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This year was one for the record books in women’s running. Between the half marathon and marathon U.S. records being broken not once but twice, and new levels of excellence reached on the track and trails, 2022 saw several big moments that will go down in history.
The year also included major transitions for track legends, important conversations kicked off by change makers, and breakthrough performances from rising stars. While it feels impossible to choose among many exciting happenings in 365 days, here are 10 of the best moments that took place in the sport this year.
Emily Sisson and Keira D’Amato break the American record in the marathon
The year started off with a bang when Keira D’Amato broke the American record in the marathon in Houston in January. D’Amato, whose resurgence started after the realtor and mother of two took a seven-year break from the sport, ran 2:19:12, breaking the 16-year-old record (2:19:36) set by Deena Kastor.
The new record didn’t last long, however. Nine months later, Emily Sisson shattered the time at the Chicago Marathon. The Providence College grad ran 2:18:29 for a second-place finish in the Windy City on October 9. To lower the record, Sisson averaged 5:17 per mile and ran a slightly faster split (1:09:23) over the second half of the race.
“I’m so happy,” Sisson said while joined by D’Amato and previous American record-holders Deena Kastor and Joan Benoit-Samuelson after the race. “It’s amazing. The women standing here today. They’ve all accomplished so much. To be among them is an incredible honor.”
Emily Sisson improves on the half marathon record
Before she broke the American record in the marathon, Sisson gained momentum by shattering another American record. In May, she lowered the American record in the half marathon, winning the USATF Half Marathon Championships—her sixth national title— in 1:07:11, four seconds faster than the previous record of 1:07:15 set by Sara Hall in January in Houston.
Sydney McLaughlin shatters her own world record
At the World Athletics Championships in Eugene, Oregon, Sydney McLaughlin continued her stretch of dominance over the women’s 400-meter hurdles. In front of a roaring crowd at Hayward Field, the Olympic champion lowered her own world record, running 50.68.
For McLaughlin, breaking the world record is just the latest barrier cleared by the track superstar. In 2021, she became the first woman to break 52 seconds when she won Olympic gold in Tokyo. Before her performance in Eugene, running faster than 51 seconds was unheard of, until McLaughlin did it. When asked if 50 seconds can be broken, McLaughlin told Women’s Running, “Anything is possible.”
Athing Mu becomes first American to win 800-meter gold
Last summer, Athing Mu’s two-year undefeated streak continued with another stunning victory in the women’s 800 meters at the world championships. The defending Olympic champion became the first American to win the event at the world championships by finishing in 1:56.30, the fastest time in the world this year. In the process, she became the youngest woman to ever win both Olympic and world championships gold. The performance followed several major transitions for Mu, who turned pro at 19 while attending Texas A&M.
“I’ve gone through so many changes, so many adjustments this year,” she told Women’s Running after her victory. “Not everybody sees it, but it was a lot just being able to come out here. Winning means a lot to me because I know what I’ve been going through.”
Three Americans finish top 8 in the marathon at world championships
The women’s marathon at the world championships in Eugene proved to be one of the most exciting events of the nine-day meet. Led by a fifth-place finish in 2:22:10 from Sara Hall, three Americans finished within the top 8. Behind Hall, Emma Bates placed seventh in a new personal best of 2:23:18 and Keira D’Amato finished eighth in 2:23:34. All three were representing Team USA for the first time at a global outdoor championship.
Afterward, Hall said she’s never enjoyed such a hard race before. In the process of completing one of the best performances of her career, she was able to do it in front of her husband, Ryan, and their four daughters. “It was fun,” she told Women’s Running after the race in July. “I was able to give them high-fives. I had a lot of fun out there. I think that this was, like, the most fun I’ve ever had in a marathon.”
For D’Amato, the performance was especially impressive given she was asked to compete two weeks earlier after Olympic bronze medalist Molly Seidel withdrew her spot. “I was definitely humbled by this,” D’Amato said. “I think the short marathon build is not the way to go. I really think that I could have used another month or two to build up with long runs. I think that last lap when it was time to dig I just had a really hard time locking-in and digging.”
