Emily Durgin, a Standish native who now lives and trains in Arizona, crosses the finish line to place second among women at the 2022 Beach to Beacon 10K in Cape Elizabeth. Brianna Soukup / Portland Press Herald

It’s not hard to come up with three reasons why Emily Durgin won’t make the U.S. Olympic marathon team.

1. The Standish native’s best marathon time of 2 hours, 26 minutes, 46 seconds is 18th fastest among the American women expected to compete in the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials on Feb. 3 in Orlando. No more than three U.S. women will make the Olympic team.

2. Durgin’s best marathon is also the only one she’s finished.

3. And have you looked at the women’s field? It’s loaded.

Emily Durgin is not buying those arguments.

“I’m going there to be top three. We’ve talked it into existence,” Durgin said. “I believe if I race my best and run smart, I 100 percent should be on the podium.”


Durgin has been making headlines as a runner since she was 14. She placed in the top three at the New England high school cross country championships four straight years – as a freshman at Bonny Eagle High in 2008, then three seasons at Cheverus – before a standout collegiate career at the University of Connecticut.

Now 29, Durgin is a professional runner who has lived and trained in the distance running mecca of Flagstaff, Arizona, since 2019.

One thing hasn’t changed. She still loves to compete.

And she believes this is her time, that when the gun goes off at 10:20 a.m. Saturday, she’ll be ready to challenge the loop course, whatever Florida weather turns up, and her peers.

“You have to view it like any other U.S. championships. And I’ve run so many other championships and been on the podium, and you have to think the same way,” Durgin said. “Yes, if you get on the podium this time, you get to go to the Olympics, but it’s important not to overhype it because these are the same American women I always compete with.”

Since 2021, Durgin has placed in the top three at six events sanctioned by USA Track & Field: twice in cross country (2021 and 2023) and four times on the roads at distances of 10 miles and 10, 15 and 20 kilometers.


Yes, the field for the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials includes three of the six American women who over the past 39 years have run faster than Mainer Joan Benoit Samuelson’s epic 2:21:21 at the 1985 Chicago Marathon, There’s American record-holder Emily Sisson, the only sub 2-hour, 19-minute marathoner in U.S. history. Keira D’Amato had the American record until Sisson broke it. Molly Seidel won the 2021 Olympic bronze medal. Another 14 women have run a faster marathon than Durgin.

But Durgin and her coach, Terrance Mahon, who formerly directed the careers of runners like 2004 Olympic marathon bronze medalist Deena Kastor, see opportunities, not obstacles.

“Emily is not going in as a big name because she’s only completed one marathon,”  Mahon said. “But I guarantee if she’s there with 18, 19 miles down, the other women, they’ll all know who Emily is.”

As a high schooler, Emily Durgin placed in the top three at the New England cross country championships all four years. Press Herald 2010 file photo

Mahon pointed to Durgin’s third-place finish at the U.S. 20K championships in September in New Haven, Connecticut. Sisson won the race, but Durgin beat several trials contenders, including two-time Olympian and 2018 Boston Marathon champ Desiree Linden, Seidel, and 2020 Olympic marathon trials winner Aliphine Tuliamuk.

Durgin’s 1:07:54 half marathon time in Houston in 2022 is the seventh fastest by an American woman. That same summer, Durgin dueled at the front of the Beach to Beacon 10K before finishing second.

Since finishing ninth in the 10,000 meters at the 2021 U.S. Olympic Trials – “I was just happy to be there, trying to do my best,” Durgin said – her career has been on a steady ascent. She switched sponsor deals from Under Armour to Adidas, hired Mahon as her coach, and directed her full energies to the roads instead of the track.


One set back was her first crack at the marathon. At the 2022 New York City Marathon, she felt off from the start and dropped out after 18 miles.

“Debuting in New York, I thought, alright, this is going to be my great marathon experience, and unfortunately about everything went wrong,” Durgin said.

She had already qualified for the Olympic marathon trials based on her half marathon in Houston, but she wanted a successful marathon experience before the trials. In October, she went to Toronto for her second crack at the distance.

The idea was to go through the marathon training a second time, work on in-race aspects like fueling and water stops, finish the 26.2-mile distance, and hopefully make the Olympic standard (2:29:30) without overextending. Durgin did all of that, finishing fifth overall in 2:26:46, behind four women from Kenya.

“Technically, I only have one marathon to my name, but we have gotten to experiment, and now this third time I feel I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been going into this race,” Durgin said.

“What my coach and I have realized is that I’ve been able to hit every single zone in our training. The 24-mile long runs, the faster repeats, I’ve been able to hit every system.”


In preparing for the Olympic trials, her training has also focused on being ready to adapt to the vagaries of a marathon.

“We’ve prepared for all of that. We’ve prepared for some hard, from-the-gun grinding the whole way and prepared for pace changes, alternating from slower to ramping up to half-marathon pace,” Durgin said.

Mahon points out that seldom do marathon results match what he called the “form chart.” Case in point is Seidel in the 2020 trials. She placed second in her first marathon.

Emily Durgin: “Technically, I only have one marathon to my name, but we have gotten to experiment, and now this third time I feel I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been going into (the marathon trials).” Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Also, trials races do not include a pacer and tend to be slower. The U.S. trials record is 2:25:38 by Shalane Flanagan in 2012. Durgin, who admits she’s comfortable trying to push the pace, said the plan is to be with the lead pack, match the moves that need to be made and “conserving as much emotional energy,” as possible.

“I feel prepared to run anywhere from 2:21 to 2:23,” Durgin said. “To get down to that sub 2:20, you’ve got to be going from the start. You have to have a pacer. Say we go out and run the first half in 71 minutes, then the winning time will probably be in that 2:21-2:23 range.”

If Durgin can run that fast on Saturday, she would likely earn a trip to Paris and the Summer Olympics. If her time happens to hover near 2:21, it could even make her the fastest women’s marathoner from Maine. Currently she is No. 2 to Samuelson.

“I only know that because my best friend from high school posted something like that,” Durgin laughed when asked about her in-state rankings. “Joanie was so fast for when she did it, it blows my mind. It’s fast. It’s fast now. There will be no one who can ever compare to her.”

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