be stupid for not doing a good enough job of training or appreciating their volunteers. That being said, when volunteers don’t use basic common sense and the outcome is that it compromises their or runners’ safety (like in this incident, or times I’ve seen volunteers chalking the roads while the roads are still open to traffic, or jumping forward to give a finisher a medal so close after the finish line that either the volunteer, the runner, or both almost trips), maaaaaaaybe then the volunteer shoulders just a little bit of the blame.

In a major city like Sacramento, what are the logistics of getting course certification like?

A quick tutorial for your readers who might not be familiar with how course certification works: A course is measured by riding the shortest possible route (SPR) from start to finish with a device called a Jones Counter attached to the front wheel of a bike. The ride is made multiple times to assure accuracy and the measurement and math is verified by a state-level USATF certifier.

(Also, as an aside, if you’re wondering why your GPS always says the course is longer than the distance it’s certified as, there are at least three reasons: First, you almost definitely didn’t run exactly the SPR. Second, your GPS is accurate in broad strokes but isn’t super-precise, especially in major downtown areas with tall buildings, under bridges, or on courses with a lot of quick turns. And third, there is a .1% margin of error baked into each measurement to assure it’s not short, so 5k’s are actually measured as 5,005 meter, 10k’s as 10,010 meter, etc.)

As far as the logistics of getting a major urban marathon certified, it varies city to city, for sure. In Austin, our course director (Danny Spoonts, also one of the best in the biz and now an independent contractor based out of Denver if anyone needs a course director or consultant for hire) would hire an off-duty Austin Police Department motorcycle cop and have the cop lead- or tail-drive him (as appropriate) as he biked the course, primarily in the wee hours of the morning (2am-5am), frequently into or across traffic as the SPR dictated. This was a multi-day process, as it involved at least two rides of the entire marathon course (as well as the portion of the half marathon course which diverged from the marathon course), with re-rides of some sections necessary.

We do things differently at the CIM. While a series of early morning rides with a cop might work, our course actually closes early enough on race day that we’re able to send out our measurers — IAAF A-level measurer Doug Thurston of the Big Sur International Marathon, who brings along a couple other experienced measurers so he can do three rides all at once — in front of the field on race morning. Re-measurement is required once every ten years, and it’ll actually be taking place this year. So look for Doug and a couple friends thirty or so minutes in front of our lead runners (or less, as the finish line approaches) out there on race morning this year.

Of course, I’ve also seen some photos of people doing neither of the above and doing death-defying (or maybe it’s death-tempting?) feats in traffic in major cities like San Francisco, and even for other events in Sacramento. More interesting than asking me this question might be asking some people like Doug, Danny, and IAAF Technical Council member David Katz how they get the job done, and what the hairiest things they’ve seen out there are.

How have the emergence of color/Spartan/obstacle runs impacted how you organize your “traditional” road races?

I wouldn’t say that they have, directly. Indirectly, though, as experiences have become the new luxury good with generating that memorable, Instagram-able moment for your participants becoming increasingly crucial. I think all running events have had to reinvent themselves to become more than just a race. That doesn’t mean abandoning the race experience, though (especially at a race with the performance history of the CIM), but rather finding ways to enhance it and make it memorable for every runner.

For example, our Boston qualifiers all have the opportunity to get their photo taken at the John Hancock BQ bell in the finish area, to be able to celebrate and share their accomplishment with the world. We know this strikes a cord with our performance-oriented runners, because last year we saw some people wait in line nearly an hour to take that photo. And for first-time marathoners we’ve created a “first-timers” program which includes a private Facebook group with mentors to answer questions, meet-ups and invitations to CIM University info sessions, and a reunion tent in the finish festival area where they receive a special, additional “first-timer” medal to commemorate that they finished their first marathon at the CIM.

None of this can (or does) get in the way of the nuts and bolts of what we do, though — smooth race day logistics including a well-oiled busing and gear check plan; a well-organized start line where it’s easy to find and line up with your pace group; plentiful, well-stocked, and clearly laid out aid stations to keep people fueled and hydrated for success; a safe, clearly-marked course course closed to traffic; and accurate timing and results. Taking care of all of those things, which at our race we take pride in, is necessary but no longer sufficient (if it ever was) to differentiate yourself from ever-more-competitive pack. But that pack isn’t just other running events, or even MOB (Mud, Obstacle, and Beer) events, but rather every experience a potential customer can spend their hard-earned money on. It’s our goal to give every runner — from the pros to that first-timer striving to come in under our time cut-off — the best possible experience, which includes all the basics, but increasingly has to include some “wow” factors.

