(07-May) -- Despite windy conditions, Team New Balance athlete Emily Sisson set a pending American half-marathon record today and dominated the USATF Half-Marathon Championships this morning in Indianapolis clocking 1:07:11. Her mark was four seconds under Sara Hall's record of 1:07:15 set last January at the Aramco Houston Half-Marathon. Today's victory marked Sisson's sixth national title and her first at the half-marathon distance.
VIDEO STILL: Emily Sisson after setting a pending USA half-marathon record in Indianapolis on May 7, 2022 (image courtesy of USATF.tv)
"Mission accomplished," a smiling Sisson told sideline reporter Chris Nickinson in her post-race broadcast interview on USATF.tv.
Sisson, 30, who finished tenth in the Tokyo Olympic 10,000m last August, ran today's race several weeks after recovering from COVID-19. Prior to that in March, she had won the USATF 15-K road running title for the second consecutive year. She thought she was ready to get back to racing in April, but withdrew from the BAA 5-K on April 16.
"I had a few bumps in the road," Sisson explained. "I didn't have as much confidence going into this race as I did the 15-K. Luckily, I had two great pacers throughout the race. Brian (Harvey) went the whole way and that made a world of difference at the end."
Sisson attacked the record right from the gun. Sheltering behind the much taller Harvey, Sisson hit 5-K in 15:54, 10-K in 31:57, and 15-K in 47:54. Both her 10-K and 15-K splits were just three seconds off of Hall's. Remarkably, she was exactly level with Hall's 20-K split of 1:03:52, and grabbed the extra time by sprinting all-out in the final 800 meters.
"I was hurting," she said.
Today's weather was cloudy and cool and there were strong winds as the athletes ran on the track of the famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Sisson said the wind was a factor, but her fitness at the beginning of this training cycle indicated that she could make the record even if conditions were not ideal.
"When we targeted this race six or seven weeks ago my fitness was pretty good and we were saying we don't need perfect weather, we just need decent weather," Sisson said. She continued: "Luckily, Brian was able to block the wind. The Speedway was the worst. It was so windy in there."
Sisson had tried for several years to get the national half-marathon record. In January, 2019 she ran 1:07:30 in Houston when the record was held by her longtime training partner Molly Huddle (1:07:25). In December, 2020, Sisson flew to Valencia, Spain, and clocked 1:07:26, missing Huddle's record by just one second. Then Hall lowered Huddle's mark last January making Sisson's task much harder.
From here, Sisson said she wanted to focus on summer road racing and then a fall marathon.
"I just want to jump into a bunch of summer road races," Sisson said. "I'm thinking the New York Mini 10-K (June 11 in New York City); I'll do that one for sure, and I want to do a bunch of road races. I was talking to my agent Ray Flynn yesterday and I was just like, what races are there? I want to jump in a ton."
Sisson won $7000 in prize money. Andrea Pomaranski finished second in 1:13:12 and Allie Kieffer was third in 1:13:16.
In the men's USATF Championships, Leonard Korir of the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program won his third national half-marathon crown, but only just. He had to fight right to the line against Futsum Zienasellassie who ran right off of Korir's right shoulder in the final sprint. Korir's margin of victory was only 53/100ths of a second.
"It feels good," said the always affable Korir. "For me to win today it's exciting. It means my training is good; I'm so happy for it."
Korir's official time was 1:02:35 to Zienasellassie's 1:02:36. Third place went to Jacob Thomson in 1:02:46 who managed to pass the tiring Reid Buchanan in the final kilometer of the race. Buchanan finished fourth in 1:02:57. Like Sisson, Korir won $7000 in prize money.