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Week in Review: Laura Muir Wins New Balance Fifth Avenue Mile in Record Time

Plus, Janelle Lincks wins Cirque Series and Hellen Obiri wins Great North Run Half Marathon.

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Scottish runner Laura Muir concluded her best season as a professional runner with one of the best races of her career at Sunday’s New Balance Fifth Avenue Mile in New York City.

Run along a 20-block section of what is known as Museum Mile, the Fifth Avenue Mile is the world’s largest and most prestigious road mile. However, runners had to be careful on wet pavement from rainfall that fell in the hours before the race.

The wet surface didn’t inhibit Muir, who hails from Inverness, Scotland, was running as boldly as she has all season. She was the 1,500m silver medalist at last year’s Tokyo Olympics and the bronze medalist at the 2022 World Athletics Championships in Oregon in July, but she also won the European and Commonwealth 1,500m titles this summer. After running the first half of the race at the front of a large pack of women, the 29-year-old blasted away from the field at the halfway point to win in a new race record of 4:14.8. 

Muir carefully planned her mid-race attack with coach Andy Young. They decided to bluff the field midway through the race where Muir would appear to be going for the halfway prime of $1,000 before she would surely slow down to her regular race rhythm.

More than 8,500 runners participated this year, making it the second largest field in the event’s 41-year history.

“We went out yesterday and looked at it and marked out where the halfway point was,” Young told Race Results Weekly.  “I said, ‘if you go here (you) break the field apart.  If you do that, it’s like a double bluff.  The people will think you’re going for the halfway mark.  You’re going to catch them by surprise and keep going.'”

Muir did exactly that.  She rapidly built a huge lead and her key rivals realized quickly that she wasn’t coming back.

“I was like, well, Laura really wants the halfway bonus,” said American Nikki Hiltz who was the second finisher in the women’s elite race in 4:17.4. “I thought she was just going to skirt ahead to get the bonus, but she just never looked back. I was like, ‘she’s not slowing down.’”

Just before breaking the finish tape with her victory well in hand, the exhausted Muir eased up her pace just slightly.  Had she slowed just a bit more she might have missed breaking Jenny Simpson’s event record of 4:16.1 set in 2019.  She said later that winning was her only goal.

“With the conditions, I wasn’t thinking about times at all,” Muir said.  “I didn’t realize it was that fast; I didn’t actually look up at the clock when I crossed the line. I would have been disappointed, but the main thing was for me to win today, and I was just so chuffed that I could do that.”

Third place in the women’s elite race went to unsponsored 29-year-old Eleanor Fulton, who ran a stellar 4:18.0 to cap off a season where she set personal bests at 800m (2:00.45), 1,500m (4:03.03), mile (4:23.65), and 3000m (8:44.68). Jemma Reekie, another Scot who was the race’s defending champion, finished fourth in 4:18.3. Adelle Tracey, who was raised in Great Britain but now competes for Jamaica, was fifth in 4:19.2. Also of note, Japan’s Nozomi Tanaka finished sixth in 4:19.3, the fastest time and highest place ever by a Japanese woman at the race. A total of 20 women competed in the elite race today, and 18 of them ran sub-4:30.

Hellen Obiri wins Great North Run Half Marathon

Hellen Obiri’s build-up to her debut marathon seems to be going quite well based on the sterling effort she displayed while successfully defending her Great North Run title on Sunday. The 32-year-old Kenyan, who will be racing the New York City Marathon on Nov. 6, won her second consecutive Great North Run women’s title in Manchester, England, with a brilliant final kick to win in 1:07:05. She outsprinted her countrywoman Peres Jepchirchir (1:07:07), the 2020 Olympic Marathon champion, as well as 2022 10,000-meter world champion Almaz Ayana of Ethiopia (1:07:10). The loss was Jepchirchir’s first defeat in a half marathon since 2016. 

Obiri, the two-time Olympic silver medallist who ended her track career with a second-place finish in the 10,000m at the World Athletics Championships in Oregon in July, led an early breakaway group that remained intact until the 10km mark. Obiri, Jepchirchir and Ayana were still together within the final kilometer, but then Obiri started her sprint at the 500m mark and couldn’t be caught. 

Sage Hurta Third in 800m at Diamond League Finals

After all of the big track meets this year, it was no surprise that last week’s Diamond League Finals in Zurich, Switzerland, was a little anticlimactic. The meet included many of the world’s best athletes and there was a lot of good racing, but there were few outstanding results. Kenya’s Faith Kipyegon won a tactical 1,500m (4:00.44), Femke Bol (Netherlands) won the 400-meter hurdles (53.03) and Jamaican sprint aces Shelly-Ann Fraser Pryce (100m, 10.65) and Shericka Jackson (200m, 21.80) each won their specialty events with typical flair.

