Reigning Olympic triathlon gold medalist Gwen Jorgensen hadn’t raced since before giving birth to her son Stanley last August, and she hadn’t competed in a straight-up track contest since 2009, but in case there were any questions—yes, this woman can flat out run. Jorgensen went 15:15 for 5,000 meters—a 37-second personal best—at the Husky Classic in Seattle two weekends ago, telling Flotrack afterward, “I felt like I could run that but it’s also really exciting when you can run a fast time.”
Why is this early-season indoor result so significant? Well, there are a few reasons:
1. Jorgensen put up a time only nine other U.S. woman topped in all of 2017, indoors or out. Four of those women—including Emily Infeld, who finished just in front of her at the Husky Classic—are her current training partners (more on that in a bit).
2. It’s early in the year, and fast times don’t mean a whole lot right now, but assuming she stays healthy and her training/fitness continues to progress (Jorgensen has said she’s still doing a fair amount of cross-training and can’t handle a full load of running just yet), that time is going to come down quite a bit, likely even dipping under 15 minutes.
3. She isn’t even training for the 5000! Or the track, for that matter. Jorgensen has made her marathon intentions clear for the next two years, and while a fast 5K time is hardly indicative of success at 26.2 miles (especially for an inexperienced marathoner like Jorgensen), there are only a handful of female marathoners in the U.S. right now with low to sub-15 minute 5K credentials on their resumes. If she proves that she can extrapolate that type of fitness out to racing for over 2 hours—and that’s a big if—watch out.
4. She’s training with arguably the best coach, and training group, in the United States right now. Jorgensen, who is currently unattached and no longer under contract with ASICS, is being coached by Jerry Schumacher and running workouts with the Nike-backed Bowerman Track Club. The arrangement is all but official at this point, but I have good reason to believe it’s only a matter of time before a contract with the Swoosh is signed, sealed, and delivered. Why do the coach and group matter so much? There’s strength in numbers—just look at what this crew has collectively achieved in the past few years, both on the track and on the roads. Iron sharpens iron, and as long as there aren’t too many of them in the fire, she seems primed to reap the benefits.
So is Jorgensen any closer to Olympic marathon gold or even establishing herself as a contender to make the U.S. team two years from now? Hardly. But in a little over 15 minutes two Saturdays ago she proved that she’s got more than a fast set of disc wheels in her toolbox.
+ Jorgensen is vlogging her 2018 season via YouTube, which I think is a great move as she transitions into running full-time and connects with fans both old and new. The first two videos are extremely well-produced and provide a nice glimpse into her season opener and first trip to altitude camp. (Also, notice which brand of shoes are on her feet in Episode 2 and who she’s been running alongside in Colorado.)