One of this year’s top contenders in the Boston Marathon’s American elite women’s field is Jordan Hasay, the speedy 26-year-old who ran the fastest American female marathon debut on the course last year—by nearly three minutes—when she placed third in 2:23:00. Concrete facts like that and like Hasay’s standing as one of only three American women to ever complete a half marathon in under 68 minutes should imply that spectators know who to expect to take the lead during Monday’s race. But with the fiercest women’s elite field in the Boston Marathon’s storied 122-year history—including those other two sub-68-minute half marathoners, Deena Kastor and Molly Huddle—that’s simply not the case.
Hasay began setting records on the track as a high school freshman and went on to become a two-time Foot Locker National Cross Country Champion, a mere buildup to the 18 all-American titles she collected while running for the University of Oregon. She’s been competing on high-level national and international stages since going pro, but last year was really the time when her aptitude for longer endurance races gained notice. After scoring top 10 finishes at the Aramco Houston Half Marathon and the Prague Half Marathon and third-place finishes at two Abbott World Marathon Majors (Boston and Chicago), Hasay has ticked her finish times closer and closer to that of her competitors. In fact, her Chicago Marathon finish time was actually 17 seconds faster than Shalane Flanagan’s marathon personal best.
So what can we expect to see when these marathoners dash to the finish line on Monday? The race itself will be full of excitement, for sure, but there’s another element of drama that’s hovering over the professional fields, specifically in regards to Hasay and her Nike Oregon Project teammate, Galen Rupp. Neither Hasay nor Rupp have ever been accused of using performance-enhancing drugs—full stop. But their coach, Alberto Salazar, has been. In an article published by the Boston Globe on April 12, ongoing investigations into doping allegations against Salazar were thrust back into public memory, dragging Hasay’s and Rupp’s names along just days before the biggest marathon of 2018 is to take place.
It’s a significant amount of added pressure for the athletes at a time when pre-race pressure is already high. But at a press conference on April 13, Hasay didn’t appear bothered. Surrounded by a throng of reporters, with every one of her competitors in close proximity, Hasay answered questions about her training and race preparation patiently, smiling through it all. “I feel confident now,” Hasay said. “I’m honored to be part of this race. I get goosebumps when I tell people, ‘I’m running on Monday.’”
Every runner has a reason for tackling a new distance, race or time, but Hasay’s reason for running taps into a deep, emotional level. She ran Boston last year as a tribute to her late mother, who passed away abruptly in 2016, and will again run in her memory. “Everyone has their little thing they’re fighting for,” Hasay said. “When you’re out there, you endure lots of pain, and you obviously need to have something you’re running for.”
From her early days of teenage success to her lightning-fast trajectory, professional complications with the Nike Oregon Project and the drive behind her last year of racing, there’s a lot to think about with Hasay’s story—and hers isn’t the only one. As every pro prepares to toe the line on Monday morning, many are likely reflecting on the paths that led them to this point, the battles they fought and will fight to make it on past and future podiums.
Rain or shine, this marathon is shaping up to be one of the best ever for the American women’s team–and every member of that team is dreaming of breaking the tape. “Everyone’s going to be cheering for Team USA,” Hasay said. “My goal this year is to go for the win.”