Mary Cain Winds Up a DNF in Her First Track Race in 2 Years

July 16, 2018

Tonight, at the 2018 Cork City Sports meet in Cork, Ireland, Mary Cain raced on the track for the time in over two years.

It did not go well.

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Cain, who missed the entire 2017 season due to a stress fracture in her shin, was entered in the 3,000 meters in Cork, but looked overmatched from the beginning and wound up dropping out. At 400 meters, Cain found herself in last place, and by 1 kilometer, she had lost contact with the 13-woman field, even though Cain was running fairly fast — she hit 1k in 3:01, which is 9:03 pace (her PR is 8:58).

Cain hanging on to the back 89 seconds into the race

Cain hanging on to the back 89 seconds into the race

Things only got worse from there as Cain found herself further and further adrift before she eventually decided to step off the track.

One reason Cain had trouble staying with the pack is that a terrific race was playing out in front of her. American Emily Sisson, not known for her kick, was determined to drop as many people as she could, and she led a nine-woman pack through 1600 meters in 4:44 (8:52 pace). By the bell (7:40), Sisson had managed to drop four of those women, but a total of five (Sisson, New Zealand’s Camille Buscomb, NCAA mile champ Elle Purrier, Canada’s Jessica O’Connell, and Australia’s Genevieve LaCaze) remained, setting the stage for a thrilling final lap.

Buscomb, 12th in the 5,000 at the Commonwealth Games in April, was the first to move, making a powerful surge into the lead just before the final turn as Purrier followed her into second. Though fighting back a grimace, Buscomb was putting the hurt on the field as well, and Purrier was the only woman able to hang with her as they entered the home stretch. Purrier battled hard and almost drew level but Buscomb was too strong as she used a strong last lap (roughly 65 seconds) to slash almost 20 seconds off her PR and run 8:45.97.

There were also big PRs for Purrier in second (8:46.43; previous pb 8:55.68), O’Connell in third (8:46.86, previous pb 8:51.37), and Sisson in fourth (8:49.61, previous pb 8:52.60).

Other meet results included Sam Prakel winning the mile in 3:56.09 (Ben True was 6th in 3:57.83), Puerto Rico’s Ryan Sanchez beating Eric Sowinskiover 800m (1:45.73 to 1:46.09), a 2:02.45 win from Laura Roesler in the 800 and Aussie Brett Robinson winning the 3000 in 7:59.65 over Jordy Williamsz.


1 9 2410 Buscomb Camille New Zealand Sen 8:45.97
2 2 2402 Purrier Elinor 8.55.68 United States Sen 8:46.43
3 15 2417 O’Connell Jessica Canada Sen 8:46.86
4 7 2408 Sisson Emily 9.01.02 United States Sen 8:49.61
5 1 2401 LaCaze Genevieve 9.22.82 Australia Sen 8:50.02
6 6 2407 Pagano Sarah 8.58.42 United States Sen 8:56.53
7 11 2413 Seccafien Andrea 9.11.06 Canada Sen 8:57.37
8 4 2404 Duncan Melissa 9.07.18 Australia Sen 8:58.70
9 3 2403 Nilsson Linn 8.57.89 Sweden Sen 9:07.31
10 12 2414 Duck Claire Great Britain Sen 9:15.81
11 14 2416 Ilarda Bri United States Sen 9:17.50
12 10 2411 Tsutsui Sakiho Japan Sen 9:24.23
5 2405 Cain Mary United States Sen DNF
13 2415 Finn Michelle Ireland Sen DNS PACE

Quick Take: This most definitely wasn’t what Team Cain wanted

There is no way to sugarcoat this one. This was not what Mary Cain and her team looking for. There is no way in your first track race in more than two years you’d want to be dropped 800 meters into it. Sure, the pace was likely way faster than anticipated as the leaders all ran big PBs but Cain, now 22, didn’t look like the same runner as she did in her prime.

Remember, this is a woman whom Alberto Salazar once told the New York Times he was “very confident” could one day run 3:55 for 1500. If you were looking for signs that Mary Cain would one day return to being a world-class runner, then you most certainly didn’t find them today.

Quick Take: Where does Mary Cain go from here?

Assuming there were no extenuating circumstances (e.g. an illness we don’t know about), this result has to be a major blow to Cain’s confidence. She’s been getting ready to race again for two years, flies all the way to Ireland to do it, and winds up dropping out? Not good.

So if you’re Cain and her coach John Henwood, what do you do? Cain certainly didn’t look ready to face international competition tonight, and while it is important for Cain to get back to racing if she’s healthy, we can’t imagine that throwing her into another field like this would do her much good. But Cain also said on Instagram (before tonight’s race) that she’s planning on spending the rest of the summer in Europe. Perhaps she can find some lower-level races to run overseas — we imagine one of the reasons Cain decided to make her return in Europe as opposed to the U.S. is there simply aren’t many meets for Cain to run stateside over the summer.

Discuss the race on our messageboard:

MB: Official Mary Cain’s returning to racing discussion thread – Her 3k is today (July 16th)
MB: Mary Cain DNF 

Watch the race for yourself. Go to the 2:17:20 mark:

More photos from the race

Cain (#5) getting ready to race

Cain (#5) getting ready to race

Mary Cain in no-woman's land 2:19 into the race

Mary Cain in no-woman’s land 2:19 into the race

Buscomb holds off Purrier FTW

Buscomb holds off Purrier FTW