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Laura Thweatt Is Dangerous at Every Distance

The fastest American in the New York City Marathon proved she can run the roads, but she still has business on the track

Run for the Future participant Carolyn Navarro, left, presents Laura Thweatt her New York City Marathon bib on October 30. (AP)
Photo: AP

The fastest American in the New York City Marathon proved she can run the roads, but she still has business on the track

Despite being eclipsed by  18-year-old Alana Hadley in pre-race coverage, Laura Thweatt screamed through a 2:28:23 on Sunday’s New York City Marathon, finishing as the top American and seventh overall. Oh, and did we mention it was also her debut at that distance? In an era when it’s still rare for a U.S. woman to break 2:30, Thweatt would theoretically be short-listed for an Olympic spot if she were to line up at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trials Marathon in February. But don’t expect to see her there—at least not yet. 

“I’ve got some unfinished business on the track,” Thweatt told Outside on Sunday. “I’m not a marathoner yet, and I’m not considering myself one. But I think it’s something I’m going to pursue down the road, just not quite yet.”

We caught up with her about New York, next year, and what she’s got in common with the U.S.’s greatest runners.
OUTSIDE: How about that race? 
THWEATT: It’s still kind of surreal right now, but I feel really excited and yeah, I had a good day today. I was lucky that I got a good one. 

It wasn’t long after your finish that your coach announced that you wouldn’t race the Marathon Trials in Los Angeles. When did you decide that, and what’s your reasoning? 
We made that decision long before today. We said regardless of how the day went—whether it was great, whether it was bad—we wouldn’t be lining up in L.A. It’s my first marathon, it was a tough course, and I definitely need some time to recover. I’ve got some unfinished business on the track. I’m not a marathoner yet, and I’m not considering myself one. But I think it’s something I’m going to pursue down the road, just not quite yet. I want to make sure I get healthy and I want to take my time getting to that.

After that finish, wasn’t there at least some second-guessing?
No, definitely not. Part of it was I felt absolutely horrible. If that’s the marathon, it’s a distance to be respected. I’m just not quite ready to put all my energy and focus into it. 

You’ve run 15:04 for the 5,000-meters and 32:15 for 10,000m. Have you decided which event you’ll focus on in 2016?
We’re thinking 10K. But we don’t have either qualifier yet. I’ve got to get both of those first, and then we’ll have a better idea which one we’ll put everything into. 

People say running 25 laps on the track takes a lot of focus. How does it compare to 26.2 miles on the roads?
That was a big factor in doing the marathon in the fall, to give me that focus going into track season. Physically and psychologically, you have to have that to run a 10,000 at the level I’m hoping to run it. It’s a grind. And that’s like the marathon, especially a course like New York: It challenges you every step of the way. 

How did your training for the marathon compare to your normal track training?
My coach told me, “You’re not a marathoner. You’re not going to be a marathoner for a few more years. So we’re not going to dive into full-blown marathon training.” My volume of my workouts remained about the same to what they’ve been the last four years—granted, long runs were longer and my medium-distance runs in the middle of the week were longer.

So you’re saying that you could theoretically run a 2:28 marathon in the middle of track season?
Probably not, but I’d like to say I could.

How do you compare the two venues, the track versus the roads?
[In the marathon] the energy out there is big. But you do get that on the track in places like Eugene. I like both of them for different reasons. 

It was less than two years ago that you were competing indoor on the track in the mile, and now you’ve just run 25 times that distance. What’s the reasoning behind that?
It gives you confidence. You look at the greats out there, like Deena [Kastor], Shalane [Flanagan], Molly Huddle, Kara Goucher, they have that range. They can run low 15s for the 5K, they can run 30, 31s in the 10K, and they can run low-2:20s in the marathon. For the 10K or the 5K, the events that I want to focus on next year, you have to have the strength, endurance, and that turnover. The people that have that triple threat are the ones that run well in those distances.

Has your New York race made you think differently about running? 
It’s a confidence booster, and that’s what I was hoping to get out of it today. Confidence is everything. You either see yourself with a wreath or you don’t. I’m going to need everything I can get to line up in July and really feel like I have a shot. 

When a track athlete transitions to the roads, they talk about him or her having those extra gears should the race come down to a kick. Did you feel those gears at the end?
Ha, no. I was doing everything in my power to run a six-minute mile. You feel like you’re really kicking, but I was gone at that point. It was everything I could do to finish in the top-ten. I really had nothing left.

Filed To: Athletes / Road Running / Events / Endurance Training