October 12, 2023
"I want to be on a podium again at a world major, I want to fight for a medal someday, or at least give myself a shot. And I want to be on another Olympic team. Those are the things that get me out of bed."
U.S. marathon record holder Emily Sisson is back for her fourth time on the show. She just finished in as the top American and seventh overall at the Chicago Marathon in 2:22:09 despite battling a side stitch for the final eight miles. Unfortunately, the broadcast did not show much of Sisson’s race for the second consecutive year.
Last year, she broke the American record in 2:18:29 on the course and we had her on the podcast to unpack that race. We’re keeping the tradition alive here and breaking down how it all played out for her.
Sisson will now enjoy a break and then prepare for the 2024 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials on February 3rd in Orlando, where she will try to make her second Olympic team and her first as a marathoner. She’s part of a group of athletes meeting with USA Track and Field to try and adjust the start time so it’s not at noon in the potential heat and humidity of Orlando so we discuss that a bit and who she may be watching heading into the race.
Host: Chris Chavez | @chris_j_chavez on Instagram
Guest: Emily Sisson | em_sisson_ on Instagram
Johnny Pace / @PacePhoto
You broke down that you wanted this weekend to be about competing. So how do you feel that you competed in this race?
“I meant it, I was genuine. I didn't in the back of my head think, ‘I really want to lower the record’. If it took lowering the record to finish as the top American—and I knew it was within reaching distance and I could try and get on the podium—that would’ve been great, but that would’ve been along the way. That wasn’t the focus.
Going in I wanted to focus on running in a pack. That was really important to me because a lot of races I do I’m not really running in packs and it’s different… I wanted to get used to competing against another American woman that’s running next to me.”
What brings you the most excitement in racing?
“I just love racing in general. I love switching up the distance and I know there's this story that I only like flat, fast races but that's not true. I like switching up the types of races I do.
I would say though that I feel less pressure when I'm competing internationally, so that allows for maybe a little bit more enjoyment… The hardest part of it is the pressure to make the team. And then when you're there, you're not there to have a good time—you're there to compete against the world stage. So it's not the same kind of pressure.”
How has your motivation for the marathon changed now that you're the American record holder? Does it feel any different when you're on that starting line and you already hold the record?
“It's not that I don't want to run faster because I do, but it's just not what motivates me to get out of bed in the morning. I want to be on a podium again at a world major, I want to finish in the top three, I want to fight for a medal someday, or at least give myself a shot. And I want to be on another Olympic team. Those are the things that get me out of bed.”
The first half of the race, how did things feel when Emma was there, Matt was there, and you were basically just clicking them off?
“I was hoping Emma and I would push each other because racing other American women will bring something out in you. When you only have pacers, you probably aren’t getting that same competitive drive. Unfortunately we both had things go wrong that day—but that's the marathon. You handle it as well as you can and then you hopefully bounce back and learn from it and come back stronger.”
How painful was it? How did it compare in terms of just the pain and the lead in your legs at the end?
“It was tough. I remember feeling very uncomfortable. It felt like a constant cramp. I remember when it started to hit, I was like, ‘okay, we only have eight miles to go’…
I just took it mile by mile and tried to focus on my breathing and focus on staying relaxed. So it was uncomfortable, but I think there are some races where I feel great and things feel smooth and easy and there are other races where really early on you don't feel good and you just have to accept that today's a grind and you acknowledge that. So that's what I accepted with eight miles to go, that this is going to be a grind and I've done that before.”
What is the lesson on surviving from the American record holder? Because you can have an off day too.
“The one general piece of advice I give is to just enjoy the parts you're feeling good and when you hit a rough patch, take it mile by mile. And that's what I did in the race. I enjoyed the parts I felt good and then I just kept counting down. Because in my head I'm like, ‘I can always run one more mile’. And that's what I did. When I got to mile 25, I was like, ‘okay, almost there.”
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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.