Sara Hall runs US All-Time #2 mark, Mardy Hehir leads 7 American Men under 2:10

David Pinsonneault
4 min readDec 20, 2020

2020 has been an interesting year for athletics to say the least.

With limited racing opportunities for professional marathoners, many completed their first and last race of the season earlier this morning.

The Marathon Project, spearheaded by head coach of Northern Arizona Elite, Ben Rosario, provided that opportunity.

Brooks signed on as the title sponsor for this event. Some prize money was put up. Pacers were brought in to help athletes go after fast times. The course ran along a 4.3 mile loop in Arizona that athletes had to cover six times. The roads were in pristine shape, with no potholes visible to the eye on the live stream. Mix in these factors with the kind of running weather you dream about — mid-30's at the start, low-40’s at the finish — and the recipe was there to see some fast times.

Everything went to plan from the start on both the men’s and women’s side. Nobody had to fight for positioning. Everyone just tucked into their appropriate pace group. Nearly twenty men joined the 2:09:00 (4:55 pace) pace group. Sara Hall planned on going out on American Record pace (Deena Kastor’s 2:19:38). The only question was if anyone was bold enough to go with her. Kellyn Taylor rose to that challenge.

The men’s lead pack went through halfway right on pace in 1:04:28. The only big casualty was CJ Albertson, of Strava and treadmill fame. They recently ran a 2:09 treadmill marathon, but could only manage that pace for about ten miles today.

Sara and Kellyn ran stride for stride, tucked in behind their male pacers, through halfway in 1:09:38. Kara D’Amato, who has been on fire in 2020, was back about two minutes in 1:11:40. Emma Bates and Stephanie Bruce were just behind her a touch over 1:12:00.

Kellyn would soon start to falter and Sara was left with only her thoughts and her pacers with a lot of running left.

The men’s lead group was still mostly together at 30 kilometers, but the race was only just beginning.

Some would go on to run lifetime bests, and some would go on to experience perhaps the most pain they have felt in their entire lives as they slowly lost contact with the front group.

The last pacer for the men stepped to the side around the 20 mile mark.

Martin (“Mardy”) Hehir put in an immediate surge. Scott Smith and Noah Droddy tried to go with him, but the damage was done. The rest of the pack began to string out.

Droddy, who had looked great all day, found himself alone in second place, trying to chase Hehir down.

Both men have compelling stories. Hehir is a medical student who has been working with COVID patients during ICU rounds. Droddy, the people’s champ, is a Division 3 alum, and was the breakout star of the 2016 Olympic Track Trials. Although he did not contend for the win in the 10k at the 2016 Trials, he became a symbol for the blue collar running community just for making it that far. Droddy sent a message that he has bigger performances in front of him after today.

Hehir, looking strained, turned down the homestretch first and sprinted for the line in the last 500m. His reward? A 2:08:59 clocking. Droddy was back about 10 seconds and destoryed his 2:12 marathon best.

The rest of the field did exactly what you would expect on a day like this — they ran fast. Seven American men went under 2:10:00 today. The previous best in a single race was four. American men routinely get knocked for not running under this time barrier. One explanation for this is that American men often do not run time trial races. They rarely run fast courses like Berlin and London. They opt for tougher courses like Boston and New York and, subsequently, run over that mark. They, however, usually compete well in those races and have racked up a number of top-10 finishes in the last several years. Clearly on a day with good conditions, and on a fast course, several American men could be capable of running under 2:10:00. Today proved all of that right. There were several talented men that did not even run in this race. As marathoning is getting faster globally, the same thing holds to be true domestically. This was a historic day for American men.

And the women?!?!

Sara Hall started to fall off record pace around 25km but held on to run 2:20:32. That’s good for the #2 all-time US mark. She might have fell just shy of her goal, but she has nothing to be disappointed about. The likes of Shalane Flanagan, Kara Goucher, and Des Linden, have not run as fast as she did today. This was a special performance. We were lucky to be there for the ride.

Behind Sara’s amazing time was Kara D’Amato. She snuck in just under 2:23 for 2nd place. This also gives her family bragging rights in the marathon, bettering her partner’s personal best. Kellyn Taylor gutted out a 3rd place performance in 2:25. While it is not the time she was hoping for, she went for it today. Nobody can take that away from her.

The Marathon Project did not disappoint. Everyone involved needs to be congratulated. This is what our sport is all about. They gave some of the best athletes in our country a chance to run to their true potentials and push their limits. Future events need to take notice of what this group was able to accomplish. It cannot have been easy, given the circumstances, but they pulled off a spectacular event.

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David Pinsonneault

Union/Political Organizer @SEIU. Alum @BarackObama. Chicago living. Blood clot survivor. 15x marathon finisher. Always looking for better.