What’s your biggest fear on event day?

Making sure I don’t sleep through my alarm — seriously, my wife and I set at least six different alarms on three different devices on race morning!

By race day, I wouldn’t say that I’m afraid of anything. We have a professional, dedicated team that assures that we have checked every box that we have control over to assure all of our stakeholders — runners, staff, vendors, volunteers, spectators, etc. — have a smooth, successful, and safe race experience. Even during the weeks leading up to race day, I wouldn’t say that I have major fears, except maybe that my lovely wife and adorable pup will forget what I look like because I’m spending so much time at the office!

Although I’m not afraid of it, per se, bad weather is the most likely thing that can disrupt our plans and impact our runners’ experience. We of course have contingency plans in place and have regular race week check-ins with our operations and emergency management teams (as well as with local runner and meteorologist extraordinaire Tamara Berg of KCRA) to determine which, if any of these contingencies we’ll need to put into place. But still, RD’s want to control everything we can, and although our average weather in early December in Sacramento is pretty near perfect (lows in the 40’s, highs in the 50’s, usually some nice cloud-cover), the weather is one thing that’s out of our control that can affect our stakeholders’ experience.

Beyond that, of course in a post-Boston bombing world we all have to be concerned and vigilant about public safety threats at large public events. We work very closely for 12-18 months with local and nationwide experts from various agencies on each year’s emergency management and public safety plan, and when they tell us we’re a “go,” we trust their judgment. And if, perish the thought, the worst were to happen, we know we have an expert-level joint command team ready to respond. (Little-known fact: This team’s response capability was tested on a small scale last year when a young, healthy, veteran marathoner suffered a cardiac incident just after crossing the finish line. Our emergency response team and UC Davis medical team, supported by our finish line volunteers and public safety officials, sprang into action in a matter of seconds, implemented their plan, and were able to save her life.)

So while their are some elements that are out of our control, we know that we’ve done everything possible to plan contingencies for everything we can, even those things out of our control. So I’m not afraid on race day. Our team is ready, and our team is vigilant. We know that on race day (all throughout race week, really) there’s still the hard work of executing our plan to the best of our ability to be done, but come race day, we’re not afraid.

November 20, 2017

Ashley Brasovan Trusting the Process in Her Return to Competitive Running

The title of “Foot Locker champion” has served as a blessing and curse now for several generations of prep runners. Ashley Brasovan has certainly had her share of ups and downs since her Foot Locker title nearly 10 years ago. After years of injury plagued her collegiate career at Duke, Brasovan is back at it, now focusing her attention on longer distances both on the roads and trails.

We had a chance to catch up with Brasovan just two weeks before racing the USATF Marathon Championships to reflect on her accomplishments, struggles, and future aspirations in the sport.

Given your work commitments with a full-time job, how are you handling marathon training this time around?

This fall for marathon training, I’ll typically train from 5:30-7:30am, consisting of running, stretching, and strength training, so I can be in the office by 8:00-8:30am. And if I double, I would be back out when I get home around 4:00-5:00pm.

This fall’s been really cold — a lot of 25 to 30 degree mornings [Editor’s note: Brasovan is based in Denver, Colo. area]. I’ve had to realize I’m probably not going to hit the same splits I would when it’s warmer out. The layers you’re wearing are heavier and there were a couple of workouts where I was dealing with snow and wind. It’s hard to compare times, so it’s been more about trusting the training rather than times.

Last time around [for the 2016 California International Marathon], my mileage was pretty low — around 65 miles a week. I felt fresh and undertrained going into the marathon. This fall, I tried to get up to 75-80 miles a week, which is probably still on the lower end of the marathon field that will be at CIM. I got sick a couple times and had some foot issues, so this cycle has been much more of a rocky road. I’ve had to trust in the process more, but the goal is always to make it to the starting line healthy. I feel more fit, but it’s hard to gauge exactly where I’m at because of the weather and other bumps this fall.

After a injury-plagued career at Duke, you took some time away from the sport. How did you find your way back?

