Already Looking Ahead To Boston, Hasay Ready For Half-Marathon Debut

By David Monti, @d9monti
(c) 2017 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

HOUSTON (13-Jan) — Two days before the longest race of her life, Jordan Hasay is excited by the new, longer-distance direction of her 13 year-old running career which, she said, began in elementary school.

“When I was in the fourth grade I was beating all the boys in P.E. class,” said Hasay who will make her half-marathon debut here on Sunday in the Aramco Houston Half-Marathon. “So I joined the track team.”

Hasay, now 25, is an athlete in transition under coach Alberto Salazar of the Nike Oregon Project in Portland.  After an unsatisfying track season in 2016 where she doubled at the USA Olympic Trials, finishing 13th in the 5000m and 9th in the 10,000m, Hasay ran better during her fall road racing campaign.  She scored three podium finishes from September through November, including a victory at the USA 10 mile championships in Minneapolis, her first-ever national open title.  That result, she said, was the culmination of a refreshed approach to training after the Trials with an eye towards racing longer distances.

“Unfortunately, the Trials didn’t go as well as we had hoped in the 5-K and the 10-K, just kind of coming off of my injury in 2015,” Hasay recounted.  “After that point, we kind of had to sit down and say, OK, we need to sort of make a decision here.  Do I just kind of stick with the 5-K and 10-K, or do we maybe think about doing more marathon, half-marathon training?”

Under Coach Salazar, and inspired by the bronze medal performance of her teammate Galen Rupp in the Olympic Marathon, Hasay began to tackle the longer distances.  She had always loved road running, and felt a new sense of freedom being away from track training with a new set of goals.

“So, we sort of experimented with that in September, October, and raced that 10-miler,” Hasay continued.  “I prayed the 10-miler would go very well.  The training was going well, and that was the indication that I could go run a half.”

Hasay ran an excellent 52:49, and picked up $22,000, including a special $10,000 equalizer bonus for holding off the men’s champion, Sam Chelanga, who had started five minutes and 43 seconds behind her.  Hasay’s confidence swelled.

“I felt great and that I could keep going,” Hasay said.  “So, I hope that will be the case on Sunday.  We’ll just have to see.”

Here in Houston, Hasay will race against an international field, including Kenya’s Mary Wacera the defending champion, course record holder (66:29), and the 2014 IAAF World Half-Marathon Championships silver medalist.  Hasay isn’t out to beat Wacera, she said, but just wants to lay down another quality performance, and get the feel for her half-marathon pace.

“There’s expectations, and there’s no expectations, at the same time,” Hasay explained.  “Training has gone really well, so I would like to run very fast, and we think I can run pretty quick.  I’m just going to stick to my own pace and see what I can do.”

Sunday’s race is part of a larger plan for Hasay and her coaching staff.  She’s also making her marathon debut at the Boston Marathon on April 17.  She realizes that her performance here is only a step towards running one of the world’s highest level and most challenging marathons, with unpredictable weather and leg-thrashing hills.  She feels she’s on the right path.

“Alberto said I had to get through the 10-miler and race it well in order to move on to the half-marathon, and that was sort of my motivation to go get it done,” Hasay said.  “I really enjoy the longer racing and feel just a bit disillusioned with the track right now after last summer.  I honestly think the road races are more fun and exciting, just because it’s always such a community event.  I love being out there with other athletes who aren’t elite, just the general people who all have their own story.”

Boston has clearly captured Hasay’s imagination, but she also thinks it’s a practical choice for her first marathon.  She can be on the same training schedule as Rupp, and Coach Salazar thinks she has enough time to recover and get ready for a track season if that’s what they decide to do.  Hasay has already made one USA team for the IAAF World Championships (she ran the 10,000m in Moscow in 2013 and finished 12th), and another is definitely a possibility.

“Boston’s very historic and, honestly, it just fits in with the timing well because I’d like to try out the marathon, and the plan is to go back to the 10-K for the summer.  So, I just kind of want to see how it goes, and make a decision on how we move forward: do I keep to the roads or go back to the track?”

Boston has additional meaning for Hasay.  She has become friends with 1984 Olympic Marathon gold medalist Joan Samuelson, and Samuelson –who won Boston twice– has encouraged her to run the historic course from Hopkinton to Back Bay.

“I’ve been honored to get to know Joanie the past couple of years at some Nike events, and she always tells me, ‘You know, I know that New York’s a good one too, but go to Boston for your first one,'” Hasay recounted.  Laughing, she continued:  “She’s maybe a little biased as a two-time champion.”


MAIN PHOTO: Jordan Hasay shows off her name bib ahead of Sunday’s Aramco Houston Half-Marathon where she will make her debut at the distance (photo by David Monti for Race Results Weekly)