Jordan Hasay’s mother died unexpectedly last November, but Teresa’s spirit was very much alive in the spring air Monday morning.
From Hopkinton, where Hasay took her first marathon steps, to the final stretches on raucous Boylston Street, the California native’s late loved one was with her every step of the way.
“Good job, Paula,” Hasay repeated throughout the race, channeling a nickname Teresa coined for her — an ode to Paula Radcliffe, the long-distance runner who was Jordan’s childhood idol.
“She always said that I would be a marathoner like her one day,” said Hasay, “and so I just kept telling myself, ‘Good job Paula, good job Paula,’ and so that kind of helped me get through some of the tough times.”
It was with this steadfast attitude that Hasay not only ran her first marathon, but she notched the fastest time by an American women in a debut. Her time of 2 hours, 23 minutes cleared Kara Goucher’s record of 2:25:53 with ease, and was good for third among women Monday, just over a minute behind winner Edna Kiplagat.
There was a sense of calm in the 25-year old’s demeanor despite the emotional toil she has endured over the past six months.
“I think that the marathon is a very emotional event, and I tried to stay as relaxed as possible and just breathe early on,” she said. “Then the crowds were very loud towards the end, just getting really excited and chanting, ‘U-S-A, U-S-A,’ so I tried to feed off that energy.
“It’s been an emotional buildup for me going into the marathon. [My mother] knew that I would be debuting in Boston and so I was just thinking about everyone out there that has lost loved ones as well and that just really lifted me up and powered me through it.”
Strategically, the framework had been laid for success, Hasay’s inexperience in marathons notwithstanding. Along with coach Alberto Salazar, who is part of the Nike Oregon Project that also boasts Monday’s second-place men’s finisher Galen Rupp, Hasay set ambitious goals.
“My goal was to run 2:25:00,” she said. “That’s kind of what I visualized, and that was the pace we thought I could go at for sure. Alberto thought I was anywhere from 2:23:00 to 2:25:00 shape, so I kind of exceeded those expectations.
“Coming through the [halfway point], we were right at 72 minutes, so that was a really big boost in confidence for me because I felt pretty good. So I thought, ‘I can definitely maintain this piece.’ I’m thrilled to have put it all together.”
Hasay’s performance, along with the fourth-place finish by Michigan’s Desiree Linden, could signal a promising future for American female distance runners.
“This is the most knowledgeable fan base in the world, and they get it,” Linden said. “We keep getting closer. It’s just a matter of time I think [before] the Americans break the tape. It’s going to be a big day out here and we’re really close.”
The communal aspect of the Boston Marathon was especially helpful in propelling Hasay to the finish line.
Whether it was a wave to a former teammate in the crowd, Teresa’s engagement ring gracing her left hand, or an early stretch of the race that she described as “feeling like we were walking,” Hasay’s mental fortitude was inspiring.
“My teammate Galen was third in the Olympics and our sports psychologist had said at some point it just becomes a matter of getting yourself to the finish line and I definitely felt that towards the end,” Hasay said.
Having her spiritual cheerleader with her didn’t hurt.
“There are so many things that remind me of [my mother], and that kind of helps you get through all the different checkpoints of the race,” she said. “I just felt really blessed to have her out there running every step with me.”
Owen Pence can be reached at email@example.com.