Among American runners, Sage Hurta, a 24-year-old second-year pro on the Boulder, Colorado-based On Athletics Club, turned in the best result of the two-day meet with a third-place showing in the 800m. Hurta was just off the lead through the 57-second 400m split and was on the shoulder of Kenya’s Mary Moraa with 200 to go. Moraa, the 2022 Commonwealth Games champion and bronze medalist at this summer’s World Athletics Championships in Eugene, Oregon, was nearly caught by Jamaica’s Natalie Goule with 100m to go, but pulled away down the stretch to win in 1:57.63. Goule (1:57.85) was second while Hurta hung on for third (1:58.47) in one of her best races of the year. Uganda’s Halimah Nakaayi was fourth (1:58.82) while Keely Hodgkinson, the silver medalist at the Tokyo Olympics and this summer’s World Athletics Championships and Commonwealth Games, finished a distant fifth in 1:59.06.

Other American women who ran well at the Diamond League Finals in Zurich included Tia Jones taking second in the 100m hurdles (12.40), Gabby Thomas (22.38) and Tamara Clark (22.42) finishing second and third, respectively, in the 200m, Alicia Monson placing sixth in the 5,000m (14:37.22), Emma Coburn taking seventh in the 3,000m steeplechase (9:20.00) and Heather Maclean finishing seventh in the 1,500m (4:02.90). 

 

Taryn Rawlings sets new PR, finishes fourth in mile in Croatia

Middle-distance runner Taryn Rawlings has quietly turned in a very good track season. The 26-year-old Adidas pro who ran collegiately for the University of Portland, placed fourth in a fast women’s mile held Sunday at the final World Athletics Continental Tour Gold event in Zagreb, Croatia. The race, part of the Boris Hanzekovic Memorial meet, was won by Australia’s Linden Hall in 4:21.10, while Rawlings closed strong and finished in a personal-best 4:24.09. Rawlings also set new personal bests in the 800m (1:59.83), 1,500m (4:05.02), 3,000m (8:42.53), 2-mile (9:41.11) and 5,000m (15:05.94) in 2022.

Janelle Lincks Cirque Series

Janelle Lincks Wins Cirque Series

Although she’s only been running trails competitively since 2020, Janelle Lincks has developed an impressive penchant for running up and down mountains extremely fast. The 28-year-old Inov-8-sponsored runner from Thorton, Colorado, outran Allie McLaughlin of Colorado Springs on the 8.8-mile course up and down Arapahoe Basin ski resort on Saturday to win the sixth Cirque Series race of the season. 

The grueling course sent runners from about 10,700 feet to the summit turnaround point at roughly 12,800 feet and back down to the base of the ski area. Repeating her victory from 2021, Lincks won the race in 1:20:07 with a 36-second margin over runner-up McLaughlin (1:20:43). Third place went to Annie Dube (1:25:31).

It was the fourth win in five Cirque Series races this summer for Lincks, who also secured the women’s pro division series title with 244 points over McLaughlin (94 points). Lincks also won races in Brighton, Utah, Alta, Utah, and Grand Targhee, Wyoming, while taking second to Mac at the race in Snowbird, Utah. There’s one more Cirque Series race of the season on September 24 in Engelberg, Switzerland.

 

Looking Ahead

It’s a relatively quiet week on the competitive running front, almost like a calm before a major storm of events that’s on the horizon. For elite and top age-group marathoners, it’s taper season. The September 25 Berlin Marathon kicks off the fall marathon season, followed by the London Marathon (October 2) and the Chicago Marathon (October 9). The most notable road race this week is the Great Cow Harbor 10K on September 17 in Northport, New York. It’s serving as this year’s U.S. 10km road championships, so it will definitely attract a fast crowd.

While there are plenty of collegiate cross country meets happening this weekend—including the September 16 Adidas XC Challenge hosted by top-ranked N.C. State in Cary, North Carolina—it’s the Bill Dellinger Invitational on September 23 in Eugene, Oregon, the Roy Griak Invitational on September 24 in St. Paul, Minnesota, and the Cowboy Jamboree on September 24 in Stillwater, Oklahoma, that will provide the first big tests for many NCAA Division I women’s teams. 

As for this weekend, the biggest races are on the trails in Colorado. The Run Rabbit Run 50- and 100-mile races on September 16-17 in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, and the Pikes Peak Ascent and Pikes Peak Marathon, September 17-18 in Manitou Springs, Colorado, both have fast elite runners, deep fields and big prize purses set against a backdrop of big mountains and golden aspen leaves.

The Run Rabbit Run races have a whopping $75,000 prize purse—including a spectacular $15,000 paycheck to both the men’s and women’s winners in the 100-mile race—plus a new $5,000 Run, Rabbit, Run Team Challenge. Colorado’s Annie Hughes and Canadian Alissa St. Laurent are among the top contenders in the women’s 100-mile field.The Pikes Peak Ascent, a 13.3-mile race to the 14,110-foot summit of Pikes Peak, has a stacked women’s field led by seven-time winner Kim Dobson, two-time winner Allie McLaughlin, and 2019 Pikes Peak Marathon winner Maude Mathys. In the Pikes Peak Marathon, a 26.2-mile race up and down Pikes Peak, the top contenders are 2020 winner Brittany Charboneau and 2017 winner Kristina Mascarenas. There’s $28,500 in combined prize money at the Pikes Peak races, plus as much as $26,000 more if course records or time bounty marks are achieved.