How strong of a runner is Gwen Jorgensen? Fuhgettaboutit! She’s pretty darn strong apparently.
It’s not that anyone questioned the 2016 Olympic triathlon champion’s running ability, but the St. Paul, Minn., resident had never run 26.2 miles before starting Sunday’s New York City Marathon. Still, she was a standout runner in high school and ran collegiately for Wisconsin. Even though she says she wasn’t entirely prepared for her first marathon, she turned in a pretty solid effort, finishing 14th overall in 2:41:01 against a strong field—just 71 days after winning gold at the Rio Olympics.
Jorgensen, 30, said she wasn’t entirely happy with the result and admitted she had some muscle soreness she’s not used to, but overall said she had a great experience. She wound up beating a few notable pro American runners in the race, including two-time U.S. Olympian Kim Conley, who was also making her debut at the distance and placed 16th in 2:41:38, and Janet Bawcom, a 2012 Olympian at 10,000m on the track who placed 19th Sunday in 2:48:13. (For reference, Kenya’s Mary Keitany won the race in 2:24:26.)
“It was a new experience for me and it was really exciting,” Jorgensen said after the race. “I have a great respect for the course and the distance, and I know the other professional runners in the race are very talented and hard-working. A couple of them flew by me at the end and I couldn’t hang on.”
Jorgensen committed to running the New York City Marathon shortly after the biggest triathlon win of her career on Aug. 21 in Rio de Janeiro. Her race distances for that event included a 1.5K swim, a 40K bike ride and a 10K run.
Then on Oct. 8, Jorgensen held her own at the U.S. 10-Mile Championship on the roads in Minneapolis, placing third overall in 53:13—about 5:19 pace per mile and just 24 seconds behind winner Jordan Hasay.
Jorgensen is known as one of the best runners on the international triathlon circuit and has regularly run 10Ks in in the 33-minute range—or 5:18 mile pace. She also owns a 4:39 mile PR from her college days with the Badgers. She ran the marathon Sunday averaging roughly 6:08 per mile and finished about four minutes ahead of the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon qualifying standard.
But she admitted she’d need to change up her training considerably to be able to keep improving in the marathon. She’s continued racing triathlons since her Rio win and has kept swimming and riding her bike in training while focusing only slightly more on running the past six weeks.
“I think next time I would do some longer runs and run some more miles leading up to the race,” she said. “But for me, if I were to run that race again, I wouldn’t do anything different. It was super fun every step of the way. There were people calling out my name the entire way, and that was really great.”