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The race began slowly. For the first two miles, the 23 women in the field moved as a unit, separated by inches rather than feet. It’s like they were running on top of each other. It’s a delicate act to run in a pack like that—to hold your position without panicking, to deal with the suffocating feeling of being surrounded without reacting impulsively or getting tripped up. No one wants spikes colliding with skin, resulting in bloody shins for the remainder of the 12-and-a-half laps.
At the two-mile mark, less than two seconds separated first and last. But then things changed. Karissa Schweizer cranked down the pace by eight seconds a lap with a mile remaining. Everybody sped up, but four women separated from the group in the front.
Schweizer led. Elise Cranny, Emily Infeld, and Weini Kelati followed her. Their pace was steady for the entire last mile: 66 seconds per lap. The race became about who could hold on; Kelati fell off. In the final 100 meters, Cranny and Infeld both tried to push into the lead. They were three wide down the homestretch.
Cranny came out on top, winning in 15:49.15. Schweizer was second in 15:49.32, and Infeld rounded out the worlds team in third in 15:49.42. Less than three-tenths of a second separated the three women—that’s about how much time it takes to blink twice.
When asked if she knew she was capable of beating Schweizer, her training partner, Cranny said, “My buildup was a little rocky, and seeing Karissa dominate the 10K and then race well in the 1500 and look so good in practice, I wasn’t sure. My focus wasn’t ever really on the outcome. It was more about sticking on Karissa and seeing how close that could get me to the finish line.”
Cranny chose to scratch from the 10,000-meter U.S. championships about a month ago, and we asked if it affected her confidence at all. “There were definitely times in college where I went to the line dreading the race, like ‘This is going to be super painful,’” Cranny told Women’s Running. “But today was fun. Even when it’s hard it’s fun.”
For Infeld, who finished fourth in the 10K champs last month, today completed her redemption arc. She said she planned on being bolder for this race. She wanted to make sure the lead never got away from her, and it didn’t.
Infeld praised the flexibility of her new coach, Jon Green, in shaping her training plan. She said she’s really been working on her speed and has even written her workouts herself over the past few weeks. Infeld recently left Nike’s Bowerman Track Club, citing the constantly intense and relatively rigid training; she has a lot more autonomy now.
“I’ve been doing this long enough,” she said. “I know the workouts I need to give myself confidence.”
Cranny and Infeld covered the final mile in 4:25. If it were an open mile, it’d be a personal best for Infeld; she’s never officially run under 4:30. “I’m still fast. I can close really well. I have to remind myself I have roots as a miler,” she said.
Infeld is the only American to win a medal in the 10K at a World Championships in 15 years. In that race, she ran the last lap in 61 seconds. She thinks she’s getting back to that place.
“I never take for granted making a team,” Infeld said. “I wanted to make this team so badly because Worlds are in Oregon.” Next month, when athletes from all over the world come to Eugene, Infield will just have a short trip down the road. She might even sleep in her own bed.