After Jordan Hasay dropped out of the 2019 Chicago Marathon with a hamstring injury, Paula Radcliffe, the former marathon world record holder (2:15:25), got in touch to see how she was doing—and out of that gesture a new coaching partnership has formed between the women.
Hasay had been through a lot in the weeks leading up to the race. Her coach Alberto Salazar received a four-year ban from the sport for “orchestrating and facilitation prohibited doping conduct” and in the aftermath, Nike disbanded the Oregon Project, her training group (Salazar has filed an appeal and denied wrongdoing and Hasay has never been implicated in the case).
Then on October 13, around two miles into the race in Chicago, where Hasay had hoped to set a new American record (faster than Deena Kastor’s mark of 2:19:36), she stopped, posting on Instagram afterward that she felt a sharp pain in her hamstring. (A message to Hasay’s agent requesting an interview with Hasay was unreturned.)
Fast forward to November 20, when Hasay, who is based in Arroyo Grande, California, announced via social media that Radcliffe, who lives in Monaco, is her new “coaching advisor” as she trains for the 2020 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, on February 29 in Atlanta. Hasay subsequently posted that she’s now healthy and logging 100 miles per week.
“While my kids are still young, they are very much my priority and I cannot commit the time right now to be a full-time coach,” Radcliffe told Women’s Running. “I have mentored and helped athletes already and this feels like an extension and growth of that.”
The connections between Hasay and Radcliffe make the partnership logical in some ways. Both are affiliated with Nike. Gary Lough, Radcliffe’s husband, is coaching quadruple Olympic gold medalist Mo Farah, another former Oregon Project and Salazar-coached athlete. And in the aftermath of Salazar’s ban, Radcliffe defended the athletes who worked with him and remained publicly supportive of them after the sanction was announced.
Radcliffe’s role, she says, will involve mentoring Hasay from afar.
“At this stage, I see it more that she needs someone to chat things through with, ask advice from, and give an external perspective on things,” Radcliffe said.
Radcliffe explained how she hopes to support Hasay in her quest to make the 2020 Olympic team and how her own athletic career will inform the advice she gives, as well as her thoughts on women in coaching.
‘That is enough.’
Hasay, 28, will start the Olympic Marathon Trials with the fastest qualifying time, 2:20:57, set at the 2017 Chicago Marathon. Radcliffe says that her primary role between now and February is to prescribe enough rest.
“The athlete will always want to do more and work harder, but often it is the coach who needs to say, ‘that is enough,’” Radcliffe says. “She has training partners and people who can be at all her sessions and give feedback. She already has an excellent understanding of her body and what it responds well to. She is also very good at tuning into feelings and paces—I think for the marathon this is a huge advantage—and she is good at giving feedback over the phone after workouts.”
After working with Salazar since graduating from the University of Oregon in 2013, Hasay already has the basics in place to achieve goals like qualifying for the Tokyo Games, setting national records, and winning a World Marathon Major, Radcliffe says. Hasay’s strength and conditioning routine is “excellent,” she added.
“She has progressed steadily and smartly from young athlete to senior and built an excellent base. It is just some fine tuning, largely in terms of rest and recovery and the quality of sessions,” Radcliffe says. “We look at key sessions that worked for me and the ones she already knows, tell her she is in great shape and help her both mentally and physically.”
Head over heart.
Radcliffe said it’s important for her to remember that what worked for her as a world record holder may not work for Hasay. While using her athletic career as a guide to inform her coaching can be helpful, she wants to remember that all runners respond individually to training philosophies.
The value for Hasay is that Radcliffe can help “advise her in making the smart decisions that the head should make over the heart.”
“When you are the athlete in there, committing everything to the goal, it is sometimes hard to step back and see the full picture…the important thing I can bring to this team is getting to know Jordan well and helping here make the best decisions that suit her and her body,” Radcliffe said. “It is impossible for our own experiences not to affect us and how we live our lives. In learning from all of my experiences, I believe I can help Jordan to grow and develop in racing and training.”
After professional runner Mary Cain came forward with accusations of emotional abuse against Salazar, based partially on his demands that she lose a specific amount of weight to enhance performance, conversations have turned to the need for more women in coaching and leadership positions in the sport.
Although Radcliffe emphasized that she’s not yet qualified to call herself a coach, her deep understanding of the marathon distance from a woman’s perspective will be helpful, she said.
“Given that I am a female who has gone through all of the training and racing experiences that I have, of course those experiences put me in a position to better understand the physical and psychological impact of marathon racing and preparation,” Radcliffe said. “That said…a great deal [of my knowledge] came from developing and learning with a male coach [Alex Stanton] who was excellent and always ready to learn and listen.”
While Radcliffe believes in equal opportunities, she doesn’t think the women should be hired as coaches “simply because they are female.”
“I don’t ever tell my daughter that she should expect special treatment or rights simply because she is female,” Radcliffe said, “she has to learn to work hard for what she achieves.”
Radcliffe surmises that the lack of women in coaching throughout the sport is “probably due to a multitude of reasons: traditional male domination (old boys’ network), opportunity and desire, and also the face that many women who might move into coaching as a career first want to concentrate on family and children.”
After spending so many years fitting her family time around training camps and traveling for races, Radcliffe, who retired from competition in 2015, said she’s now focused on providing more stability at home for her daughter, Isla (12), and son, Raphael (9).
“That’s why I am not ready right now to commit to full-time coaching, since I know the time commitment necessary to do this properly,” Radcliffe said. “Jordan is already a very strong and balanced young woman and a formidable athlete…she reminds me of myself, in that she can be very strong minded when she needs to be, but if she believes something is right or potentially right, she isn’t afraid to give it a go.”