Meet the Fascinating American Women Who Won’t Win (But Could Break Out At) The 2018 New York City Marathon
October 31, 2018
Hardly anyone — including us — expected Shalane Flanagan and Des Linden to win the New York City and Boston Marathons, respectively. But once you’ve won a World Marathon Major as an American, you’re in select company, so we preview the chances of Shalane, Des, and Molly Huddle in another article here.
This article is for the other female American hopefuls in New York: Stephanie Bruce, Sydney Devore, Carrie Dimoff, Roberta Groner, Allie Kieffer, and Sarah Sellers, all of whom have been overlooked or forgotten at one point in their careers.
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And while we should probably quit underestimating the chances of Americans at World Marathon Majors, we guarantee none of the women in this article will win New York on Sunday. Three of the other elite American women mentioned above, Bruce (10th in NYC & London in her last two marathons), Kieffer (5th in NYC last year) and Sellers (runner-up in Boston this year) have had some success in World Marathon Majors. But they are up against a field that contains not just Flanagan, Linden, and Huddle, but three-time NYC champ Mary Keitany and London champion Vivian Cheruiyot — two titans of the sport.
But if the past year in women’s marathoning has taught us anything, it’s that surprises happen. We teach you a bit about the other Americans in NYC so that if (when?) one of them has a breakout race, you’ll know who they are.
Stephanie Bruce — 34 years old, 2:29:35 pb (2011 Houston), 70:53 half
Last two marathons: 10th 2017 New York (2:31:44), 10th 2018 London (2:32:28)
Tuneup race: 71:50 for 6th at Great North Run on September 9
Bruce’s last two marathons weren’t exactly bad, but she will be hoping to go faster (she hasn’t broken 2:30 since 2011) and finish higher on Sunday.
One thing that should help is that Bruce is seeing a nutritionist once a week. She has a gene mutation, MTHFR, which prevents the absorption of nutrients such as folate, and in the past that would wreak havoc with her energy levels. Now she is able to stay on top of her condition.
“Both of those races, London and New York, were good but she really didn’t feel on her game like she had maybe in training,” her Hoka One One NAZ Elite coach Ben Rosario says. “So this time around, everything looks really good now and she feels good and her workouts have been excellent. So I would at least say this: she’s in a better spot going into this one than she was going into either New York or London.”
There is reason to be optimistic. Bruce won her first national title at the Peachtree Road Race in July at the age of 34 (after giving birth to two kids), taking down road aces Aliphine Tuliamuk and Sara Hall in the process, and is coming off her fastest half marathon in five years (71:50 at the Great North Run). Anything outside of the top 10 will be a disappointment for her.
Allie Kieffer — 31 years old, 2:29:39 pb (2017 New York), 70:40 half
Last two marathons: 1st 2016 Armory Indoor Marathon (2:44:44), 5th 2017 New York (2:29:39)
Tuneup races: 70:50 for 1st at Staten Island Half on October 14, 72:44 for 1st at Toronto Half on October 21
Kieffer took everyone surprise last year by running a 16-minute personal best to finish 5th in New York. A lot has been written about Kieffer recently, and that’s because there is a lot to write. A Foot Locker finalist as a high schooler on Long Island, Kieffer basically gave up running in 2016, doing CrossFit workouts with her boyfriend instead.
But she began training in earnest last year, surprised everyone with her result in New York, and in 2018 she has been traveling the globe while training under coach Brad Hudson. She ran a half marathon pb of 70:40 in Doha in January and spent the rest of the winter training in Kenya, only to miss the spring marathon season with a stress fracture in her foot. Back in the U.S., she doesn’t have a “home,” renting a series of places over the past few months, and she’s traveling to Thailand and Vietnam after the marathon before returning to Kenya, per Runner’s World.
Looking at New York, one would think that with a sponsorship (Oiselle) and a full-time coach, Kieffer could only improve on last year, but running (especially the marathon) doesn’t always work that way. Everything went right for Kieffer last year, and if the leaders go out too fast in 2018, she could benefit and pick them off as they fade. But she could just as easily run a solid race and finish 8th.
Kieffer rightfully had received a lot of press after her NYC run last year including this NYTimes article on Sunday which even mentions a post on the LetsRun.com forums that implied Kieffer’s improvement could only come about by doping.
