Running with Jordan Hasay

I ran a 10K on the track with Jordan Hasay! The race was put on by her coach, Alberto Salazar, in perfect weather conditions with pacers to lead her to the ‘A’ standard of 31:45 for the T&F World Championships in Moscow.

In order to cover his bases and make it a legitimate race against real people, Salazar offered to pay $100 to four women capable of running a sub-45 minute 10K to participate. The meet director posted about it on facebook on Saturday night. I immediately messaged him and he told me I was in!

I didn’t exactly feel prepared to run a 10K. I was coming off of a great week of training with two good workouts under my belt, but that meant by Sunday I was feeling pretty tired. My easy run the day before the meet was 10 miles!

I was a little nervous when I arrived at the track, mainly because I did not know what to expect. My worries vanished when I met the other women. We were all on the same boat- all local runners, not really ready for a 10K on short notice (some of them had even raced a 5K that morning), not really sure what to expect, but just having fun and going for it. Most of the women were running it as a workout, and a couple of them were using it as a time trial. The atmosphere felt relaxed, and everyone was just excited to be there and root for Hasay. I didn’t get to meet her before the race, but I saw her warming up around the track in a hot pink Nike jacket, then later speaking with Salazar, likely going over her race plan.

At the start, we were lined up slowest to fastest based on our predicted finish time. In the pic below, Hasay is toward the left with the braided hair and I am in the middle with the split shorts and arm crossed over my front.


The start gun fired, everyone took off, and I found myself immediately in last place! Ahh oh no!! My plan was to try and run 93 second quarters. I felt like I was running so fast, and surely the women around me took off too fast, and surely we were running sub-90. The first quarter went by in 95 seconds. Oh dear. One lap down, and I was already behind on my goal pace, AND it felt hard. I knew this should have been one of those “listen to your body” moments, and I should have settled into that pace because it already felt plenty fast. Instead, I chose not to listen and started chasing the women in front of me.

I passed a few women that were doing a tempo run together and did my best to speed up. However, it became clear pretty quickly that 93 second laps were just too fast. My breathing was okay, but my legs were tired. I went through mile one in 6:16 or so and mile two in 12:32. I must have slowed down a little bit in mile three, and went through the 5K mark in 19:43.

Throughout all of this, so far, the crowd was going nuts every time Hasay and her pacers ran down the homestretch. Every time the announcer called out her splits, which were right around 75-77 seconds, a big cheer would erupt because she was right on target. By the 5K mark, I think she had already passed me twice. There were officials with flags stationed on all four corners of the track that would signal to me when Hasay was approaching, so that I could move out to lane three and allow her and the pacers to pass. Every time she zoomed by, I shouted words of encouragement to her. I noticed the other women out there doing the same.

Every time I ran down the homestretch, I could hear several people yelling, “Go Liz!”, which surprised me a little. The only person I knew for sure that was there was my husband, so it was nice getting some unexpected support. As far as my pace, I sort of lost track and stopped paying attention to my watch, but I felt like I found a manageable rhythm.

Since I had stopped paying attention so much to my own race, I started noticing what was going on around me a bit more. As Hasay got closer and closer to finishing her race, the crowd seemed to be getting more and more frantic. I think her pace was starting to slip a little bit and everyone was getting nervous. I noticed Alberto Salazar watching intently from the 100m mark on the track. With a few laps to go, Hasay passed me yet again. I saw a young woman in a navy track jacket in the infield shouting at Hasay that she knew she could do it. I had to do a double-take, because I realized it was none other than high school phenom Mary Cain.

Simply being in the presence of national and world class runners, plus the incredible crowd, was enough to give me a little burst of energy. My legs were not happy and I was feeling weary, but it was simply impossible not to get excited. I think I had five laps to go when the bell rang and Hasay was completing her last lap. I realized that I would be running down the homestretch at the same time as her! Not wanting to be in the way of photographers, or mess up her race in any way, I swung way out into lane 5 to give her all the space she needed.


I was about 20 meters into my next lap when Hasay crossed the line. I kept running, but I had to at least crane my neck around and see her finish! She ended up running a time of 31:46- just one second off her goal. It was still good enough for the ‘B’ standard, which meant she sealed the deal for her trip to Moscow.

Meanwhile, my mortal self still had five laps to run! My legs still weren’t happy, but I felt a surge of energy after seeing Hasay’s big finish.

The last mile went by pretty quickly and I ended up crossing the line in 39:25. Just seven seconds off my PR and a negative split by one second (19:43/19:42)!

Afterward I found Hasay in the infield and gave her a high five and my congratulations. She seemed incredibly sweet and humble. I also went up to Salazar, introduced myself, and thanked him for having me and the other women in the meet. I’ll admit, I was a tad starstruck.

By the time I got home, it was around 11:45PM, but my day wasn’t over quite yet. I made my way downstairs to the gym, hopped on a treadmill, and ran another 6.25 miles. Exactly enough to complete 65 miles for the week. Ah, the strange yet satisfying life of a runner.

Update: Flotrack posted a video of this race (or as they more appropriately called it, standard chase) here.



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Who is Mercury?

Liz Derstine, trail name “Mercury”, is a distance runner, endurance hiker, writer, and musician residing in Boston, MA. She holds fastest known times for women on the Appalachian Trail (supported, northbound), Long Trail (self-supported), and Pinhoti Trail (self-supported).

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