The biggest American name debuting in the women’s field is likely that of Emily Durgin. The past couple of years, Durgin has been a certified road warrior with a half marathon best of 1:07:54 and most recently a third-place finish at the USATF 10-mile Championships in 52:16. All signs are pointing towards a long and prosperous career going the full distance, but after Sunday fans won’t just have to speculate. I caught up with Emily on her way to a chiropractor appointment to hear more about training and how she is approaching New York.
THE LAP COUNT: We are only a few days out from our mutual debuts! How’s everything feeling?
EMILY DURGIN: I think I’m feeling good. I don’t know what I’m supposed to be feeling. I had my last little workout today in Flagstaff and it is starting to get pretty cold here, so I’m happy that the weather for New York looks warm because we really haven’t trained in cold weather until this week.
THE LAP COUNT: I love that perspective! I’m just seeing it slowly creep up every day.
EMILY DURGIN: I think everyone’s freaking out about it, but building up for a fall marathon, a lot of the build is in August and September. For a lot of our hard efforts and long runs, it definitely wasn’t cold. I think the weather will be perfect, but what do I know? I guess it’s all a little longer.
THE LAP COUNT: How did the buildup go and how different was it from when you were training for the half?
EMILY DURGIN: We really took a conservative approach. Even in the race, we are going to be conservative. But that being said, we still did a lot of the quality sessions. So a lot of my workouts kind of stayed the same as half marathon or a 10K-type training. I kept up with the faster mile repeats and k’s every week. And then we just incorporated a longer, long-run workout.
So one week that would look something like 8 to 10 miles of decent running pace. Change your shoes and then go and do an eight-mile tempo. And then the following week we would just do a steady, long run progression which started at 16 miles and got all the way up to 24. The biggest change was basically just more time on feet and a ten-mile warm-up rather than three.
THE LAP COUNT: Who’s been the key training partner or spiritual guide for this transition?
EMILY DURGIN: I was lucky to have Sarah Pagano and Paige Stoner for a good chunk of my training. But living in Flagstaff, you just have to be proactive. We have a group message of pretty much just all solo trainees and we’ll meet up for easy runs or doubles. And if you can get people for those things, then, you know, every once in a while I have to grind their work out myself.
THE LAP COUNT: So what’s been the hardest part? Are you tired all the time or is it just learning how to fuel? I love that video of you taking a bottle.
EMILY DURGIN: We definitely practice the fueling and honestly, who knows? The race might go differently. The hardest part for me is actually just grabbing you it off the table. The bottle in the video was cheap plastic so we got some squishier bottles now.
I was a little bit under-fueled early on in the build and have tweaked that. On my last 20-mile run, I was so diligent about taking it early on and felt good. That’s my goal for the marathon — just be very good about taking it. After 30k, it’s too late, so anything you’re taking is more just psychological. Your body’s not going to actually benefit from anything that late in the race, so you have to be good early.
THE LAP COUNT: Taking a step back, do you ever look back on your college career and think of what you’ve accomplished now and have to pinch yourself? Your eight-year progression is so steady. Did you always expect to be in the position you are now?
EMILY DURGIN: It’s a good question because I think that there have been a few special coaches since I was young who always saw this in me. They thought I could be top in the U.S. someday, but I didn’t see it in myself. I had ups and downs and I never focused on running as much as I have in the past few years. It just wasn’t as much of a priority.
Over the years I have dialed it in and realized what it takes to get to the next level. But I’m also super thankful for my college experience because, you know, who knows what would have happened if I was in a program that was super hardcore and had me running high mileage. Maybe I would have been better in college, but who knows if I would have still loved the sport like I do now. I’ve slowly improved and it’s fun to get better, but it’s not fun to get slower.
THE LAP COUNT: Was there a moment in your career that you could point to where you noticed something was changing?
EMILY DURGIN: The biggest one was probably after the COVID year. I went out and ran a 5k and 10k in California and got last in both of them. At this point in my life, running was my full-time career. When I signed a deal, I kind of went full-pro and COVID happened and I wasn’t running great, and it sucked after that. I remember driving home and thinking “I’m never going to race again unless I’m going to be in the front of the race.“ I just hated that — the petty claps, it was embarrassing. I’m not showing up to another race until I’m ready to run with these front women. The race meant nothing, but I had no joy in running these races and being dead last. So I said, ‘I’m going to keep doing this. I’m going to be in the mix.’
THE LAP COUNT: How do you define success for this weekend? Is it just don’t get anyone clapping because they feel sorry for you?
EMILY DURGIN: I’m not sure if Terrence is just trying to be super conservative with this one. But his only goal for me is to finish the race and be excited to do another one and feel like we had something more left.
THE LAP COUNT: That’s my goal!
EMILY DURGIN: You could be a coach.
THE LAP COUNT: A lot of that will be determined in the first half, right?
EMILY DURGIN: Yeah and he’s not going to be out there to hold my hand. But having him in my head wanting me to be pumped for the next one and not feeling like we’re dying will help. He has explained it’s like a poker game the first 16 miles. You don’t want to show anyone your cards. You want to be a ghost in the back and see what everyone else is doing. Just be hidden and be in the group and try to save as much energy for the end.
THE LAP COUNT: That’s some sage advice!
EMILY DURGIN: There’s really nothing to lose. Technically there could be some money I guess.
THE LAP COUNT: I don’t get any of that.
EMILY DURGIN: No matter what, the sun is still going to come up the next day and life will go on. And like my boyfriend tells me, nobody really cares.
THE LAP COUNT: We all need to be reminded of that sometimes.
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