Going from high school to college was a very hard transition. I was injured within two weeks of going to Duke. I didn’t run for the first two years there — injured straight through. I ran my last two years and tried to do a redshirt fifth year and got my fifth stress fracture. I came out of college really hating running and not wanting to compete ever again.

From there, I decided I needed to focus on my career and grad school. After grad school, I moved out to Colorado where I was running but wasn’t tracking mileage and learned to love the sport again. I had fun with it, met up with friends, and did some local club runs but no intense workouts.

When I moved out to Colorado, I saw a bunch of people competing and having fun. Matt Hensley, who’s from Florida and works for Roll Recovery now, offered to coach me and from there, he pushed me into some competitive races and to try to qualify for the Olympic Trials. [Editor’s note: Brasovan qualified for the 2016 Olympic Trials Marathon with a 1:14:30 half marathon run in January 2016.] Qualifying for the Trials was a breakthrough moment for me — it was the realization I could be back to where I was in high school and not be a complete burnout.

Everyone sees Colorado as this idyllic training hub. How did you find your way out there? 

Running is always on the back of your mind, but it was more of a career and lifestyle decision. I interned in D.C. for two summers and realized I didn’t want to do the 80-90 hour work weeks. I started looking at Colorado and really liked that everyone was super active and health conscious. I work in energy and sustainability, and Colorado is one of the leaders in the nation in what I wanted to go into career-wise. I also knew people from Duke and from running circles, so it was cool place to start over.

The college training environment can be awfully pressure packed. How has being outside of that helped you stay healthy and compete well?

I had a unique college experience. When I first got injured, my college coach made me see a nutritionist and endocrinologist who looked at my long-term health. My bone density wasn’t where it needed to be, and that’s something that can resonate with a lot of female distance runners. They told me, “If you want to run for the rest of your life, we need to sit you out the next year or two and focus on getting your weight up, your hormones back into check, and reversing all the damage you did in high school.” That was a reality check for me, and not a lot of colleges would care to do that. I contribute a lot of why I’m healthy now to those first couple years at Duke.

The academic stress, the stress of being on the team, the stress of having a scholarship all compiled on top of each other and put a lot of stress on myself. It’s a lot easier being out of that environment to train, stay healthy, and maintain a love for the sport.

Going into college as a Foot Locker champ has its own pressures. How did that impact your stress?

That definitely puts a bullseye on your back. If you win Foot Locker, you’re “the best” forever — people don’t forget that. My recruiting class was stacked — we had Madeline Morgan who won NTN and Juliet Bottorff who won the NCAA 10k. I was good, but everyone else was great, too. That was high pressure, and we probably pushed each other too much.

Now that you running is heading on the right track, what do you want to accomplish with the remainder of your competitive career?

This year, I won my first national title since high school [at the USATF Half Marathon Trail Championships]. That was rewarding. The goal for 2018 is to make a world team either in the short distance or long distance mountain running events. The goal for CIM is to qualify for the 2020 marathon trials and place higher than I did in 2016. Then after 2020, I’d reevaluate my goals. I still want to be competitive, win U.S. titles, and represent the U.S. on world teams.

Your foray into trail running is interesting. How did that happen, and how is the approach in trail running different from the roads?

It’s definitely a different sport. It’s easy to train for in Colorado  we’re already at 5000 or 6000 feet elevation and you drive an hour to run up mountains at 10,000 feet. My first mountain running race was this summer when we started at 10,000 feet, and the first two miles was a 2000 foot elevation rise to a ski basin. It was definitely a shock to the system.

The training is pretty ideal in Colorado. There’s definitely a culture for it out there with a lot of ultra and trail runners. I honestly didn’t realize it was a whole different sport and something you could do until I moved out there.

The races are much more by feel. You’re never racing the clock because the courses are these winding single-track trails, your GPS doesn’t work, the mile markers are off, so you really have to trust the process and let go of any time and just go on place and feel. It’s a cool concept that can be a hard transition from the roads.

November 14, 2017

Track, Ultra Specialists Converge for 26.2 Mile Showdown in Sacramento

Taking a look at the folks who are racing CIM who’ve succeeded at distances either shorter or longer than the marathon before the USATF Marathon Champs.

