Quite A Marathon Debut For Emily Sisson

Enjoying a breakout year, Emily Sisson’s first-ever marathon moved her to No. 6 American ever. (JIRO MOCHIZUKI/IMAGE OF SPORT)

A COUPLE OF years ago, Emily Sisson began a transition from track to the marathon, and her ample potential came to fruition on the streets of London with a sparkling 6th-place finish in 2:23:08. While finishing 8 seconds off Jordan Hasay’s American debut record, Sisson’s first crack at the distance inserted her at No. 6 on the all-time U.S. list.

It proved to be a well-planned-and-executed debut. Sisson’s manager Ray Flynn has fared well in London with Deena Kastor setting an American Record 2:19:36 in ’06, and Ryan Hall running 2:06:17 in ’08. Flynn brings the athletes over early so they are well adjusted to the local time and temperament. Coach Ray Treacy got both Sisson and Molly Huddle to London in fine form with Sisson’s “tuneups” including a 67:30 at the Houston Half in January and a world leading 10K of 30:49.57 at Stanford in March.

Once the gun went off in Greenwich, Sisson had to perform a lot of leg and mind work, particularly since the lead group ignored the pacers and ran slowly with the second group. “I felt pretty comfortable the first half of the race,” Sisson recounts. “Molly and I had planned on being part of a self-paced group originally. When the group ahead of us didn’t want to go with their pacer, I realized pretty early on we needed to adjust the race plan. So, I just tried to tuck in and stay relaxed as I didn’t want to go out on my own.” (continues below)

Touring the streets of London and crossing the Tower Bridge in the company of the marathon’s leading ladies was quite an unexpected hoot for Sisson—that is until a rapid acceleration in the 21st kilometer. “The break came right before the half-marathon mark,” she recalls. “They really took off and it spread out quite a bit. I got a little swept up in it and ran maybe a little too quick that first 5K, but overall, I think I did a good job pacing the rest of the race.”
Indeed, the 27-year-old Providence grad negatively split her debut 71:49/71:19, running solo for almost all of the second half.

“Yeah I was pretty much on my own the last 13M,” she admits. “I didn’t panic about it though because I knew that might happen. Molly warned me going into the race that you could end up running solo. It was windier than I expected so that was probably the hardest part about it for me. Even though I would have preferred company, it didn’t come as a complete surprise and I was prepared for it.”
As for an assessment of her debut? “I feel really good about it,” she beams. “I feel like overall I handled my first marathon really well, and I got a lot of good feedback from it. I know what areas I can improve upon for my next one, but I’m thankful the first one went so well. It made me want to do another so I’d say that’s a positive first experience.”

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