Fiona O’Keeffe Wins 2024 Olympic Marathon Trials in Debut
American record holder Emily Sisson and unheralded Dakotah Lindwurm take the 2nd and 3rd spotsBy LetsRun.com
ORLANDO, Fla. – Some people are made to run the marathon. Fiona O’Keeffe appears to be one of them.
The Puma Elite runner, making her marathon debut, ran away from the field over the final eight miles to win the 2024 Olympic Marathon Trials in a Trials-record 2:22:10 as American record holder Emily Sisson of New Balance was second in 2:22:42. Unheralded Dakotah Lindwurm of Puma and Minnesota Distance Elite was the surprise of the day in third in 2:25:31, not too far off of her 2:24:40 pb.
On a warmish day (low 60s start, low to mid 70s at finish, bright sun with 62% humidity and a 46-degree dew point), the women kept the pace honest the first half. After a 5:32 opening mile, only one more of the first eight miles was over 5:30. The women would hit halfway in 71:43 as there was still a pack of 12. However, the pace had started to lag slightly as miles 9 through 14 were all over 5:30.
Fiona O’Keeffe would soon change that. She ran mile 15 in 5:29 and 16 in 5:25. Mile 17 was even faster — 5:16 — and during that mile, former American record holder Keira D’Amato lost contact with the lead pack (she’d end up dropping out around mile 20). After a 5:27 18th mile, the lead pack was down to just five women — O’Keeffe, Sisson, former Iowa State start Betsy Saina, 2:26 marathoner Emily Durgin and 2:20 marathoner Sara Hall, who was trying to make her first Olympic team at age 40.
On the one small hill on the course during mile 19, O’Keeffe broke free of her challengers in the midst of a 5:22 mile and her lead would continue to grow all the way to the finish. All of O’Keeffe’s closing miles were under 5:30 including a wonderful 5:09 25th mile as she put up a big negative split performance in her masterful debut, going 71:43-70:27 even though the temperature was rising.
As for the red on her bib when she finished? It was blood. David Monti of Race Results Weekly reported that a package of an energy packet she had tucked into her race uniform chafed her.
The pre-race favorite Sisson was the only one who was able to keep it close as she also ran a negative split, going 71:43-71:01. Everyone else behind them struggled on the way home.
Saina and Hall were in 3rd and 4th at mile 20 but a 5:47/5:48 21st mile knocked them back as 2015 Boston Marathon champion Caroline Rotich, who recently obtained US citizenship with little fanfare, moved into 3rd with Lindwurm in 4th. But soon both of them started to run over 5:40.
Lindwurm actually moved into the third Olympic team spot during mile 22, which at the time was her slowest of the race – 5:40. On the way home, she’d slow down even more but she was holding up better than all of her closest pursuers. Lindwurm made the team with 15 seconds to spare despite going 5:46, 5:54, 5:44, 6:05, and 5:59 on the way home.
4th place went to former Stanford runner Jessica McClain (nee Tonn), who came from the second pack and ran a big PR of 2:25:46 (72:38-73:08, previous pb of 2:29:25). The 31-year-old McClain left the second pack during the 12th mile and ran the entire second half alone, picking off nine people to move from 13th to 4th and become the Olympic alternate.
Top 10 Results *Full women’s results.
1. Fiona O’Keeffe 2:22:10
2. Emily Sisson 2:22:42
3. Dakotah Lindwurm 2:25:31
4. Jessica McClain 2:25:46
5. Sara Hall 2:26:06
6. Caroline Rotich 2:26:10
7. Makenna Myler 2:26:14
8. Lindsay Flanagan 2:26:25
9. Emily Durgin 2:27:56
10. Annie Frisbie 2:27:56
Fiona O’Keeffe was so good, we can’t help but wonder: could she medal in Paris?
Three years ago at the last Olympics, a Puma-sponsored runner who had made the US Olympic team in her debut shocked the World and won a medal for Team USA in the women’s marathon. That was Molly Seidel, who made the team wearing Saucony but switched to Puma after the Olympics were delayed. Today’s run by O’Keeffe makes us wonder if history could repeat itself.
History has repeatedly shown that running an unrabbitted marathon in warm conditions is not nearly the same thing as a rabbitted race in cool temperatures. O’Keeffe clearly showed today she’s not fazed by the heat as the hotter the temperature went, the faster she ran. Her second half was faster than the first, and her fastest mile (5:09) was mile 25 (which was slightly downhill).
But the Paris course will be quite hilly. How is O’Keefe on hills? Well coach Alistair Cragg said she handles them very well. Cragg has had a first-hand look at what it takes to make Olympic teams – his wife and co-coach at Puma Elite is Amy Cragg, winner of the 2016 Trials and 2017 Worlds bronze medalist. Alistair said O’Keeffe’s workouts during this buildup were as fast or faster than Amy had done in some of her best buildups and knew coming in she was a threat to not just make the team but win the race.
