[UPDATE: Running her first marathon, Jordan Hasay finished in 2:23:00 in the Boston Marathon on Monday, third overall behind winner Edna Kiplagat of Kenya and Rose Chelimo of Bahrain. Hasay's mark is the fastest debut time for an American woman in the marathon, eclipsing the 2:25:53 of Kara Goucher in 2008.]
Running always has come easy for Jordan Hasay. While other kids thought of it as punishment, it was her joy. Her daily highlight in fifth grade was running laps to start PE class. "I would be literally sitting on the edge of my seat in class," she says, "just waiting for the bell to ring so I could be the first person out the door. I had to win that little two-lapper." Even then, she loved the freedom and challenge of running. "I loved pushing myself," she recalls.
Hasay became a high school phenom in San Luis Obispo, California, and a star at the University of Oregon, where she was a 15-time All-American and two-time NCAA indoor champion in the mile and 3,000 meters. Though she's only 25, she's been in the national running spotlight for a dozen years.
Since graduating from college, Hasay -- known for her hard-charging style and long, blond braid -- has been coached by Alberto Salazar as part of the Nike Oregon Project, with her focus on the 5,000 and 10,000 meters.
However, Hasay has changed course since the 2016 Olympic trials, where she was a disappointing ninth in the 10K and 13th in the 5K after recovering from plantar fasciitis in 2015. She's taken to the roads and stretched her distance. In October she won the USATF 10 Mile Championship. In her half-marathon debut in Houston in January, she finished fourth, running 1 hour, 8 minutes, 40 seconds, the sixth-fastest time ever for an American woman. She topped that April 1 with a 1:07.55 at the Prague Half Marathon, the third-best time ever for an American, while finishing sixth. She also won the USATF 15K championship in March with a fierce finishing kick.
Now Hasay is preparing for her marathon debut in Boston on April 17. Here she talks about Boston, her evolution to longer distances and her running career.
ESPN: When did you decide to move up to a marathon?
Hasay: I sat down with Alberto [after the Olympic trials] and we thought, 'Well, we can just keep doing what we're doing or try a new route and go to the roads a little bit.' I started experimenting with some higher mileage, and we thought we'd give the 10-miler a try. I ended up winning that, so that kind of pointed us in the direction of 'OK, now we'll try the half and point towards the Boston Marathon in the spring.'
ESPN: Did you always think you'd do the marathon eventually?
Hasay: Definitely. I just didn't think it would be this soon. But after just not having the success I wanted on the track, I was a little bit frustrated. I think I've been in the sport so long -- since I was 12, doing track -- I just really needed a change. It's almost like a different sport to be doing the road racing.
ESPN: Why did you pick Boston for your marathon debut?
Hasay: It's just kind of the right timing. Galen [Rupp is] doing Boston as well. He's my teammate, so it makes sense that we're both sort of on the same plan. I also had spoken with Joan Benoit Samuelson -- I've done her race a couple of times, Beach to Beacon [10K] -- and she's a good friend of mine. She always pointed me toward Boston even though it's a hard one. She thinks it's a good one for the first time.
ESPN: You started running early. How'd you fall in love with the sport?
Hasay: I was beating all the boys in PE class, so I joined the track team when I was in fifth grade. In my first race, I beat an eighth-grader. From there on out, I was hooked. I did other sports though. Until high school I continued to play volleyball, basketball and swimming. My family was just really active, so I think that was a blessing that I didn't focus [solely] on running, not until high school.
ESPN: You had a terrific half-marathon debut in Houston. Were you surprised?
Hasay: Actually, we did worse than we thought. I had hopes to run close to 68 minutes. I know that was very ambitious, but training had indicated I could run somewhere around 68 minutes, so that was a goal going in. The good thing about the race was I started out very slow. There was a rabbit going at a 66-minute pace, so I definitely didn't want to go with that, but I think I was in 12th halfway through and ended up fourth. My immediate reaction was disappointment. But then we looked at the overall day, it was very humid, and I was by myself mostly. Now, I'm very pleased with it. It was a good time and good effort. It leaves a lot of room for improvement.
ESPN: What strengths do you carry into the longer distances?
Hasay: I think it's the ability to be able to stay relaxed and handle the adversities. I've learned that in the course of a marathon and some of these longer tempos and such, there's going to be a lot of ups and downs. Usually when I'm doing a long run, at two miles in, I feel like I'm going to die. But then you just move through it, so [you] just [need] the ability to stay patient and stay relaxed. I've always been good about staying relaxed in races and sort of tuning out. I don't mind just grinding on, so I think that fits well with the marathon.
ESPN: Do you feel stronger and fitter than you did in 2016?
Hasay: Definitely. My plantar ended up tearing, and then I had tendinitis basically in every area of the foot that you could get. I love to run though, so I was trying to come back, trying to come back. I thought I was back, but each month, I started to feel better and better. I still think my stride was a little bit off. It really does throw off your game mentally when you're not racing at 100 percent and training at 100 percent. This was really my first injury, so I didn't know that. It took me a long time to process through all of that.
ESPN: How has your training changed?
Hasay: When I did the 10K, it was about 90 [miles per week], and now it's about 100 to 110, so a little higher. And I do some swimming, cross training, because I've always done that. I think the main change has been adding the longer tempo runs, so my longest tempo run was at 5 miles and now I do up to 12 miles. You could even call some of our 20-mile runs tempos. And I've done 25-mile-long runs now. My long run before was only 18.
ESPN: Will you be nervous on race day?
Hasay: I get nervous before every workout and every long run. I've been starting them at 9:32 a.m., which is the time Boston will start. So I eat at the time that I'll eat when I race Boston. So little things like that really help. That's where the experience comes in. I've learned that anything you can do to lessen the anxiety you'll feel on race days is a good thing because I'll have all that added excitement.
ESPN: What will your pre-Boston breakfast be?
Hasay: I usually just stick with oatmeal and peanut butter and banana and coffee with lots of milk. I drink a lot of milk. I have a really good stomach, so that fits for the marathon as well.
ESPN: When you think about running Boston, what are you excited about?
Hasay: Everyone's been telling me about the crowds. I think that's what I'm most excited about, just the energy. It's just going to go by so quick because I heard that it's five-people deep the whole way through. I love that kind of stuff. It really motivates me. I really enjoy the sport and the opportunity to come together as a community. Nowhere else does that as well as Boston. With everything that's happened there, with the history, it's going to be really fun.
ESPN: What are your expectations for your first marathon?
Hasay: When it comes time to race day, we'll kind of know where I want to be. So overall, I'd say just running a really smart race, especially for my first one. I keep telling myself, 'Yeah, you don't have to knock it out of the park. It's OK, there's going to be a lot of mistakes.' But I will be happy if I just deal with that adversity that's going to come with the marathon, but then walk away with it being a successful race knowing I did the very best I could and I just controlled what I could control.
ESPN: What happens after Boston?
Hasay: The plan is to go back to the track and try to make the 10K team for the world championships. I would love to stick to the roads, but I am still very young, so I don't want to do too many marathons, especially having a long-term view toward 2020. Obviously if I don't run a great marathon, then we'll reassess. We're assuming that it's going to go pretty well, so [the marathon is] what we'll focus on for the Olympics.