Amy Cragg Ends America’s 34-Year Medal Drought In The Women’s Marathon At Worlds By Snagging A Surprising Bronze in London
August 6, 2017
LONDON – America’s 34-year wait is over.
An American woman hadn’t medalled in the women’s marathon at the IAAF World Championships in 34 years, not since Marianne Dickerson won silver in the inaugural Worlds in 1983, but that changed this afternoon as American Amy Cragg won the first global medal of her career by taking bronze in 2:27:18.
The race was won by Bahrain’s Rose Chelimo, the Boston Marathon runner-up this spring, who came from three seconds down in the final mile to win in 2:27:11 after taking the lead with about a half mile to go (at the 2:24:38 mark). Two-time world champion Edna Kiplagat, who defeated Chelimo to win Boston this spring, appeared to be headed to a third world title after she moved to lead just after 40k but in the end she had to settle for silver as she just barely managed to hold off Cragg. Cragg and Kiplagat were given the same time of 2:27:18 but Kiplagat was a few meters ahead of the fast-closing Cragg, who outdueled Kenya’s Flomena Daniel, the 2014 Commonwealth Games champ who ran 2:21 in Paris this year, in the final mile for the bronze (Daniel was 4th in 2:27:21).
The marathon was tactical for the first 35k as at that point (2:03:47; 2:29:13 pace) there were still 14 women in the lead pack before Cragg made a move that quickly dropped all of the non-African-born athletes besides Cragg herself. Less than a mile later, Chelimo accelerated and she gapped the lead pack, which was down to 9 runners by then, but Kiplagat chased her down to grab the lead by 40k. Kiplagat ran the 5k from 35k to 40k in 16:19 – and that 5:15.1 mile pace marked a huge acceleration compared to the 5:41.5 pace that the first 35k had been run at. At 40k, Kiplagat led Chelimo by 1 second and Daniel and Cragg by 8 seconds. Kiplagat would extend her lead to three seconds before being caught by Chelimo late. Just as Chelimo came back on Kiplagat in the final mile, Cragg came back on Daniel.
While this is America’s first medal in the women’s marathon at Worlds since 1983, the US has won two Olympic medals during that time frame. Joan Benoit won gold in 1984 and Deena Kastor won bronze in 2004.
Results and screenshots from the race appear at the bottom of this document. Here is our quick take analysis.
Quick Take: Amy Cragg Gets the Bronze, and Nearly the Silver
Extreme fitness prepared Amy Cragg for the opportunity of a medal today, but it took gritty determination over the final mile to actually get it.
Cragg was the first of the major contenders to make a move in the race, going to the front just after the 35km mark.
“I’m just going to see what happens if I put in a little bit of a move,” she said of her decision to go to the front.
Soon Cragg was paying the price as Rose Chelimo and Edna Kiplagat went clear and the racing was on for the medals. Cragg and Flomena Daniela were left behind battling for third and fourth. Cragg and Daniela battled back and forth switching who had the bronze medal but with a mile to go, Daniela had the upper hand with Craig roughly twenty to thirty meters behind.
That’s when Cragg’s coach, Jerry Schumacher, yelled her encouragement, telling her if she could stay just be close with 800m to go she’d get the bronze.
As Cragg recounted, “Jerry with a mile to go said, ‘If you can close the gap just a little bit you’re better than her the last 800 meters.’ That was the moment I decided, ‘this is the moment I’m going to remember.”
Facing the moment of truth, Cragg said, “I decided to go for it and he (Jerry) was right.”
The final 600m Cragg was not only able to pass Daniela, but she started closing on Kiplagat. She almost got the silver, but was more than pleased with the bronze.
“It feels amazing. All the people who have medalled at the World Championships and Olympics, those are the people I’ve always really, really looked up to. I can’t believe it (that I’m one of them),” she said.
Cragg was a very good runner, having won the 2012 Olympic Trials 10,000m, before she started training with the Bowerman Track Club in late 2015. Now she’s world class and she was quick to credit Bowerman coach Jerry Schumacher.
“Jerry has completely changed my running. He has changed my life. I felt for years, I was just…. it just wasn’t that breakthrough I was hoping for. I knew I could be better, but it just wasn’t coming around. And so when I joined group, I was like, ‘You know what I want to test the limits, I want to try higher mileage, I want to try harder workouts. I just wanted to hang onto Shalane (Flanagan) in every workouts I possibly could.’ He’s completely changed everything. We work really, really hard. The Bowerman Track Club – we work hard and we’re really supportive of one another so it’s a great group to be around. It’s an easy place to work hard,” she said.
