Gwen Talks About Marathon

Gwen Jorgensen and I talked about her switch to the marathon from triathlon. Moving from tri to a single sport has worked very well for women, but to cycling, not to running. Cycling world champions Emma Pooley, Kristin Armstrong and many other top female cyclists moved to cycling because, as Ms. Pooley put it to me, triathlon invited them to ride bikes, while bike racing didn’t.

The move to pure running has been less successful, for both men and women alike. There were exceptions. Mexican duathlete Benjamin Paredes became a pure runner and rose to be an Olympian, second in the New York City Marathon in 2:11:23.

Probably the most successful woman to make the change to pure run was the Portuguese great Vanessa Fernandes, clocking PRs of 32:11 for 10,000 meters, 1:12:37 for the half-marathon, and 2:31:25 for the marathon. Just this past weekend Italian triathlete Sara Dossena finished 6th in the NYC Marathon in 2:29:39. Ms. Dossena was a runner turned triathlete turned runner. Just like Ms. Jorgensen. Just like Mr. Paredes. One wonders whether a triathlon intermezzo can be helpful in the progression from good-to-great runner.

SLOWTWITCH: For some reason, I guess I would have thought the half-marathon would be your best event. Don’t ask me why I could to that conclusion. Are you stepping to the marathon because you think it’s your best event, or because it’s a marquis event and the ultimate running challenge?

GWEN JORGENSEN: I have always been motivated by the Olympics and the marathon is such an iconic event of the Olympics. It was one of the original events and I believe is the pinnacle of the Olympics. Who knows what event is my best as I haven't ever fully explored running.

ST: Shalane Flanagan or Jordan Hasay might have been best at 10,000 meters or even 1,500 meters yet have stepped up to become great marathoners.

GJ: Shalane definitely motivates me and she shows, along with others like Amy Cragg, Des Linden, and Meb Keflezighi that to be successful in the marathon you have to have heart, grit, and determination. It won't be easy, but it's an event that you can't get by on talent. You need to work your butt off and if training doesn't go well it will show on race day. I'm excited by this sort of challenge. I also love how committed the fans are. When I ran the NYC marathon the entire course was lined with people cheering. That sort of encouragement and passion about the sport of marathon is inspiring.

ST: Sara Dossena just placed 6th in New York City, in 2:29. It seems to me that she is a better runner off cross training than she is when she is a pure runner. You could say the same of Lukas Verzbicas and, really, you could say the same of you. How do you see that? Do you think you’ll be a cross training marathoner or will you fall into more of a traditional run program?

GJ: I improved my run a ton the past quad with swimming and biking and less running, however, this will not be the case as I tackle the marathon. I believe the key to making world championship or Olympic team is consistent work in that discipline. I will have to take risks and I will need to run well over 100 miles a week. I will be running close to triple what I was running while training for triathlon, but my swimming and biking will be cut out. The most important thing will be staying healthy and I'll be doing loads of pre-hab.

ST: You do very well in enclave environments. I think most athletes do. Will you seek a running group to train with, as was your habit as a triathlete, whether in Boulder, Albuquerque, Tucson, Eugene or wherever that leads you?

GJ: I learned from my time with [her longtime triathlon coach] Jamie [Turner} and the [Wollongong] Wizards that I need to be in a daily performance environment with the best athletes and coach.

ST: Who will coach you? What sort of mileage do you envision running?

GJ: I am still finalizing my coach, however I know that I need to be surrounded by the best and need to be in a daily performance environment where I face my competitors on a daily basis.

ST: Who do you admire, as a runner? Past or present, male or female?

GJ: Meb Keflezighi is a huge inspiration. He has given the sport of running such emotion, love, and growth. You can see the love he has for the sport in everything he does and I feel honored to have met him, talked to him, and heard in give speeches. I am also motivated that at 42 he is still competitive, makes me believe I could have 11 years left in the sport. I also look up to Shalane Flanagan. She's an icon in the sport and works her butt off. She's been dedicated to the sport of running for so many years and I love following her.