Just five months after setting the American record for the half-marathon in Indianapolis, Emily Sisson repeated that honor on an even bigger scale: On October 9, Sisson set the American record in the marathon with her second-place finish at the Chicago Marathon.
Sisson ran 2:18:29, shaving 43 seconds off the previous record, which was set by Keira D’Amato earlier this year. She finished just over four minutes behind Kenya’s Ruth Chepngetich, who won the 26.2-mile race for the second year straight and missed setting a new world record by 14 seconds, according to NBC Sports. Kenya’s Vivian Jerono Kiplagat earned third.
While Sisson’s 2022 has been record-breaking, she hasn’t had a smooth course leading up to it. Sisson, now 30, entered the Olympic Marathon Trials in Atlanta in 2020 as one of the favorites, but ended up dropping out of the hilly course by mile 22. It was the last mass marathon she raced until Chicago this weekend.
“The Olympic marathon trials, that broke my heart,” Sisson told NBC Sports. “Usually I’m good at moving on from bad races, but I really struggled with that one. There was nothing to move on to, and my body wasn’t feeling good, even if there was.”
Soon after the marathon trials, the Olympics announced its postponement to 2021, and the track trials were pushed back to 2021 as well. Sisson—who races both shorter track distances and longer road distances—had an extra year to prep for the 10,000 meter trials, and ended up winning the race. She headed to Tokyo for her Olympic debut in 2021, and finished 10th in the 10,000-meter event (10,000 meters is 6.2 miles).
Following her Olympic experience, Sisson told Runner’s World that she planned to focus solely on the roads for 2022. Her body needs a break by the end of track season, she said, which makes it hard to get into marathon buildup.
“I feel very confident in that decision [not to run track],” she said to Runner’s World. “I do love the track. But I really want to see what I can do on the roads.”
That decision paid off big: In Indianapolis in May, she set the American record in the half-marathon by running 1:07:11, after attempting to break it twice before and missing it by a handful of seconds each time.
“Third time is a charm,” Sisson wrote on Instagram after clinching the 13.1-mile American record.
Her focus on long-distance training has continued to reap dividends in Chicago. According to The New York Times, Sisson was confident going into the race, and said she would go for the American record if she was “having a good day.” She ended up negative-splitting the race—meaning she finished the second half (the last 13 miles) quicker than the first.
Following the race, Sisson met up with D’Amato and American distance running legends Deena Kastor—who held the American marathon record until 2006—and Joan Benoit Samuelson, the first women’s Olympic Marathon champion.
“It’s amazing,” Sisson said to NBC Chicago. “I mean, the women standing here today, they’ve all accomplished so much, so just to be amongst them is an incredible honor.”
D’Amato, who served as a race analyst for NBC Chicago during the event, said it was “pretty emotional” to be there when Sisson broke her American record. D’Amato had only set the previous record in January 2022 at the Houston Marathon, as SELF reported earlier this year.
“I’m just really proud of Emily today, feeling part of the legacy to keep moving the bar forward for American women,” D’Amato said in the broadcast.