Cragg is most known for training with Shalane Flanagan at the Bowerman Track Club but she did this marathon preparation having to do a lot of the training by herself or with her husband Alistair Cragg, as Flanagan wasn’t running Worlds.
The training went well and coming into Worlds Cragg she she she knew she was in “better shape than I’ve ever been in by a lot,” but she picked up a cold at arriving in the UK two weeks ago.
“My throat got sore. Honestly, it was up until yesterday I was still dripping snot. It was gross. This morning I woke up and I was like ‘ok I feel normal’. It was just in the nick of time,” she said.
One interesting side-note is coach Schumacher never discussed the cold with Cragg. He knew she had it from her husband, Alistair, but he decided the best course of action was to ignore it. So while he mentioned the cold to the LetsRun.com crew in a chance shared cab to the marathon course from the track, he never discussed it with Cragg. He said there was nothing he could do about it, so he decided to ignore it. Fortunately for America and Cragg it cleared up in time.
Quick Take: This was no fluke of a medal — Amy Cragg beat some seriously good women this afternoon
Cragg entered the race with a PR of just 2:27:03, #22 in the field, and even if her performances in LA and Rio last year showed that she was worth much more than that, she would not have been among the fastest entrants as this race featured 10 women with sub-2:22 PRs.
Occasionally in a championship marathon, you’ll see an unlikely woman medal because a bunch of studs bomb out, but that was not the case in London as eight of the 10 sub-2:22 women were still in the lead pack at 35 kilometers. Cragg took it to a bunch of studs and beat most of them, including Eunice Kirwa and Mare Dibaba, both of whom medalled in Rio last year.
Quick Take: For Edna Kiplagat, this was a medal five years in the making
We asked Kiplagat where this ranked among her most difficult marathons, and she said that the hardest one she had ever run was at the 2012 Olympics where she entered in great shape as the world champion but struggled to a 19th-place finish. Today she gained a measure of redemption as she earned the silver medal.
American Sara Vaughn has received a lot of attention recently — and deservedly so — for making Worlds while raising three children, so it’s only fair that we give Kiplagat some props as well as she is a mother of five (she gave birth to two and took in three others). Kiplagat has been in the sport forever — she ran at World XC as a junior way back in 1996 — but she’s now won Boston and taken silver at Worlds as a 37-year-old. Incredible.
Quick Take: Flomena Cheyech Daniel gave props to Amy Cragg and was still happy to take fourth
Cheyech tried mightily to break Cragg late in the race, but the American would just not go away and Cheyech could only tip her hat once it was over.
“I was trying to run away, but she was really strong,” Daniel said.
But if you thought Daniel would be upset by coming so close to a medal, you’d be wrong. She was just happy to be in London representing Kenya for the first time at a world champs at age 35.
“This was my first championship. [I am] very happy.”
Quick Take: Despite a fall, Serena Burla ran tough for 11th place
Two years ago in Beijing, Burla made it 30 kilometers with the leaders and finished 10th. Today in London, she made it even further (35k) despite falling during the first half, but wound up fading down the stretch to finish 11th in 2:29:32.
Burla had nothing to be ashamed of though, and her strategy of “go big or go home” put her in the medal hunt until the late stages.
Lindsay Flanagan Enjoyed her First Worlds
Flanagan soaked up her first Worlds experience. She was pleased to be a part of Team USA and to run with Serena Burla who she used to train with in DC. Flanagan’s now in Colorado Springs but still coached by coach Isaya Okwiya.
Talk about the race on our messageboard:
|1||113||Rose CHELIMOBRN||2:27:11||SB $60,000|
|2||192||Edna Ngeringwony KIPLAGATKEN||2:27:18||SB $30,000|
|3||254||Amy CRAGGUSA||2:27:18||SB $20,000|
|4||191||Flomena Cheyech DANIELKEN||2:27:21||$15,000|
|6||115||Eunice Jepkirui KIRWABRN||2:28:17||$6,000|
|7||193||Helah Jelagat KIPROPKEN||2:28:19||$5,000|
|8||151||Mare DIBABAETH||2:28:49||SB $4,000|
|14||135||Eva VRABCOVÁ NÝVLTOVÁCZE||2:29:56||PB|
|41||178||Lornah Chemtai KORLIMAISR||2:40:22||SB|
|47||264||Rutendo Joan NYAHORAZIM||2:42:53||SB|
|59||233||Jenna Leigh CHALLENORRSA||2:47:22||SB|
|67||230||Liliana Maria DRAGOMIRROU||2:53:30|
|77||260||Maria Grazzia BIANCHIVEN||3:04:11|