Gwen Jorgensen

Gwen Jorgensen
Talbot Cox

Gwen Jorgensen, Olympic triathlon champion, to focus on track trials

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Gwen Jorgensen isn’t letting go of her marathon goals. Her timeline is just changing.

Heel surgery forced Jorgensen, who converted to distance running after winning the Rio Olympic triathlon, to pass up the Feb. 29 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials and focus on the track and field trials in June in the 10,000m and, probably, the 5000m.

She made the decision after recent talks with her coach, Jerry Schumacher, following a difficult recovery from late May surgery to correct Haglund’s deformity.

“The decision was basically coming to the conclusion with Jerry that, if I went to the marathon trials, I would just be hoping to qualify instead of confident in my abilities,” said Jorgensen, who returned to workouts four weeks ago and is up to 70 to 80 miles a week in training, but not the 100-plus necessary ahead of a 12-week marathon build-up. “I talked to Jerry, and I said, look, I still want to do the marathon. That’s where my heart is, but I also don’t want to do it if we don’t think I’m going to be ready. He thinks that I’ll be ready for the track trials.

“I believe I will make the team on the track.”

Jorgensen was arguably the most dominant triathlete in history in the Rio Olympic cycle, winning a record 13 straight top-level events — going undefeated for nearly two years — en route to becoming the first U.S. gold medalist in the event.

Then in 2017, she had baby Stanley and, having accomplished every triathlon goal, announced a sport switch with a goal to win the Olympic marathon.

She moved from Minnesota to Oregon. She ran one marathon, placing 11th in 2:36:23 in Chicago in October 2018 after a weeklong fever. Then she began feeling heel pain. She tried to train through it but hasn’t raced since.

“I wouldn’t say I’m 100 percent recovered, but I walk around and I no longer have a limp,” said the 33-year-old Jorgensen, who still hopes to win a World Marathon Major or an Olympic marathon, but now in the Paris Olympic cycle. “I have a lot more good days than bad days.”

Meanwhile, U.S. female marathoning boomed the last few years. Shalane Flanagan won the New York City Marathon (and since retired). Des Linden won the Boston Marathon (and hasn’t committed to racing trials).

Jordan Hasay, Sara Hall, Emily Sisson and Kellyn Taylor, all bidding for their first Olympic team, broke into the top nine on the U.S. all-time marathon list.

Jorgensen has never focused on the track as a professional athlete, but there is more of an opening for an Olympic spot than on the roads.

The U.S.’ two fastest 10,000m runners in this Olympic cycle, Sisson and Molly Huddle, are both expected to race the marathon trials. Generally, runners who make the Olympic marathon team pass on the track trials. But stars who don’t finish in the top three at marathon trials often turn to the 10,000m, and there are several accomplished women who will not make the marathon team of three.

Jorgensen is optimistic. Largely because Schumacher, who leads the successful Bowerman Track Club, believes in her. Also because of her seventh-place finish at the 2018 USATF Outdoor Championships 10,000m, which she entered as a complement to her marathon work, coming off an altitude stint that she called the worst training of her life and having been affected by recently stopping breast feeding.

“I remember going into that thinking, I’m not prepared, I shouldn’t do this race,” Jorgensen said. “I was actually kind of happy how that race went.”

Jorgensen said Schumacher has not told her when she will return to racing. She will have altitude training in early January, which usually means a meet in mid-February.

One thing Jorgensen is sure of: she will not return to the sport that she dominated as recently as three years ago.

She said she never considered it in the difficult last year. Not once when she did swim and bike workouts because her heel would not allow her to run. Not when asked by her husband, Patrick Lemieux. Nor when asked by other family members.

“The answer is always, I’ve never thought I wanted to go back to triathlon,” she said. “Which is good. It means I made the right decision in wanting to do this.

“In triathlon, I reached my potential, I achieved all my goals, and in running I haven’t.”

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MORE: 2019 U.S., world marathon rankings

Mo Farah wins Chicago Marathon

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Mo Farah, the greatest track distance runner of the last decade, notched his first 26.2-mile win, taking the Chicago Marathon on Sunday.

Farah, a four-time Olympic champion between the 5000m and 10,000m, clocked 2:05:11 in the rain, smashing the European record of 2:05:48. He won by 13 seconds, kicking away from Ethiopian Mosinet Geremew in the last mile.

Pre-race favorites American Galen Rupp (2:06:21) and Geoffrey Kirui of Kenya (2:06:45) were fifth and sixth.

“We wasn’t sure about the pace because conditions wasn’t great. Everybody was thinking about position, not time,” Farah said. “I could have gone a lot faster.”

Kenyan Brigid Kosgei won the women’s race in 2:18:35. Ethiopians Roza Dereje and Shure Demise were second and third in 2:21:18 and 2:22:15, respectively.

The event lost luster after Jordan Hasay, the second-fastest U.S. female marathoner ever, and 2017 World bronze medalist Amy Cragg withdrew beforehand for health reasons.

Gwen Jorgensen, the 2016 Olympic triathlon champion, was 11th in 2:36:23 in her second marathon and first since switching sports last year. Jorgensen must drop significantly into the 2:20s at the 2020 Olympic Trials for a chance at the three-woman team for Tokyo.