Sarah Sellers — 27 years old, 2:44:04 pb (2018 Boston), 74:27 half
Last two marathons: 1st 2017 Huntsville (2:44:27), 2nd 2018 Boston (2:22:04)
Tuneup races: 74:27 for 9th at Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Half on September 16
It’s incredible to think that, if it weren’t for Des Linden, Sellers would be the 2018 Boston Marathon champion. The nurse from Tucson weathered the conditions better than almost everyone to run a 23-second PR of 2:44:04, and she knows that finishing second in the horrific conditions of Boston could result in unrealistic external expectations in New York.
“It’s kind of terrifying to go forward after Boston,” Sellers told LetsRun.com. “Because even if I do what could be for me a great race at New York, for a lot of the world it may look like a massive disappointment. I’ve had to refocus and realize I’m in this sport because I want to push myself and see what I can achieve and not because I’m trying to please other people.”
Sellers, who picked up a sponsor in Altra and was able to convince her hospital to cut her hours back to 30 per week, is trying to keep her internal expectations realistic. First and foremost, she wants to hit the Olympic Trials “A” standard of 2:37:00, which is certainly doable, though she said that she has dealt with some hip injuries during her buildup.
“I think if I ran low-2:30s I’d be really happy,” Sellers said.
No matter how Sellers runs, her New York experience will be very different from Boston. Sellers had to pay an entry fee just like everyone else to run Boston, but as part of the elite field in New York, she is getting the total VIP package: the New York Road Runners are covering all expenses (flights, hotel, and food for Sellers, her husband, and her agent Bob Wood). She even got an appearance fee, which she did not know existed until Wood told her about it.
“Bob said it like a no duh thing, like, ‘We’ll see who gives you the best appearance fee [for a fall marathon],’” Sellers said. “I was like wait, what, that’s even a thing?”
Sydney Devore — 27 years old, 2:32:39 pb (2018 Pittsburgh), 74:21 half
Tuneup race: 74:43 for 2nd at Rock ‘n’ Roll San Jose Half on October 7
Devore, like several of the other Americans in this race, has an unusual backstory. She ran collegiately at the University of Florida but quit the team and moved to South Korea to become an English teacher. She then returned to the States, where she continued to work as a teacher before picking up running again after a four-year break from the sport. She gradually improved, and after a chance meeting with some members of the Hansons-Brooks team in Florida in March, she wound up quitting her job and joining the team full-time.
Devore ran 2:32 to win her debut in Pittsburgh in May, and has a lot of potential for improvement, but NYC will be a test unlike anything she’s faced in her brief professional career.
For more on Devore, check out Joe Battaglia’s profile on her.
Carrie Dimoff — 35 years old, 2:30:53 pb (2017 CIM), 71:51 half
Last two marathons: 17th 2017 Boston (2:37:30), 3rd 2017 CIM (2:30:53)
Dimoff, a 35-year-old Princeton alum, is a mother of two, holds down a full-time job in shoe development at Nike (is she responsible for the Vaporflys???) and is still getting faster. She debuted with a 2:44 at the 2016 Olympic Trials, lowered that to 2:37 in Boston last year, and PR’d again with a 2:30 to take third at the US champs at CIM in December. This year, she almost beat Gwen Jorgensen at the Stanford Invite 10k (she was second in 31:57) and ran a pb of 71:51 to finish 5th at the US half marathon champs in May.
Roberta Groner — 40 years old, 2:30:37 pb (2017 CIM), 72:20 half
Last two marathons: 16th 2017 Boston (2:36:33), 2nd 2017 CIM (2:30:37)
Tuneup races: 72:20 for 3rd at Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Half on September 16, 56:01 for 3rd at Bronx 10-Miler on September 30
Put together the backstories of Sellers, Devore, and Dimoff and you get Roberta Groner. Like Sellers, she works full-time as a nurse. Like Devore, she took a lengthy break from the sport (she didn’t run for 10 years, from 1999-2009, after graduating from St. Francis University). And like Dimoff, she is raising multiple children (she is a mother of three) and running her best times at an advanced age.
Groner finished one spot ahead of Dimoff at Boston and CIM last year. Groner, who turned 40 in January, has PR’d in her last four marathons, most recently CIM in December, where she ran 2:30:37 (an almost six-minute PR) to finish second. This year, she has clocked PRs of 16:36 and 33:31 on the roads and is coming off a 72:20 half marathon PR in Philadelphia last month. This will be her first attempt at New York since 2015, when she finished 19th in 2:45:30.