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What former NOP runner Mary Cain has planned for 2020

Cain, who has become the human face of abuse in sports, is training for the 2020 indoor season and the U.S. Olympic trials in June

On Friday, American runner Mary Cain appeared on the Citius Mag podcast hosted by Sports Illustrated writer Chris Chavez to talk about her plans for 2020, as well as about her experience of becoming the human face of psychological abuse in the athletics world. The podcast was taped in front of a live audience at the Mile High Run Club, a treadmill studio in New York City where Cain occasionally teaches. Cain has been training for a return to professional running, after leaving the Nike Oregon Project in 2015. (The NOP was shut down in October 2019 in the wake of head coach Alberto Salazar’s four-year ban for doping violations.)

Cain made a tentative return to racing in 2019, at the NYRR Retro 4-miler in July, and again at the 6K women’s open USATF club championships on December 14, where she finished 33rd, a full minute behind winner Aisling Cuffe and second-place finisher Katelyn Tuohy. They were Cain’s first races in three years.

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Cain burst onto the track and field scene in 2013, breaking American high school records over 800m, 1,500m and 5,000m before joining the NOP and becoming the youngest woman to ever make a 1,500m world championship final. Cain’s results gradually diminished along with her mental and physical health due to constant pressure by Salazar to hit an arbitrary weight, something few people knew about before she told her story to the New York Times in November 2019.

Photo: USATF
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Cain admits to being disappointed with her result at club nationals, but says it was a useful indication that she wasn’t training like a pro who expects to race competitively–something she plans to work on, going forward. “I was way too Zen,” Cain says, explaining that while sometimes nerves before a race can handicap your performance, a certain degree of nervousness is a good sign. “I have to be nervous again,” she says. “I have to want it.”

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Cain says she’s focused on the U.S. Olympic track and field trials in June 2020, using the indoor season as practice in “getting fit, getting faster, re-learning how to race and racing well.” Cain is coached by multiple former New Zealand national champion and 2004 Olympian John Henwood in New York City, targeting the 800m, 1,500m and 3,000m distances.

Salazar has appealed the ban to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).