MORE: Chicago Marathon Results

In his third career marathon, Farah padded his argument as one of the greatest runners in history. Farah won 10 Olympic and world titles between 5000m and 10,000m from 2011 through 2017 before moving full-time to the marathon.

Farah debuted at 26.2 miles in 2014, placing eighth in London in 2:08:21, then went back to track racing. In his return to the marathon in April, he was third in London in 2:06:21, breaking the British record.

Farah noted he was ranked eighth in the Chicago field by personal best going into the race.

“I think I was expected definitely to finish in the top three. That was the aim,” he said.

Farah has ways to go to scale marathoning like he did track racing. Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge has been in a class of his own for a few years, most recently smashing the world record in Berlin three weeks ago in 2:01:39.

“Eliud’s definitely a better athlete, in the marathon,” Farah said, adding that he’ll probably race the London Marathon again in April (which Kipchoge also usually races). “Depends on what happens next couple of years, if he slows down or if he continues to keep going up, running certain times. But I’m not afraid of turning up in the same field as him, race against him, test him out.”

Farah is firmly in the second tier. So is Rupp.

Rupp, who formerly trained with Farah, dropped from the leaders around mile 19. Rupp earned the Rio Olympic marathon bronze medal and last year became the first U.S. male runner to win Chicago since 2002.

“My goal was to win, but I ran as best as I could,” Rupp said. “I just got to give credit to Mo and all the other guys that beat me.”

Kirui was shed from the leading group near mile 20. Kirui won the 2017 Boston Marathon, edging Rupp, and the 2017 World title.

Jorgensen, 32, said a pre-race goal was to not go faster than 5:40/mile pace (or a 2:28:34 marathon). She started at 5:47/mile and slowed significantly around mile 20 and finished struggling at 6:48/mile pace.

“I am, I’d say gutted, very disappointed,” Jorgensen said, adding that she had a fever all week but has raced really well while ill before.

She found husband Pat Lemieux and told him, “Oh my goodness, I’m really questioning what the heck I’m doing,” referencing leaving triathlon at the top of the sport for the marathon challenge. Jorgensen lacked motivation in Olympic-distance triathlon after winning everything and did not want to follow other Olympic medalists to the Ironman distance.

Given time to reflect, she forges ahead. Jorgensen remembered that she was lapped out of her first World Triathlon Series race in 2011 and then finished second two races later.

“I was able to get up to 120 miles a week [in training],” she said, noting a positive. “Earlier in the year I couldn’t even hit 100. I feel like I’m trending in the right way.”

American Tatyana McFadden‘s streak of Chicago Marathon wheelchair titles ended at seven straight. The 17-time Paralympic medalist finished seventh, nearly 15 minutes behind Swiss winner Manuela Schar.

Daniel Romanchuk, a 20-year-old American, won his first major marathon wheelchair title, edging Swiss Marcel Hug by one second in 1:31:34.

The fall major marathon season concludes with the New York City Marathon on Nov. 4.

The New York fields are led by defending champions Shalane Flanagan (the first U.S. female runner to win the five-borough race in 40 years) and Kenyan Geoffrey Kamworor. Also entered: Boston Marathon winner Des Linden, two-time track Olympian Molly Huddle and 43-year-old Bernard Lagat, a five-time track Olympian in his marathon debut.

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Gwen Jorgensen, Olympic triathlon champion, sets second marathon

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Gwen Jorgensen, the first U.S. Olympic triathlon champion, will race her second marathon in Chicago on Oct. 7 as she prepares to bid for Tokyo 2020 on the road.

Jorgensen, 32, joins a Chicago Marathon field that includes Jordan Hasay, the second-fastest U.S. female marathoner in history, and world bronze medalist Amy Cragg.

Jorgensen made her marathon debut in New York City on Nov. 6, 2016, two and a half months after winning the Rio Olympic triathlon.

The former University of Wisconsin runner was 14th in 2 hours, 41 minutes, 1 second, more than 16 minutes behind the winner, on limited marathon training.

She said this Chicago Marathon will be her first “real marathon,” according to Runner’s World.

In 2017, Jorgensen gave birth to son Stanley Lemieux and announced her move from triathlon to road running with an ultimate goal of marathon gold in Tokyo.

She returned to racing Feb. 10 and was seventh in the 10,000m at the USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships on June 21.

To make the Tokyo Olympic team, Jorgensen must finish in the top three at the Olympic Trials on Feb. 29, 2020 in Atlanta.

It might be the most difficult U.S. Olympic marathon team to make of all time. The field should include not only Hasay and Cragg, but also possibly Shalane Flanagan and Des Linden, who won the most recent New York City and Boston Marathons, and 10,000m American record holder Molly Huddle.

“I believe I can still do it, and I remind myself of what I was like in my first triathlon year,” Jorgensen, who transitioned from an Ernst & Young accountant to become a pro triathlete in 2010 and 2011, said, according to SI.com. “The second year, I was at the [2012] Olympics.”

The Chicago Marathon men’s field is headlined by four-time Olympic track champion Mo Farah and defending champion and double U.S. Olympic medalist Galen Rupp.

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