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February 26, 2018

Mt. Rushmore of U.S. Women’s Marathoners: Did Amy Cragg Just Snag A Spot?

Over the weekend, Amy Hastings-Cragg clocked a massive personal best with her third place finish in 2:21:42 at the 2018 Tokyo Marathon. Her previous personal best was 2:27:03 from her debut at the Los Angeles Marathon back in 2011. Her new time puts her at No. 5 on the U.S. all-time list behind Deena Kastor, Jordan Hasay, Shalane Flanagan and Joan Benoit Samuelson.

We stumbled upon a tweet from Sam Grotewold, a senior manager with the professional athletes at New York Road Runners, and he said: “HOT TAKE: @HastyHastings is now in pantheon of US all-time greats. 2X OT champ, WC medal, 2:21 PB.”

This got us thinking about the U.S. women’s marathon Mt. Rushmore. It’s one that’s robust and doesn’t have much room for change. Let’s run through it.

The locks

Joan Benoit Samuelson: There’s no argument against Joanie being on there since she was the first Olympic gold medalist in the women’s marathon in 1984. She once held the American record and world record. Her time of 2:21:21 from the 1985 Chicago Marathon still holds up.

Deena Kastor: She’s the American record holder with her 2:19:36. She’s got the bronze medal from the 2004 Olympics in Athens. She won the 2006 London Marathon. She pretty much led the resurgence in American marathoning.


Shalane Flanagan: She’s been the U.S. marathoning star since moving up to the 26.2-mile distance in 2010. She’s run the marathon at two Olympics. Her personal best of 2:21:14 was the second-fastest by an American from 2014 to 2017 and currently sits at No. 3. Her victory at the 2017 New York City Marathon ended a years-long drought for American women at that race and further cemented herself in the pantheon of American distance running.

The Last Spot

There’s only four faces on Mt. Rushmore so that leaves us with just one spot. This one is the most flexible but Cragg may have snagged it.

Cragg has been running the marathon since 2011. She was fourth at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials at what was just her second career marathon at the time. She just missed the podium at a major marathon with her fourth place finish at the 2014 Chicago Marathon – where she also matched her personal best down to the second. Her big breakthrough came in the past three years. She won the 2016 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials and then finished ninth at the Olympics in Rio. Clearly in the best shape of her life, she rode the momentum into 2017 and it paid off with a bronze medal finish at the IAAF World Championships in London. This weekend’s race in Tokyo notched her the personal best to be among the fastest of all-time. If there was ever any doubt, she now has the time and the hardware to compete with the best of them.

The counterargument can be made for Jordan Hasay, since she is the second-fastest of all-time with her 2:20:57 from the 2017 Chicago Marathon but what she’s lacking so far is either a major victory or a medal from a world championships or Olympics. Hasay has never made an Olympic team on the track or on the roads but that could change come 2020.

Desi Linden also has a very strong case. We detailed her longevity and consistent success near the top of U.S. Marathoning. She has a stronger case than Hasay because she’s made two Olympic teams and strung together several top five finishes at the Boston Marathon.

Kara Goucher is another name that comes to mind when a lot of people think of top U.S. marathoners. She has a medal on the track, so she’s definitely one of the best American distance runners, but if we focus on just the marathon than maybe Cragg and Linden have surpassed her. Goucher’s personal best is a strong 2:24:52. She made the 2012 Olympic marathon team and then finished 10th in London. She was also third in that 2008 New York City Marathon.

She’s ahead of Hasay still but maybe just misses the Mt. Rushmore cut.

What do you think?

We want to hear from you. Tweet @CITIUSMAG with your Mt. Rushmore of U.S. women’s marathoners. The beautiful thing here is that it’s a tough argument because the Americans have been thriving of late. 

Here are some of the replies from readers and contributors:

Jesse Squire (@tracksuperfan): I’d give the last spot to Lisa Larsen/Weidenbach/Rainsberger. Won Chicago twice and Boston once, 3rd at London. 4th at Olympic Trials three times in a row (84-88-92).”

Kevin Wall (@Kwallcuse): “Joan, Deena, Shalane and Kathrine Switzer”

Kevin Liao (@RunLiao): “Joanie, Deena and Shalane are locks. Fourth spot is so tough. Let’s leave it blank for Hasay/Linden/Cragg for fight for.”

Ben Hall (@inlinegeek): “Look a little past this decade – Miki Gorman, Jacqueline Hansen, Lisa Rainsberger, Kim Jones”

BQChat (@Bqrally): “@KVSwitzer is at least in the conversation.”

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