Emily Sisson on Her 2:18:29 American Marathon Record: “I had no clue what pace I was running…”
By Mike Knapp
October 9, 2022
CHICAGO – When Emily Sisson ran two hours, 23 minutes, 18 seconds in her debut marathon in 2019 in London, there was plenty of discussion about her future at the distance.
It took Sisson 3 ½ years to get back to the marathon finish line, but the 30-year-old made it worth the wait. Coming into the 44th running of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon, Sisson had the newly minted American record of 2:19:12 set by Keira D’Amato in Houston back in January clearly on her mind if everything worked out.
With near-perfect weather conditions on tap, Sisson delivered, clocking a time of 2:18:29 to break D’Amato’s record and finish as the women’s runner-up behind Ruth Chepngetich, who finished just 14 seconds short of Brigid Kosgei’s world record in 2:14:18.
“My intent was to break 2:20 and have a positive experience, and to walk away feeling really good,” Sisson said. “If I felt good I thought I’d go for the record, so to break the record and finish under 2:19 and finish second, I’m excited about that.”
With Chepngetich running her own race ahead, Sisson settled into the chase pack while focused on even splits. That tactic worked to perfection, as Sisson clocked a 69:26 through the first half while coming home in 69:03.
How consistent was her race? All of Sisson’s 5K splits ranged between 16:19 and 16:33, and with the record in her sights, she stepped it up over the final 2K, going from there to the finish in seven minutes flat.
Ignorance is Bliss
Sisson’s focus on just running paid off. With the TV cameras focusing on Chepngetich, Sisson didn’t think she was on any sort of record pace since there were no cameras or vehicles around her until about Mile 20. She just focused on her pacers and didn’t even know her time or place until she spoke to her husband, Shane Quinn.
“I didn’t know what pace I was on, the whole time,” she said. “I was given instructions (from coach Ray Treacy): to go off of my pacers and not think about time at all. I had no clue what pace I was running until a couple of miles to go and a few people had told me to pick it up, so I thought I must be close to breaking 2:20 or the American record but I didn’t know which one.”
In the closing miles, Sisson said she felt better than she remembered from her race in London, where she ran 2:23:08. Knowing what to expect and feeling more confident than she did in 2019, Sisson knew what she had left and it was enough to close the deal.
“That’s the best I felt compared to my debut,” Sisson said. “I remember when I got to Mile 24 in London 3 ½ years ago and I was struggling. I kept telling myself to pick up my legs and pump my arms, just telling myself to move my body. This time I felt really good, and told my pacer to pick it up a little bit.”
Sisson joins Joan Benoit Samuelson, Deena Kastor, and D’Amato as American record holders, and all three were waiting for her at the finish. She joined some pretty select company Sunday.
“They have such legacies in the sport so to be amongst them is really such an honor,” Sisson said. “To hear from all of them after the race meant a lot.”
More Sisson race analysis: Emily Sisson Breaks American Marathon Record, Runs 2:18:29 To Finish 2nd in Chicago
Discussion: Emily MF Sisson – American Record 2:18:29
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