American Emma Bates Runs the Race of Her Life at the 2023 Boston Marathon

Emma Bates said she was in the shape of her life beforehand and BACKED IT UP BIG TIME

BOSTON – On Friday at the elite athlete press confidence before the 2023 Boston Marathon, it was impossible not to be super impressed by Emma Bates’ confidence. Bates, the 2014 NCAA 10,000 champ for Boise State who was 7th at the World Champs in the marathon last year, told us she was in the shape of her life and said she thought she was “probably ready” to run an American record on a flat course. That’s a bold statement for someone who has a 2:23:18 pb when the American record is 2:18:29.

But today, in a masterful performance in which she led a lot of the race and was with the lead pack until almost 40 kilometers (24.8 miles), Bates proved that her confidence was warranted as she ran a personal best of 2:22:10 (previous pb 2:23:18) to finish 5th, just missing Shalane Flanagan’s 2:22:02 American course record. And she did it looking like she was having the time of her life. Bates had a smile on her face for much of the race, even blowing kisses to friends at the six-mile mark. Making the feat all the more impressive was that she ran that fast into a headwind while it was raining at times during the race.

Kevin Morris photo

After the race, Bates said she fully expected “to be in the top 5 and be in contention to win” but said she most definitely didn’t expect to be in the lead.

“That wasn’t part of the plan at all (to be leading). My coach (Joe Bosshard) told me not to do it. He told me to focus on the second pack and let the top girls battle it out and then pounce,” said Bates.

“(In) the latter stages of the race, I felt like I had so much momentum. [At the 20-mile mark], I just looked at my coach and he said, ‘Just go for it.’ It just felt right today. I went with my gut.”

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Bosshard described things a little bit differently but was very happy with Bates’ run.

“Her game plan was pretty simple. We felt like she had enough of bandwidth that we thought that pretty much no matter what she can be near the front. I didn’t think there was a scenario that she couldn’t sort of handle — at least through halfway of being near the front and just competing. She has just taken a great step in training and she’s trained consistently for the last two years….And I think she just decided today, I’m going to stick my nose in it and be part of this. I think she’ll be pretty happy with that,” said Bosshard.

Bosshard said that given the fact that the pace wasn’t super fast by major marathon standards, he wasn’t surprised to see Bates in the front of the lead pack when he saw her come by him at the top of Heartbreak Hill as Bates “really enjoys running on her own” and doesn’t feel very comfortable running in a pack. He said that part of her “growing and developing” as a marathoner is working on trying to get more comfortable about drafting in the pack.

Redemption in Boston

Bates’ best accomplishment as a pro came in Boston, a city where Bates struggled mightily when she started her pro career as a member of the BAA High Performance team from 2015 until the end of 2017. While on the BAA, Bates did not run well (in 2017 she didn’t break 16:00 for 5,000 or 33:00 for 10,000) and suffered a big personal loss as her father died of a rare lung disease at age 56 at the end of 2016. Bates told ESPN in 2019 she did not enjoy life or running while in Boston, but she enjoyed the homecoming today.

“To be able to come here and have it as a homecoming and run the back side of the course that I used to run all the time was really, really cool to do as I never saw myself in this position, especially when I was on the BAA,” said Bates. “I didn’t really see a future in my career of being at this level. So to be not only top American but [also one of the] top [people] at the Boston Marathon is something that I’m going to hold close to my heart for along time.”

There was one disappointment for Bates today, however. Bates, who doesn’t drink anything during a marathon (instead she eats gels she has taped to empty water bottles), said she was hoping someone would have a nice cold beer for her at the finish line.

“I was hoping someone would a have Modelo for me at the finish line,” Bates said. “I’m going to find one of those pronto.”

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