“Any way Amy and I looked at it, she was 2:20 or better shape,” Cragg said.
The plan coming in was for O’Keeffe to make a push between 18 and 22 miles – either responding to whoever was leading or to take the lead and push herself. O’Keeffe went earlier than that, and even when she was well clear, Cragg was still nervous, even though he believed in O’Keeffe’s fitness.
“The closer you get to the finish, the worse the nerves get,” Cragg said. “So I would say I wasn’t comfortable, no.”
Emily Sisson made the team without taking any chances in her training or race plan
Four years ago, Emily Sisson dropped out of the Olympic Trials marathon. In hindsight, she told us last week that she thinks she overdid it a bit in training and was tired for that race. This year, entering the Trials as the American record holder, she had the confidence to not overdo things in practice and maybe play things a little bit safe. The same thing was true in the race. There was no need for her to try to go with O’Keeffe. Make sure you get to Paris. Mission accomplished.
But if Sisson wants to be a factor in Paris, she’s going to need to take a risk between now and then.
Someone who did take a risk in training was Betsy Saina, who trained for this with marathon star Joyciline Jepkosgei in Kenya. Saina upped her mileage from 115 to 120 to 130 “just to see how it went” and in hindsight, it looks like it backfired.
Dreams became reality today for Dakotah Lindwurm and Minnesota Distance Elite
The fact that Dakotah Lindwurm is an Olympian is wild. She ended her career at DII Northern State by finishing just 34th in the NCAA DII XC championships in 2017. Her track personal bests were 2:36 in the 800, 5:20 in the mile (5:05 for 1500), 16:43 for 5000 and 34:57 in the 10,000.
Today, in warmish conditions in Orlando, she ran an entire marathon at 34:29 10k pace. That’s truly remarkable improvement.
We caught up with Minnesota Distance Elite head coach Chris Lundstrom, who also coached Annie Frisbie to a 10th place finish, about what made it all possible. It’s a cool story as the team doesn’t have a shoe sponsor and both he and Lindwurm work real jobs (Lindwurm is a paralegal). Lundstrom shares both Lindwurm’s hardest and most impressive workout in the interview.
The high school PRs of Dakotah Lindwurm, who made the team in 3rd. pic.twitter.com/VlD4VmPzKa
— Rod Murrow, JD (@RodMurrow) February 3, 2024
Keira D’Amato and Sara Hall come up short
It was going to be a really cool story if Keira D’Amato or Sara Hall made their first Olympic team at the ages of 39 and 40. D’Amato, who took a decade off from the sport to work as a realtor and raise two kids, ran with the leaders before dropping out around mile 20 while Hall, who is known to struggle in the heat, ran a strong race but came up 35 seconds short of an Olympic spot in 5th in 2:26:06.
Given her struggles in the heat in the past, Hall has a lot to be proud of for her run today. Had it been held at 6 a.m., maybe she’d have been an Olympian, but considering the temps today were similar to what they’ll be like in Paris, we don’t think the race was held in unfair conditions.
“I’m proud of how I ran out there,” Hall said. “It’s not what I dreamed of. But I don’t think I could have done any more than that. A lot of cramping the last lap and I was battling through that.”
As for D’Amato, we didn’t see her in the mixed zone but wonder if perhaps warmer weather isn’t good for her either as she was only 17th at Worlds in Budapest (though D’Amato also battled a leg/hip injury in that race). D’Amato did post an upbeat statement on instagram saying that her story is far from being over, writing:
I don’t have the words to talk about today’s Olympic Trials race yet, it didn’t go very well. I stepped off the course around mile 20. What I can say, this may have been the end of a chapter, but my book is sure as hell not over.
Head up. Learn the lessons. Move on.
I’ll share more about my race in the upcoming days. But for now, I’m going to surround myself with family and friends that traveled to be here, that wore red hats labeled, “go keira.” And I’m pretty sure the thing the care about the most is if I show up with a smile.
Thanks for all the love. All the support. Team D’Amato really rocked it today! ❤️
Jessica McClain after stunning 4th place finish
You may have had Fiona O’Keeffe making the team. Maybe you had Dakotah Lindwurm as a longshot (we mentioned her in our pre-race dark horse article). No one had Jessica McClain remotely near the Olympic team today, but the unsponsored, self-coached Stanford alum ran the race of her life on one of the sport’s biggest stages.
McClain said her goal was top 5 today and she delivered. She lives in Phoenix and after the race looked like she had gone for a stroll in the park.
Talk about the race on our world-famous fan forum / messageboard:
- The Official 2024 US Olympic Trials Orlando ‘Thon Live Thread
- Where’s the love for Fiona O’Keefe?
- DAKOTAH MF LINDWURM
- JESS (TONN) MCCLAIN IN 4TH
- Where did Jenny Simpson finish?
- How about some love for the last place Olympic Trials finishers!