* North Rockland's Katelyn Tuhoy and Mary Cain featured in the 3K on Saturday at Dr. Sander
Photo Credit: Steven Pisano/New York MileSplit
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Mary Cain found herself alone, even for just a moment, with Katelyn Tuohy on the second floor of The Armory on Saturday.
She found it kind of humorous.
While the field's other professional athletes may have tried, at first, to brave the temperatures around New York City for a shake out run, Cain and Tuohy knew better.
"At first me and Katelyn were the only two runners in the field who didn't try to run outside," Cain said afterward.
"And I was like, 'New Yorkkkkkk!'"
A laugh likely ensued, the moment an otherwise calming note ahead of a pressure-filled race.
But while it might have been a quick exchange -- and it was their third encounter over the last few years -- it also exuded the change in Cain in recent months. Ever since her powerful story of mental health struggle and anguish within the Nike Oregon Project published in the New York Times in November, the 23-year-old has become an advocate for better leaders in women's running at all levels.
Cain has since then welcomed in the camaraderie of others runners, whether with local running groups in New York or on training runs with sub-elite or elite marathoners.
On Saturday, better yet, a high school running star, one that in some ways has mirrored Cain's many highs in the sport. Cain had first met Tuohy in 2018 when she handed the New York athlete Gatorade's top award: National Cross Country Athlete of the Year. Then, in December, the duo raced at the USATF Club Cross Country Championships.
On Saturday, the race didn't go to plan for either, as Cain finished 13th in 9:24.38 and Tuohy 14th in 9:32.88. Neither performance matched what either athlete expected of themselves -- Cain saying later she felt that an even race could have put her in 9:18 territory.
Late in the race, Tuohy, the only high schooler in a field of professionals, faded after trying to run tactically with the leaders. She had run an indoor national record of 9:01.81 the previous season in the same race.
And so it was a rare tough outing for the North Rockland athlete, who would pack up her things and cool down shortly after.
But before that happened, Cain reached out.
"I gave her my number because I know how challenging it is to be in the spotlight and I will tell you right now, this is the last thing I want to be doing after running a 9:24 3K. That isn't the athlete I think I am. That's not the athlete I want to be.
"But at the same time, I have been doing this for a long time," she continued. "And I know she's still kind of new to the sport. I always want to pass on any wisdom that I can to any other athlete. At the end of the day, I sympathize like very few people do. I want her to carry herself with confidence and poise, no matter how she's feeling."
Cain's willingness to race in a professional field was a move in the right direction, she said, and the first step in what she believes will be many more in the lead-up to the outdoor season.
"Effort is what matters and two months of building hasn't been enough to race sharp," Cain said. "But the reason I'm out here is because outdoor is a really important year for me. And when you haven't raced in a long time, you kind of deserve to get your ass kicked in indoor so that you can run well in outdoor.
But more important, potentially, was that exchange with Tuohy afterward.
Cain would match what she had been voicing for weeks: A support of others in women's running.
On Saturday, she would later talk briefly about her regrets in the sport, including a time, right before she left the NOP, when she failed to communicate with a young athlete about what to look out for from coaches.
"It's the least I can do to be a sounding board whenever I can," she said of her objective now.
She would later add:
"What I have learned in this sport is that it's very easy to feel very alone," Cain said. "You're an independent athlete in an individual sport. And of course there are programs that are training together, but even within that every group is separate.
"I think it helps when you're the person on the upswing and when you're the younger athlete and all those things. But I think that our sport is in the middle of the changing of the guard. And I think the new guard stepping up is really great, too."
Tuohy showed poise 24 hours later, too.
She followed the very next day with two performances, and two wins, in the 1,500m and 3,000m at sections.
- Dr. Sander Columbia Challenge coverage
- Tuohy's first of two pro efforts in 2020
- Katelyn Tuohy signs with NC State