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Pacing an American Record at the Chicago Marathon

Jonny was at the 2022 edition of the Chicago Marathon and even though he wasn’t racing himself, he was pacing a fellow team mate to what turned out to be an American Record. Here he tells us about his experience.

“I was privileged to be given the opportunity to pace fellow Team New Balance athlete Emily Sisson at the Bank of America Chicago Marathon on Sunday morning.

Back from a season break..

Having come off a break following my sixth place finish at the recent Commonwealth Games it’s fair to say I was a little nervous going into the race. The longest run I’d done since July was a 20-miler, just to test the water and make sure I wasn’t going to let Emily down. That went well, so figured with carbon shoes, the buzz and adrenaline of the crowd, I’d be good to go! 

The plan was to get through half way between 69:00 and 69:30 based on the wind, it is called the windy city after all! After a fast first mile and a rather conservative second mile we settled into a good rhythm and began to tick the miles off aiming to run around 5:16-18 pace. Passing 10k we were right on schedule and started to catch the group ahead around the 15k marker getting to half way in 69:22. Emily’s coach Ray was confident that Emily could run a strong second half and the buzz of the crowds around the half way mark were unbelievable. 

As anyone who has ran marathons previously will be aware, you go through good and bad patches and as we closed on the 30k marker our pace began to slip a touch to 5:20 but Emily remained focused on the process and we remained on record pace. 

Although I felt full of running at this stage my legs were starting to feel the distance but hearing the crowds cheer Emily on and knowing we were on for a fast time helped me push on towards the finish.


The business end..

As we hit the 22-mile marker, Emily asked me to increase the pace a touch, dropping to around 5:10 pace for one final push towards the finish. I knew we were well on schedule at this point but I was only too happy to push on. 
With 200m to go I moved aside and let Emily cross the line in second place overall and an incredible 2:18:29, nearly 45-seconds inside the previous American record. It was a new feeling for me and one that I really enjoyed, playing just a very small role in her success. A marathon is not just the result of a 12-week training block, but often years of consistency and planning so to see a fellow athlete achieve her target was pretty special.

Marathon success

I crossed the line in 2:18:35 for marathon number 13 and my fourth major having already ran London, Berlin and New York. It might be my slowest marathon to date, but it was certainly one of my most enjoyable marathons. I’ve definitely got my eyes on finishing the marathon majors with Boston hopefully next on the list! But first time to recover and get ready for an Autumn of racing on the roads.”


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