Allyson Felix Retires
Last summer, Allyson Felix closed out an unprecedented career on the track. In a 20-year span, the sprinter earned a women’s record 11 Olympic medals (7 of which are gold), an all-time record 20 career medals from world championships, and two relay world records that still stand today, among other accolades.
Off the track, Felix’s contributions to the sport and beyond are even greater. In 2019, Felix called out former sponsor, Nike, in a powerful New York Times op-ed for failing to guarantee her maternity protections. Amid public outcry, the sportswear giant announced a new maternity policy for all its sponsored athletes. Felix has since joined the board of &Mother, a nonprofit that provides childcare grants to athletes and free childcare at major competitions, including the USATF Outdoor Track & Field Championships. In 2021, Felix launched her own women’s lifestyle brand, Saysh, which created the racing spikes she debuted to make her fifth Olympic team. In 2023, her brand will launch a line of women’s running and athleisure shoes.
Felix’s last race took place at The Race for Change, an event organized by her sponsor, Athleta, on August 7. The competition featured one final 100-meter sprint for the Los Angeles native as well as free onsite childcare, private lactation areas, empowering arts and crafts, and mother/daughter races.
“When I think about my whole career, I’m most proud of the maternal protection component,” Felix told Women’s Running at the event in her hometown. “And it’s interesting because I never would have thought that. I thought it would be something like a specific race or this or that. But to have just a little bit of impact and say, ‘I hope I’m leaving the sport a little bit better.’”
Alison Mariella Désir publishes Running While Black
In October, Alison Mariella Désir published her highly anticipated memoir, Running While Black: Finding Freedom in a Sport that Wasn’t Built for Us. The book chronicles the activist’s’ life as a self-avowed “disruptor,” who founded the New York City club Harlem Run and the Run 4 All Women movement, and serves as co-chair of the Running Industry Diversity Coalition. While weaving in her personal experience, Désir shares her hopes for the future of the sport with regard to diversity and inclusion.
“I had to share that moving through space as a Black body is different from moving through space as a white body and that historically and presently, we have never had access to freedom of movement,” Désir told Women’s Running in October. “I just had to tell that story because it also creates a possibility for change and a new world where my son could be free to run, and free to show up as his full self.”
Sharon Lokedi stuns at the New York City Marathon
Heading into the New York City Marathon, all eyes were on two-time world champion Hellen Obiri, who was making her debut at 26.2 miles after wrapping up a stellar career on the track. But the performance of the day actually came from Sharon Lokedi, another marathon debutante.
On November 6, the University of Kansas grad who trains in Flagstaff, Arizona, won the New York City Marathon in 2:23:23. Lokedi broke away from the lead pack of women at the 24-mile mark and outran Kenyan-born Israeli runner Lonah Salpeter, a world bronze medalist who finished second in 2:23:30. What’s even more impressive, she did it in a pair of Under Armour Flow Velociti Elite shoes that had just been released after a two-year development process.
“I didn’t expect to win (but) I expected to run well,” Lokedi said after the race. “I wanted to be in the race; I know I was strong. I just wanted to go and put myself in it.”
From Zoë Rom, Managing Editor:
Clare Gallagher returns to win Leadville 100 before pursuing her PhD
One of this year’s most fun races to watch was the Leadville 100. With top competitors like Addie Bracy, Lindsey Herman (and even WR’s own mentor, Sally McRae!) It was sure to be an exciting competition. Return champion and environmental activist Clare Gallagher surged into the lead after the Twin Lakes inbound aid station (60 miles) to claim victory.
“Winning Leadville again confirmed that 100s are extremely hard—win, lose or mediocre day. It also felt like a coming home party,” Gallagher said. “Winning in 2016 started my professional ultrarunning career and winning again 6 years later felt like a celebration of my career thus far.”
It was a poignant bookend to a new chapter in Gallagher’s career. This fall, Gallagher began pursuing a Ph.D. in marine biology at the University of Colorado in Boulder as a means of reconnecting with her love of aquatic life.
“It’s been a huge transition in my day to day demands, but I have been loving it so far. Many thanks to my coach David Roche for encouraging this life transition, which took multiple years,” Gallagher said. “I absolutely love learning. Right now I’m processing Antarctic toothfish otoliths (ear bones) to learn more about their life histories!”
