America’s #2 All-Time Female Marathoner Poised To Resume Journey
By Dave Hunter
December 10th, 2018 - Jordan Hasay’s running journey has been interesting, indeed. The California native burst onto the national scene 13 years ago when she authored an unmatched high school freshman year that featured her stunning victory at the 2005 Foot Locker Cross Country Championships, a prelude of future sensational races to come. At the 2008 Olympic Trials, the young Hasay ran 4:14.50 to break the national high school record in the 1500 meters. In the afterglow of that race, the 16 year old prep was serenaded by the capacity Hayward Field crowd which rhythmically chanted “Come to Oregon,” a directive she ultimately followed a year later.
While her collegiate career may have fallen short of the incredibly lofty expectations of some, the diminutive Oregon Duck produced multiple PAC-12 individual titles and many podium-worthy performances at national championships. She also captured two NCAA indoor individual championship crowns and delivered a 4-year point production at the NCAA indoor nationals that lifted the Lady Ducks to 4 consecutive indoor team championships during her tenure in Eugene.
After college, Hasay joined the Nike Oregon Project and pursued continued progression under the watchful eye of Alberto Salazar. Noting his young athlete’s vulnerability to fast-finishing competitors, Salazar steered his new athlete to longer events where he sensed she could be more competitive. When competing in the 5000 and 10,000 meters produced only modest domestic success, both the coach and the athlete turned their collective attention to the marathon and ultimately concluded the lengthy road event was Hasay’s best pathway to greater success.
Aware of Hasay’s absence of a powerful finishing kick, many in the sport doubted Hasay’s shift to the marathon would produce the success that she and her coach envisioned. So far, the doubters have been wrong. In the 2017 Boston Marathon, the Salazar protégé, having never raced on the tricky Patriots’ Day course nor even competed in a marathon, ran like a seasoned veteran: wisely meting out her effort efficiently; smartly conquering the Newton Hills; and displaying guts over the second half of the course she ran virtually alone. Smiling down the final Boylston stretch, Hasay finished 3rd in 2:23:00 – the fastest debut marathon ever run by an American woman. “It was just so great. The crowds were incredible. I just really enjoyed it, states Hasay upon reflection. “My preparation had gone well. But of course you never know what to expect in your first marathon. I love the marathon because it is just so similar to life: there are many ups and downs.”
That fall, Hasay stepped to the starting line again in the Chicago Marathon, making the podium once more with another 3rd place finish. Her clocking of 2:20:57 ranks as the #2 performance on the U.S.A all-time list and is just 81 seconds away from Deena Kastor’s 12-year-old American marathon record of 2:19.36.
“Actually, to be honest, I was a little bit nervous about the flatter, faster course because I actually do pretty well on hills and I actually like the break in the rhythm. So I was actually thankful that I did so well on the flat,” candidly offers Hasay. “I felt that my training had gone so well. Going in, we talked about just getting a PR, going like 2:22, maybe 2:21 on a good day. It turned out that the front pack was going quite a bit faster, running at 2:17 – 2:18 pace. So I kept looking at the pace car, pretending it was just a half marathon. And that was probably a bad idea,” adds Hasay with a laugh.
While Jordan Hasay passed the marathon’s competitiveness test with flying colors in 2017, 2018 would challenge her patience and perseverance. “About 2 weeks before the marathon and on my last long run, I felt this strange pain right underneath my left ankle,” explains Hasay about her build up in preparation for her return to the Boston Marathon. “We got an MRI which showed a small stress reaction in the calcaneus bone [the large bone at the base of the heel.] I talked to my doctors and they said I was very close to the marathon, I was going to be tapering, and they ruled out the potential for any long term damage if I raced.” Once Hasay was in Boston, another precautionary MRI during Patriots’ Day weekend revealed the stress reaction had become a full-blown fracture. “At that point the decision was made to not race because we didn’t think the foot would make it through the race,” Jordan reveals. “If that fracture goes all the way through, you’re looking at a surgery which would impact my future career,” she adds. “Although it was a very hard decision, I am very thankful for the very smart doctors, coaches, and family that helped us come to the decision that I was not going to race.”