November 13, 2017

What One Marathon is Doing to Stop Race Cheaters

Road race cheating is something that’s probably happened since the dawn of the sport, but the topic appears to be as prevalent an issue as it’s ever been. Perhaps it’s due to the outing of infamous cheats like Kip Litton or Mike Rossi. Or it might be modern technology that allows sleuths like Marathon Investigation’s Derek Murphy to catch cheats.

Most races like the California International Marathon already have extensive results vetting processes, but they’re increasingly finding the need to do more.

“Over each of the last three years our Results Committee has spent over a month scouring our results, removing an average of 40-50 finishers — the majority of whom are not intentional cheaters — from the results before stamping them official in early January,” said Eli Asch, CIM’s race director. “Our intensive review includes looking at pace between split-points, reviewing missed split points, checking race photos and video, and several ‘state secret’ methods.”

Asch and his team determined this extensive process wasn’t enough, especially to uphold the integrity of CIM’s title as the number one Boston Marathon qualifier by percentage of any major American marathon. As a result, CIM is bringing on the aforementioned Marathon Investigator to bolster its results verification process.

And to show how serious CIM is about this stuff, Asch published a letter (you can read it below) sent to an individual caught posting on Craigslist attempting to find a bib mule to run a Boston qualifier at CIM.

“We published the letter for the deterrent factor. We’re intentionally not vocal about the outcome of our annual results scrub and because of that we felt that cheaters might not be aware of our efforts and still target our race,” Asch said. “We viewed this case as an opportunity to highlight our efforts so that cheaters would know that our race isn’t an easy target and instead look somewhere else — or better yet, other races will follow our lead, and soon cheaters won’t have any easy targets left.”

Marathon Investigator Derek Murphy recently joined Chris Chavez for a chat on the CITIUS MAG Podcast:

Hi [Redacted],

My name is Eli Asch, and I’m the Race Director of the California International Marathon. In conjunction with Marathon Investigation, our results integrity partner, we have determined that you sought out a bib mule to run a Boston Qualifier for you at the 2017 California International Marathon. 

Transferring your bib at all is a clear violation of our race rules, as stated on our Event Rules page (“The California International Marathon entry fees may not be transferred under any circumstances. Individuals involved in these illegal transactions will both be disqualified”) and in the waiver you signed with your registration (in which you acknowledged “that the entry fee paid is non-refundable and non-transferable”). Beyond being a clear violation of event rules, paying a bib mule to run a Boston Qualifier for you goes even several steps further — it compromises the integrity of our event and its results, is intentional and premeditated cheating, and goes against the very spirit of the marathon. It is unethical and wrong, and could result in robbing someone of a spot on the Boston Marathon starting line — a spot that they fairly earned.

In light of this, your entry for this year’s California International Marathon has been invalidated and you are banned from future editions of the California International Marathon. Additionally, the Sacramento Running Association will be sharing your information with Marathon Investigation, which maintains a flagged list of runners whose results deserve further scrutiny, as well as other running organizations including many major races in our region as well as the Boston Athletics Association, organizers of the Boston Marathon. Beyond that we will keep your personal information confidential (although we reserve the right to change that stance if your future actions necessitate it).

If you are willing to both fully cooperate with our investigation (which will include sharing with us the information of anyone who responded to your CraigsList post expressing interest in being your bib mule as well as any other information we may request) and not contest our above-stated findings, the Sacramento Running Association will consider reducing the term of your ban to three years, making you eligible to run SRA races again after the 2020 CIM.

[Redacted], as the #1 Boston Qualifier by percentage of any major American marathon, the California International Marathon takes the integrity of its results very seriously. We’re proud of the fact that so many of our runners clock PRs, Olympic Trials Qualifiers, and toe the starting line in Hopkinton every year. But that wouldn’t mean anything if we didn’t know that they earned it fairly. You attempted to subvert that, which is unacceptable — to us, but more importantly to every one of our runners whose results are earned honestly through sweat, sore muscles, and countless early morning miles run when it would just be easier to stay in bed.

It brings me no joy to send this email, because just the fact that I have to do so casts the slightest of shadows on every one of those runners’ hard-earned results — and, in fact, every marathoners’ results. But that is why I have to send it — and why the SRA has to issue this punishment. Because it’s our job to do everything we can within our power to remove that shadow, to assure that every time listed in our official results is honestly earned, to make sure that our marathoners can all hold their heads high knowing that their result is beyond reproach.

