February 7, 2024
"I'm excited to be back there because you never know how many chances you get to represent the U.S. on the global stage... I try to really savor the moments when something big happens and just really take advantage of the opportunity."
American record holder Emily Sisson, who finished second in this year’s U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in 2:22:42, re-joins the show. She finished behind Fiona O’Keeffe and ahead of Dakotah Lindwurm, which is your team for the Paris Olympics.
In this episode, we recap Emily’s race and how she overcame some struggles of her own yet kept her composure to qualify for her second Olympics. This will be the first time that she runs the marathon at the Summer Games.
She shares some insights into covering key moves during the race, strategy talk with Keira D’Amato beforehand and a little bit on the sisterhood of American women’s marathoning greats.
Host: Chris Chavez | @chris_j_chavez on Instagram
Guest: Emily Sisson | @em_sisson on Instagram
Johnny Zhang / @jzsnapz
The following interview excerpt has been edited lightly for clarity. You can listen to the full interview with Emily Sisson on the CITIUS MAG Podcast – available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you get your shows.
CITIUS MAG: In terms of recovery, how did this marathon compare to your past marathons?
Emily Sisson: Every marathon has its own story. I've come out of them and gone into them all a little differently. So this one, I actually feel good apart from having sore quads. I know it was warm, but I didn't feel like that affected me that much. I feel like I handled the heat well so I was happy about that. There's been some marathons, like my debut, where I actually injured myself 15 minutes before the start of it. So coming out of it, I was dealing with that injury.
Then in Chicago, when I set the record, I actually came out of that one pretty well too. But they've all been different. Every marathon has been its own unique experience and story. I’ll never assume I know it all when it comes to the marathon.
CITIUS MAG: How are pre-race moments different between major marathons and the Olympic Marathon Trials?
Emily Sisson: I actually didn't think it was too different from what I had to do pre-race in Chicago. The biggest difference is it’s just more intense. There's more pressure. It just feels very black and white with the trials. It's top three or not. Whereas in any other major marathon, there's more room for nuance. You can have a bit of an off day, like I did in Chicago this past fall, and still feel overall pretty good about it and still walk away with some good takeaways.
But at the trials, it just feels a little bit more intense for that reason. You just really hope that you have a good day and that things click and that you can finish in the top three. I think that's where a lot of the pressure comes from.
CITIUS MAG: Did you feel pressure to make this team since you’ve already made an Olympic team before?
Emily Sisson: I really wanted to qualify in the marathon. That was something I've always dreamt of doing – getting to represent the U.S. at the Olympics in the marathon… I was talking a bit earlier about how it feels so all or nothing, black and white. You make the team or you don't. I actually got another side stitch and my side started to cramp and clench and I was like, ‘No, I thought we figured this out. I didn't think this was going to happen.’ I got a little bit down for a minute because I was like, ‘I don't know if this is going to be my day.’
But instead of thinking all or nothing, Olympic team or bust, I just started breaking the race down and started making all these process goals where I was like, ‘It might not be your day, but let's see how long you can hang on for. Let's see how long you can, no pun intended, gut this out this time and stick with it…’ So when I finished, I was elated because early in the race, I actually didn't think it was going to happen. I say it's black and white, but I think when you take a step back and kind of break it down, that's probably the best way that I can handle something that carries a lot of pressure with it...
I feel like if I hadn't done Chicago, I wouldn't have known what to do. I think that just validates to me the importance of experience. I always feel like the more I do something, that's how I typically gain the most confidence – through trial and error, just experience. If I hadn't done Chicago, I wouldn't have had an experience to draw off of.
CITIUS MAG: When you look back at this race, what are you most proud of? What are the benchmarks for success that you take away from this race?
Emily Sisson: I'm proud of the decisions I made. I'm proud of how I handled (the side stitch) early on… (Deena Kastor) talks all about having a positive mindset when you feel negative thoughts creeping in and seeing what you can do to either reframe them or turn things around. When I looked at her, I was like, ‘What would Dina do? That's kind of when I snapped into action and felt a lot more positive and upbeat about things as things improved along the course.
I'm proud of that and I'm just proud to make another Olympic team. I don't know how many track and field athletes make a second Olympic team. It's just so tough. I'm just really excited for it and overall really happy.
CITIUS MAG: What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned from the past four years?
Emily Sisson: I've learned that I'll never know it all - so just keep learning, keep trying to figure out what works for me and just have an open mind. I'm constantly learning about the marathon and about my training and what really works and clicks for me…
I'm excited to be back there because you never know how many chances you get to represent the U.S. on the global stage. I feel like I've been really fortunate in my career and I've gotten a lot of really cool opportunities, but still - they don't happen often. So I try to really savor the moments when something big happens, when I qualify for a team, and just really take advantage of the opportunity.
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Chris Chavez launched CITIUS MAG in 2016 as a passion project while working full-time for Sports Illustrated. He covered the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and grew his humble blog into a multi-pronged media company. He completed all six World Marathon Majors and is an aspiring sub-five-minute miler.