This Teen Runner May Be the Best Ever, Someday

Magazine profile: 18-year-old Mary Cain on a long road to greatness
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 5, 2015 2:08 PM CST
Mary Cain leads the field in the women's Wanamaker Mile during the Millrose Games, Saturday, Feb. 15, 2014, in New York. Cain won the event with a time of 4:27.73.   (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)
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(Newser) – Her name is Mary Cain, she's 18, and she might someday be the best female runner in American history. A profile in the New York Times Magazine charts Cain's path from high school phenom—if a middle-distance record exists in that age group, she's probably broken it—to her decision to forgo NCAA eligibility and train as a pro under track legend Alberto Salazar. "Her gait, at top speed, is hypnotic," writes Elizabeth Weil. "Her legs, stacked with muscles yet wrapped in a silky sheath of youthful skin, are spectacular." But the idea isn't to rush things, but instead to have Cain—who is a freshman at the University of Portland, where few know she is a top-caliber athlete—peak at about age 25.

For instance, her best time in the 1,500 meters is 4:04.62. Salazar hopes to get her down to maybe 3:52. That, however, wouldn't break the world record of 3:50.46, set in 1993 by a Chinese runner in an era of rampant doping. Many consider that mark and other records of the era unbreakable. Not Cain. “I want to break them more,” she says, “as I know there’s a very good chance they weren’t done properly.” For now, however, she's got to get through what she calls the "growing pains" of being a skinny teen running against athletes with perfect physiques. As Weil concludes: "Until last year, she still enjoyed wunderkind status. Now she’s no longer a child, not quite an adult, the fastest of a cohort of fast young women, waiting for a future that’s slow to come." Click to read the full, fascinating profile.

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