We hope that you realize what you did is wrong and won’t try to do it again. Then, next time you run a marathon, you’ll be able to look back at your results — whatever they may be — and, alongside your fellow marathoners, hold your head high, proud of what you’ve honestly accomplished and fairly earned.

Best regards,
Eli Asch
Race Director, California International Marathon

November 8, 2017

Katie Matthews, George Alex and Parker Stinson Among Rookies To Debut At USA Marathon Championships

Former NCAA standouts Katie Matthews, Alex George and Parker Stinson are among the stars making their debuts at the CIM/USA Marathon Championships.

November 7, 2017

Marathon Veterans Ready to Duel at USA Marathon Championships

The 2017 USATF Marathon Championships will feature a field of veterans that includes Fernando Cabada, Craig Leon and Janet Bawcom.

November 6, 2017

CITIUS MAG to be Official Media Partner of California International Marathon

Exicting news, Citwits. We’re proud to announce that we’re working with the good folks at the California International Marathon to be their official media partner as they host the USATF Marathon Championships on Sunday, December 3.

What exactly does “official media partner” mean?

It means CITIUS MAG will have first access to USA Champs-related content, including the unveiling of elite athlete fields starting tomorrow, November 7, right here on

The race will be live streamed on USATF.TV.

We’re especially excited since this is the first time we’ve worked with a single event to provide exclusive wall-to-wall coverage. That’ll include featuring some of the most compelling athletes in the field, talking with some of the folks behind the race organization, and covering every conceivable angle of race day on December 3.

As always, you’ll be able to find content on our site as well as on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram feeds.

Have thoughts about who or what we should be covering? Shoot me a tweet or DM at @RunLiao.

October 25, 2017

Louie Luchini on the Stanford “Machine,” Best Ryan Hall Story and Politics in the Age of Trump

Kevin Liao chats cross country and a hint of politics with former Stanford star and current Maine House of Representatives member Louie Luchini.

October 7, 2017

Three reasons Galen Rupp will win the Chicago Marathon

All eyes will be on Galen Rupp during Sunday’s Chicago Marathon so here’s a few reasons why he will win the race against a WR holder and silver medalist.

September 18, 2017

The Case for Wilson Kipsang To Win The Berlin Marathon

Former world record holder Wilson Kipsang will return to the Berlin Marathon for the third time in his career and here’s why he will win.

September 12, 2017

A turning point in the NOP vs. Bowerman rivalry

Andrew Bumbalough joined Woody Kincaid in the latest Price of a Mile pod and discussed how a prelim in 2012 may have changed the NOP vs. Bowerman rivalry.

August 28, 2017

Remembering David Torrence

Whether it was on the track or in life, the sky was the limit for David Torrence and that’s a fact that makes his death an even greater loss for us all.

August 23, 2017

NCAA Cross Country Coaches and Their NBA Equivalent

What once started as a bar conversation is now a blog post. Thinking of NCAA Cross Country coaches and their notable NBA equivalents.

August 13, 2017

U.S. Distance Running Excellence is Here to Stay

For years, American distance running was labeled as “on the rise.” With stars like Evan Jager, Ajee Wilson, Jenny Simpson and Paul Chelimo, the time is now.

August 11, 2017

Emma Coburn & Courtney Frerichs Shock the World

Americans Emma Coburn and Courtney Frerichs shocked the world on Friday with a spectacular one-two finish in the women’s 3000 meter steeplechase.

August 10, 2017

Kori Carter Gets Her Golden Moment

Through the ups-and-downs of her career, there’s always been reason to believe in Kori Carter. On Thursday, she became a world champion

August 9, 2017

Dissecting the Wild Ending To the Women’s 400 Meter Final

Unpacking the wild and crazy race that was the women’s 400m final at the world championships in London, which was won by Phyllis Francis.

August 8, 2017

Analyzing Evan Jager’s Steeplechase Bronze Medal Run

Evan Jager has found the formula on how to break the East Africans in the steeplechase. Sometimes, like in Rio de Janeiro or Monaco, it works better.

August 7, 2017

Instant Reaction: Jenny Simpson’s Tactical Brilliance Shines Again

No American runner has shown such a consistent championship pedigree than Jenny Simpson in the clutch at the world championships.

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