From processing Antarctic toothfish otoliths to winning 100’s, Gallagher’s stoke and enthusiasm are contagious on and off the trail.
Marianne Hogan Podiums at Western States and UTMB
Marianne Hogan had an incredibly strong year, finishing third at the Western States Endurance Run and second at the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB), just months apart. Despite an obviously painful hip in the later stages of the race, Hogan surged to an exciting second-place finish behind Katie Schide.
“It means a lot to be on the podium of both WS and UTMB this year, but the bigger win for me in 2022 was to be able to show up on the start line of both of those races, healthy,” says Hogan.
After undergoing multiple surgeries to address a spiral fracture in her leg, Hogan developed a new appreciation for the ability to move and compete again – especially at such a high level. It’s hard not to cheer for such an incredible comeback.
“Making it on the podium of the two-biggest 100-mile races in the world is certainly icing on the cake, but in reality, I am just incredibly thrilled to be able to run these incredible races around the world with people I very much admire. And I think that it is that exact enthusiasm that allowed me to get on the podium! I can’t wait to do it all over again,” says Hogan.
Courtney Dauwalter returns to Hardrock, breaks course record
A top moment this year was getting to see Courtney Dauwalter kiss the grubby stone at the finish line of the Hardrock 100. After a heartbreaking DNF in 2021 due to GI issues, Dauwalter spent a year on some nutritional problem-solving and playing in her backyard near Leadville, Colorado.
Dauwalter took the lead immediately, though running relatively conservatively and not jumping too quickly on the course record pace. She worked her way into the top ten overall of the race relatively early, but was smooth and collected through the checkpoints as she focused on her fueling strategy. By mile 73, she was over five hours ahead of the next woman. Dauwalter had been running a balanced race but turned her attention to the course record in the last ten miles of the race, picking up her effort considerably. She eventually finished in 26:44, well ahead of the clockwise and overall course records on a longer course.
When she knelt to kiss the legendary Hardrock rock at the finish line in Silverton, she was all smiles. “That was hard!” she said with her hands on her knees while taking in the cheering crowd.
“That’s what this sport is really about,” Dauwalter said. “People are supporting each other, whatever that looks like. Even if it’s a record or whatever, they don’t care. It’s just cool that we can elevate each other. Everyone is just supporting each other to do their best.”
This year’s Hardrock saw 27 female entrants, the most ever in the field’s 31-year history, after announcing a change to their lottery last year to expand opportunities for entry. Now, the number of women on the start line must match the percentage of women in the lottery. —Zoë Rom, Managing Editor
Katie Schide finishes PhD thesis, wins UTMB
Katie Schide might be the best American trail runner you don’t know very much about. That’s because, although she grew up in Maine and spent years hiking the White Mountains and later trail running in Utah, she’s spent the past several years living in Switzerland and France and working on a PhD in geology. (Her thesis, which she submitted in June, is focused on landslides caused by earthquakes in Nepal.)
If that wasn’t enough for one year, the 30-year-old Schide also won three of the hardest European races in 2022 — the Maxi Race Marathon in France, Val d’Aran By UTMB 100km in Spain and the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB) in Chamonix, France. The UTMB win came after back-to-back top-10 showings — sixth in 2019 and eighth in 2021 — and a runner-up showing in the CCC 100km race in 2018. That’s a serious body of work that should be lauded in high regard among most accomplished American ultrarunners who have ever competed in Europe’s most difficult races.
Schide said she learned a lot from her previous UTMB experiences and was more prepared when the difficult moments came in this year’s race. She’s running the Western States 100 in 2022, so she’ll likely get plenty of well-deserved notoriety while stateside.
“I didn’t have any type of race strategy. My only strategy was that if I felt good, I was going to run fast, and if I didn’t feel good, I was going to be okay with that and just do what I could in the moment. And I do think it worked,” she said. “I would say some people probably think that I started too fast. And I would say that it depends how you define too fast. Early in the race, I just felt good, relaxed, no stress. I was kind of waiting for the next girls to catch up with me, but no one ever came up behind me, so I just ran by feel. I told myself, If you feel good, just go. Don’t worry about being too fast or too slow or just follow your feelings. The rest of the race, I just tried to keep it cool and move as efficiently as I could.”