Before NY Mini, US Olympic Marathoners Talk Paris Course: ‘These hills are a different beast’

NEW YORK — We’re almost two months away from the Olympics concluding for the first time with the women’s marathon on August 11 in Paris.

In a pioneering year for women’s marathoning, it’s fitting that all three US women’s Olympic marathoners — Fiona O’Keeffe, Emily Sisson, and Dakotah Lindwurm — are getting center attention at Saturday’s Mastercard NYC Mini 10k. It’s the 51st edition of the Mini, one of the world’s first and most prestigious women’s-only road races.

Lindwurm, O'Keefe and Sisson before the Mastercard NYC Mini Lindwurm, O’Keeffe and Sisson before the Mastercard NYC Mini

O’Keeffe, Sisson, and Lindwurm had a media availability at the Women’s Rights Pioneer Monument in Central Park in advance of Saturday’s race.

O’Keeffe out with minor injury

The biggest news of note is that O’Keeffe, the Olympic Trials champion, will not be running the Mini out of precaution over a minor injury that she said she might have picked up doing a fartlek on the Paris marathon course.

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“I just have a little tightness in my right calf,” explained O’Keeffe. “I hoped it would calm down by race day, but we want to be extra cautious.”

O’Keeffe has raced once since the Trials, running 31:03 at the Night of the 10,000 PBs. Lindwurm has raced twice, running 16:06 at the Boston 5K on April 13 and finishing 3rd at the US 25k Championships (in a race where the top 4 all went under the previous US 25k record). The Mini will be Sisson’s first race since the Trials.

The Paris Course

While O’Keeffe said she contemplated running the 10,000m at the Olympic Track & Field Trials but decided against it, the focus of all three runners has been on getting ready for the Paris Olympic marathon and the unique and hilly course.

Olympic Marathon Course Elevation Profile Olympic Marathon Course Elevation Profile (meters)

The Paris course run from Paris to Versailles and back and is relatively flat for the first 9 miles, then uphill through mile 12 as the runners run out to Versailles. The route back is net downhill but has one tough uphill section and steep downhills, with the final 6 miles flat. A very challenging course.

All three American runnners have been to Paris to look at the course. Lindwurm and O’Keeffe flew out to see it in conjunction with a Puma event, with O’Keeffe returning again to run parts of the course after the Night of the 10,000m PBs. Sisson and her husband decided to go see the course on their own, and then got hooked up with New Balance France for a look at the course.

O’Keeffe: “These hills are a different beast”

O’Keeffe and her American teammates all said they had never seen a course like Paris, but were relishing the challenge of taking it on.

“The hills are condensed into one section, so a lot’s going to happen in that middle 10 miles,” said O’Keeffe. “I’ve run well at Bix, which is a pretty hilly seven-mile road race. That being said, these hills are a different beast.”

She continued, “And it’s during a marathon, but, I do feel like I’m excited about the challenge. I think it presents more of an opportunity for all of us Americans than if it were like an extremely flat and fast course.”

O’Keeffe’s plan is to do some altitude training in Mammoth Lakes until heading over for the Olympics.

Lindwurm excited for Paris test

Lindwurm echoed O’Keeffe’s sentiments about the course being an equalizer.

“The course is incredibly challenging, but I think that made me really excited, because obviously there are women who can run 10 minutes faster than I can, but they won’t be running that fast on that day.

“I think it’ll keep it together for a long time, and there’ll be carnage on the hills. And hopefully I can come out strong,” she said.

Lindwurm said she has been doing mile repeats (half-mile uphill, half-mile downhill) on tough hills in Minneapolis to prepare her quads for Paris. The plan is to stay in Minneapolis until Paris.

Sisson: “I’ve never seen anything like that”

Emily Sisson dropped out of the 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials on the hilly Atlanta course, so she knows she needs to prepare for Paris. The course is like nothing she has seen before.

“It’s very unique… It actually felt like more like two hills and it was the second one that I was like, I’ve never seen anything like this before. It was just very steep and it’s the downhill part where I’m like, how are we going to prepare for that? It was around like 30K I want to say. It was just very steep and long and that’s the part where I’m like, okay, how are we going to prepare the quads for that?” Sisson said.

“I’m just getting into the marathon build now. So we’re keeping the training pretty similar, just adding in hills. So, I’m feeling a lot stronger doing my tempos on hilly courses, which is good,” she said.

Sisson hopes to finish top 3 in the Mini and then stay and train in Rhode Island before heading over to Spain before the Olympics to get on European time.

*Saturday’s Mastercard NYC Mini is at 8am eastern and can be streamed on ESPN+ starting at 8:45 

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