PROVIDENCE — At one point, about 10 miles into the Chicago Marathon, Emily Sisson glanced down at her race watch and noticed that it had shut off.
She tried restarting it, but she wasn’t sure of where she was in the race or what her pace was, so she just kept running. As she approached the finish line, people lining the race course began yelling at her to pick up her pace.
So, she said, “I just started sprinting. And I didn’t even see a clock at the finish line.”
She didn’t find out how well she had done until her husband broke the news: Sisson had just smashed the American women’s record for the marathon, ending the Oct. 9 race with a powerful sprint to finish in 2:18:29, lopping 43 seconds off the previous record time.
Sisson, who graduated from Providence College in 2014 and has run many miles in Rhode Island, recounted her record-setting race on the Rhode Island Report podcast.
She ended up finishing second in the race, stepping onto the podium alongside Kenya’s Ruth Chepngetich, who won in a time of 2:14:18 – just 14 seconds short of the world record.
She recalled a magical moment, after the race, when she stood alongside three other women that have held the American marathon record since 1985: The legendary Joan Benoit Samuelson, Deena Kastor, and Keira D’Amato.
When Deena Kastor broke the American marathon record in 2003, she received a call from Joan Benoit Samuelson. When Keira D'Amato broke Kastor's AR in Houston this year, Kastor called D'Amato to congratulate her.— Jonathan Gault (@jgault13) October 9, 2022
No phone necessary from D'Amato to Emily Sisson today. What a shot. pic.twitter.com/V7Qo7mjJ0E
“It was a really special moment,” Sisson said. “It was one of those moments that actually kind of sunk in later because I was so tired when I crossed the finish line that I saw all of them there and I was like, ‘Oh, is it strange everyone’s standing here?’”
But as she recovered from the race, she said she realized she had been surrounded by some of the greatest women in the sport. “Just to be among them is such a huge honor,” she said.
Sisson talked about transferring from the University of Wisconsin to Providence College because she appreciated the approach taken by PC track and field coach Ray Treacy and his focus on long-term goals. She said Treacy has helped to bring other world-class runners to Rhode Island, including Molly Huddle and Kim Smith.
Huddle, Providence’s two-time Olympian and a six-time American record holder, appeared on the Rhode Island Report podcast in May to talk about her new book, “How She Did It.” The books provides expert advice and inspirational stories from more than 50 accomplished distance runners, including Sisson.
In that section, Sisson recalled how some guy at the track told her “you’re not a runner” because she’s short and strong.
“I actually used to get a lot of comments like that when I was younger,” she said. “People would make fun of how big my quads were or something. As I’ve gotten older, I definitely feel like I have thicker skin, and I just have more like confidence in who I am. I know my body has done a lot of great things for me, so why would I pick it apart when it’s done so much?”
Sisson talked about advice she received from Olympian Róisín McGettigan-Dumas, an Irish Olympian who also ran at Providence College and is now a sports psychology coach in Providence.
“We did talk about how having that kind of curious mindset going into a race,” she said. “That almost beginners mindset of like, ‘Let’s just see what I can do today’ can often lead to better results. There’s a healthier perspective and just overall a better experience. And so that’s actually how I felt going into Chicago.”
Sisson also offered advice for the weekend warriors who are still breaking sweats but not breaking any records.
“I think I’d pick races that I’m excited for and motivated — that’s advice Molly Huddle gave me once,” she said. “And if you can find people to train with, I think that makes the training for half marathons and the weekend races really fun to you, especially if you have to do your workouts in the morning, in the early hours before work, or when it’s dark after work. Just having people to run with can make it fun.”
To get the latest episode each week, follow Rhode Island Report podcast on Apple Podcasts and other podcasting platforms, or listen in the player above.