America’s Amy Cragg is set to race the Prague Half on Saturday
Success for reigning USA Olympic Trials Marathon champion Amy Cragg did not come easily or quickly. Indeed, the 35 year-old Nike Bowerman Track Club athlete nearly quit the sport before her true talent really showed through, eventually carrying her to Olympic Trials wins in both 2012 (at 10,000m) and 2016 (marathon), four USA titles, and a 2:21:42 marathon personal best. It’s been a long, and sometimes bumpy, road.
“Definitely, I’ve made some mistakes along the way,” Cragg told Race Results Weekly in a telephone interview from Prague where she’ll be running the Sportisimo Prague International Half-Marathon on Saturday. “I’ve learned from them and that’s kind of led me to here. So, every once in a while I’ve looked back and I’m, like, I should have done this differently or this differently. But, the reality is that I might not have ended up here. I think I’m in a really good place.”
Working with coaches Jerry Schumacher and Pascal Dobert and Bowerman teammate Shalane Flanagan since the end of 2015, Cragg has blossomed into one of America’s best at 26.2 miles. After winning the February, 2016, Marathon Trials on a brutally hot day in Los Angeles, she went on to finish ninth in the Olympic Games Marathon in Rio.
She backed up that performance a year later with a thrilling, late-race charge at the 2017 IAAF World Championships marathon in London, taking the bronze medal (the first medal for a USA woman at those championships in the marathon since 1983), and only missing the silver by a fraction of a second.
She recovered from her London race well, then ran the Tokyo Marathon in February, 2018, finishing third in an excellent 2:21:42. That performance made her the fifth-fastest American of all time behind only Deena Kastor, Jordan Hasay, Flanagan and Joan Samuelson.
"I love where I’m at,” Cragg continued. “I love my team and my coach. Just living in Oregon, that’s been incredible. I think overall, those rough moments, those times when I considered stopping have made me a stronger athlete. I’m glad I went through that. It’s hard to say that. Those times, I think I really learned a lot from them.”
Cragg is at an unusual juncture in her career. She hasn’t run a marathon in over a year. She built-up for Chicago last October, but ended up withdrawing from the race after she and her coaches felt that her training hadn’t brought her to the fitness she would need to run her best. They had intense discussions, she said, about what to do next.
“When I pulled out of Chicago last year the big talk was, OK, what do we really want to get out of the next two years?” Cragg said. “I’ll probably be in the sport two years and reassess. The big thing is making another Olympic team and trying to perform well in Tokyo. Everything we do from here on out, that’s the goal to make that team and we’ve been working back from there.”
Cragg decided not to do a spring marathon this year. Instead, she worked with her Bowerman teammates Shelby Houlihan, Marielle Hall, Courtney Frerichs, and Karissa Schweizer to get ready for the USATF Cross Country Championships last February where she finished fifth in her first national cross country championships in nine years.
A month later she ran the special Road to Gold test event in Atlanta where she was able to run on the 2020 Olympic Trials course. Uncontested, she covered the 8-mile route in 43:23 and won by a minute. She told Race Results Weekly that the Atlanta race was essentially the kick-off of her Trials training.
“I felt pretty good,” Cragg said. “I think I’m in a good position and I’m pretty excited to get into the bigger miles. For me, that makes a huge difference. I feel ready to start that, which is exciting for me.”
Saturday’s race in Prague is the next logical step on Cragg’s long journey to Atlanta next February for the marathon trials and Tokyo for the Olympics next August. On Prague’s flat, record-eligible course Cragg wants to race hard with the goal of improving herself as a marathoner.
posted Friday April 5th