Mary Cain has announced the launch of her new professional women’s running team, Atalanta New York. Cain previously ran for Alberto Salazar and the Nike Oregon Project (NOP), and in 2019, four years after leaving the team, she opened up about the emotional and physical abuse she endured in her short time training with that group. That abuse pushed Cain to the point of considering suicide, and it was fuelled by Salazar’s win-at-all-costs mentality. Cain is now looking to fight this mindset (which was not unique to the NOP), and Atalanta NY will work to empower and support its athletes and young female runners everywhere.
Cain is the president and CEO of Atalanta NY, an endeavour she says is the next step in her fight against the toxicity plaguing the world of athletics. “Ever since I shared my story to The NY Times, I have wanted to do more,” she wrote on Instagram. The first step in this fight, she said, was speaking out against Salazar, the NOP and the must-win culture (which has led to the abuse of so many female athletes) in track. “Maybe it’s the runner in me, but I wanted to take more than a first step.”‘
Atalanta NY is a New York City-based nonprofit that will employ its athletes, not as competitors, but as mentors to young women in the running community. This takes the emphasis off of performance (which is the usual focus for professional running teams) and instead places it on community involvement, something that Cain said she believes will “shake up the current model of professional sports.”
This is similar (although not identical) to the structure of Tracksmith’s partnership with Cain. In 2020, Cain signed with Tracksmith to work as a full-time employee while also running for the brand. This allowed Cain to run worry-free, as her contract was not dependent on her results, but rather on her work as the brand’s New York City community manager. Cain is still representing Tracksmith, and the company is a founding sponsor of Atalanta NY.
“Atalanta New York’s mission is two-fold,” reads a post on the Tracksmith Instagram page. “As a team, its goal is to help elite runners chase their athletic dreams through a sustainable and healthy organizational model. As a nonprofit, the goal is to educate and inspire young female athletes in underserved New York communities to find joy and wellness through sport.”
So far, Atalanta NY has only named two professional athletes to the team: Cain and Jamie Morrissey. Cain hasn’t raced much in the past few years (she raced four times in 2020, interrupting a four-year break from competition), but she still owns several big records, including the world U20 indoor 1,000m record (2:35.80) and American U20 two-mile best (9:38.68). Morrissey is a former University of Michigan standout who owns a PB of 4:11.48 in the 1,500m.
No other runners have been publicly added to the team yet, but Cain has said there will be more athlete announcements soon. To learn more about Atalanta NY and the team’s mission, click here.