Disappointed but unwavering, Hasay set her sights on a fall marathon, a return to Chicago. “I took a month off from running,” explains the Nike Oregon Project athlete who stepped back from her normal weekly mileage of 110-120 miles per week. An emotional roller coaster ride ensued. Hasay – a former competitive swimmer in her younger days – worked to put the best spin on the long road to recovery. “I was in the pool and that was really nice. And another MRI showed my left heel was healing nicely. So I began training again. I was training for 8 weeks with no pain and I felt great. I was getting my fitness back. And then I did a little bit of faster track work and I began to feel a little bit of the same pain again around the end of June. So we got a CT scan at that point and it was just showing that the fracture had not yet healed completely. So I took 10 days off, just doing underwater treadmill. And the pain quit and I was training well again. So I just had that little flair up.,” concludes Jordan on the precarious tightrope of promoting recovery while reintroducing training. “So I was training well for about another month and it was about 3 weeks before I was supposed to race in Chicago that I got another heel pain. We thought it was just my peroneal tendon. I tried to work out on it, but it was a pain like I felt before. So we got another scan and it was showing that I had a new fracture in the same bone but fortunately at a different angle. That was a huge bummer,” understates Hasay. “Of course, I just decided to shut it down again.”
Undaunted, Hasay and her team are making this year of interruptions a learning experience as they explore ways to prevent further debilitating foot fractures. “We’re definitely working on it. All the lessons learned lead back to not taking enough time off to begin with. So this time I took 8 weeks off instead of a month,” states Jordan in outlining the additional caution. “For a full fracture, I think a month was kind of pushing it a little bit too much. Finding the proper footwear is part of the solution as well since I pronate a lot on that left foot. We have done a great job in doing electric testing and such and working to find out which types of inserts would work the best. A lot of this is trial and error and we’re still learning what the best shoe is going to be.” But even this important search has its frustrations. “The problem is that you have to be back up and running normally to be ready to go back in for testing. It never really got to the point where I was logging full mileage so I could go test everything prior to Chicago.
Back running after an extended period of enforced idleness and cautious cross-training, Hasay is back running. “We really think we did it right taking a long break. And I’m going to do a really slow build up and try to be really smart this time.” And she is already plotting out her racing plans for 2019. “I am back now. I got all the scans this time. The fractures are completely healed. The MRI is showing no edema which is good. I’m using the Lightspeed Lift [a device that lightens your body weight during training]. And I’m running at about 80 percent of my body weight and am up to ten miles per day every day. It is going well and I have no pain.” Starting with a progression of stride outs to full running and moving from soft grass to harder surfaces, Hasay projects to be up to full training by the first week in January. “That will give me good bit of time before a spring marathon,” she notes.
The 2018 year of disappointment has not caused Jordan Hasay to change her athletic goals. With her glittering 2:20:57 at Chicago in 2017, the young marathoner is not unreasonable in citing an American record performance as one of her career goals. “I am focused on 5:19 pace and trying to get that record,” she admits. “But when you go into a race, you just need to think about racing. Often when you to go for a record, it does not happen. You just have to race, and then it comes. I am thankful I am super young and should have a lot of opportunities to try to win some of those major marathons and hopefully that [record] time is going to come.” Hasay plans to run 2 marathons this coming year. “I think I just need the experience since I have only done two. I know the spring marathon I’m going to run but I am not yet prepared to say which one.” And of course, she wants to be at her best for the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials to be held in Atlanta at the end of February of 2020.
So the running journey for Jordan Hasay continues. With bold goals and the confidence that unharvested PR’s remain within her grasp, the talented road racer – apparently well along the road to full recovery – is eager to once again take up the chase for further accomplishments. And not unlike a good number of her fellow competitors who have frequently found themselves in her wake, many road racing fans will also be following Jordan Hasay to track her resumed journey to realize her full athletic potential.
Dave Hunter is a U.S. Correspondent for Track & Field News, writes a weekly column and serves as Senior Writer for www.RunBlogRun.com, and covers championship track & field competition domestically and in such global capitals as Moscow, Birmingham, Zurich, Brussels, Beijing, Rio de Janeiro, Zagreb, and Ostrava. Hunter frequently serves as the arena or stadium announcer for championship track & field gatherings, including the Ivy League, the Big East, the Mid-American Conference, the NAIA, the Big Ten, and the Millrose Games. Hunter has undertaken foreign and domestic broadcast assignments, most recently three world-class road race broadcasts in the Czech Republic. He ran his marathon P.R. of 2:31:40 on the Boston Marathon course back in the Paleozoic Era. To find out more about Dave, visit his website: www.trackandfieldhunter.com He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org