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Interview: Jordan Hasay is Back & Ready for Chicago

With a month of cross-training and a slow build-up under her belt, Jordan Hasay is back to 100-mile weeks and ready to take on Chicago.

Jordan Hasay was projected to be one of the top contenders to break a 33-year U.S. title streak at the Boston Marathon in April, but the 26-year-old was forced to withdraw from the nation’s oldest marathon the night before the event due to a stress fracture in her calcaneus bone. With a month of cross-training and a slow but steady build-up under her belt, she’s back to 100-mile weeks with her sights firmly set on breaking Deena Kastor’s American record at this fall’s Chicago Marathon.

How did she do it? Swimming, spin class and hot yoga, she told me by phone in mid-May when she was finally cleared to start running again.

“I’ve been a pretty good swimmer my entire life—my mom was a swimmer—so whenever I do get injured, or have little aches and pains, I just go to the pool,” she said. “Overall, I just kept it pretty easy. I did do a whole [marathon] build-up so even though I didn’t race Boston, I still needed some kind of break.”

Hasay admits it was tough not to go hard every single day in cross-training, since she was “frustrated” with her injury and having to withdraw from Boston, which had been her focus for the better part of six months. But her coach at the Nike Oregon Project, Alberto Salazar, stressed the need for recovery.

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“Alberto said, ‘We still need to rest your adrenal system because we don’t want to just be hitting it hard in the cross-training and then when we start running, find that you’re exhausted,’” she said.

Common conversion ratios equate four miles of running with about one mile of swimming, or, according to Hasay, “20 minutes of swimming is equivalent to one mile of running,” but Hasay says she didn’t get too technical about measuring her laps in the pool. She typically went for time, not miles (“a 10-mile run for me is about 70 minutes, so if I swim 90 minutes, I feel like the effort is there”), and made up her own workouts—like doing 50-meter repeats in the pool as the equivalent of 400-meter reps on the track.

She will aqua jog from time to time (“Alberto is a big fan of doing what’s closest to running”) but prefers swimming laps to get her heart rate up. Outside of the pool, the community nature of spin and hot yoga classes provided a therapeutic social element to working out.

One of her former Oregon teammates, seven-time All-American Alex Kosinski, is now a hot yoga instructor in Portland. “I’ve been going to her classes, which is awesome just to see her. She’s a full-on instructor so she’s obviously really good at it, and I’m not the most flexible person so it’s inspiring for me to see her teach. I just try to keep it fun and work on my flexibility at the same time.”

While she never mastered a handstand, Hasay successfully learned how to do a headstand. She gets super enthusiastic talking about her favorite yoga poses. “I can do a headstand for a minute and I can also do crow pose,” she says. “I can do tree, which is an easy one, but I can do two wraps with my leg. Some of the harder stuff—it’s just an excuse—but I’m like, ‘I don’t want to tempt that one in case I crash down and land on my foot.’ It’s inspiring the way everyone is so flexible.”

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“With hot yoga, you do get used to it but the very first time I went, I was just looking around the room wondering, ‘How are these people not about to give up right now?’” she says. “Whenever they say to rest for child’s pose, I take it. It’s nice to have goals and progress in yoga when you’re not running; it’s all about the little things when you’re injured.”

With her year-round suntan, short stature and signature waist-length blonde ponytail, Hasay is one of the most easily-recognizable figures in the running community. But was the second-fastest marathoner in American history just another face in the yoga studio or at spin class?

“It depends,” she says with a laugh. “It’s like half and half [of people knowing who I am]. The yoga studio back home [in California], people know me, and there were a couple people in spin class. When I got my [latest] MRI, I ended up going to a spin class and I was waiting on a call from my doctor so I told the instructor I may get a call. He called midway through and I came back and told everyone, ‘I can run on Monday!’ Everyone started clapping.

“People would say, ‘Oh, I’m so honored to bike next to you,’ but then I’m there struggling and sweating and just cruising it. I keep it at a low gear and just peddle a little bit faster to keep my cadence up. So in a way, I just cheat. It’s just fun to be in there and it’s good to keep it fun and be with people. It’s a lot better than being by yourself aqua jogging in the pool.”

The social interactions at group fitness classes were just as important as the workouts themselves to keep Hasay’s spirits up during the recovery process. She also made sure to schedule lunches and coffee dates to catch up with friends and family. Social time can get pushed to the wayside during a grueling marathon build-up, which typically features two runs a day, treatment and a lot of naptime.

When she finally was cleared to start running again at the beginning of May, she trained solely on the AlterG, an anti-gravity treadmill used for rehab and training. “Alberto wanted to keep it pretty slow the first few weeks, which can be pretty frustrating because I’m back, but we added a mile every two days and gradually increased body weight on the AlterG. The main thing is, when you don’t run for a month, other things can start popping up, so Alberto was like, ‘I’m not really worried about your heel—I’m worried about something else popping up.’ So we wanted to take it really slow.”

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In mid-May, she was at four miles at 95 percent on the AlterG. She ran on land pretty soon after that and started increasing her mileage by five miles every week until she hit her full mileage—95 to 100 miles—in early July, about 20 of which are on an underwater treadmill.

With the big bump in miles, she’s replaced her cross-training with Netflix binging. Her favorites are murder mysteries like “Broadchurch,” “Killing Eve,” “Hinterland” and “Sherlock.”

“I thought I was getting too hyped up before I was sleeping because I was watching all this murder stuff,” she says with a laugh, “so I started watching ‘Jane The Virgin’ but it didn’t get me as hooked so I went back to the murder mysteries.”

Spin class “cheater,” inflexible yogi and Netflix binge-watcher—Jordan Hasay is just like us…almost.