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17-year-old runs 2:31 marathon, breaks American U19 record

Tierney Wolfgram ran 2:31:49 at a small race in California on Saturday to break the 36-year-old U.S. junior marathon record

Photo by: Twitter/KirkElias

On Saturday, Tierney Wolfgram, a 17-year-old runner from Minnesota, broke the American U19 marathon record of 2:34:24, which Cathy O’Brien set in 1984. Wolfgram, who is in her rookie season at the University of Nevada, ran a blistering 2:31:49 marathon, smashing O’Brien’s 36-year-old mark and catapulting her into the top 65 of all time among U.S. women marathoners. Wolfgram was paced to the record time by two of her Nevada Wolfpack teammates, Adam Sjolund and Carson Leavitt, who were the only other runners in the race. 

An experienced marathoner 

Although quite young, Wolfgram already has a lot of experience in the marathon, and she even competed at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Atlanta in February, where she ran to a 76th-place finish in 2:42:47. She qualified for the Trials in 2018, when — at the age of 15 — she finished as the sixth female runner at the Twin Cities Marathon in Minnesota. For a while in that race, Wolfgram actually held the lead. She opened the first 5K with a 17:32 split, which put her more than 30 seconds ahead of second place. At 10K (which she passed through in 35:42), she still had the lead, but was only up nine seconds on the next closest runner. Wolfgram faded considerably in next 11K, and by the halfway point she was in sixth place, where she stayed for the rest of the race. She crossed the line in Minnesota in 2:40:03, which was an age group world record and well under the U.S Trials qualifying standard of 2:45:00.

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O’Brien and Wolfgram 

If O’Brien’s career is any indication of what Wolfgram could accomplish in the coming decade or two, then the young runner has an exciting few years ahead of her. O’Brien ran her U19 record at the 1984 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, where she finished in ninth. Four years later, O’Brien was back at the Trials, where she climbed the ladder to a third-place finish, earning her a spot on the U.S. Olympic team. She ran to 40th place at the Seoul Games, and in 1992, she finished in 10th at the Barcelona Olympics. Wolfgram still has years left in her marathon career, but she has already accomplished so much. Her record is the latest addition to her running resume, but it will almost certainly not be the last, and her name is definitely one to remember. 

Wolfgram’s record run 

Wolfgram’s run on Saturday was the 13th-fastest of the year from an American woman, and it’s tied for 64th-fastest in U.S. history. The race was specifically organized for the record attempt, and only Wolfgram and her two pacers ran the course. She ran an evenly-paced race, averaging 3:36 per kilometre throughout the 42.2K run. 

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After the race, she posted on Instagram to write about her run and thank Sjolund and Leavitt. “There are no words to describe the mass of my gratitude for these two guys,” she wrote. “They kept me in line and controlled me in the early miles, broke the wind for me the entire way and lent me strength during the tough parts. Never once did I feel the loneliness that running a marathon brings, and it’s all because of them.”