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Erica Stanley-Dottin is Making the List

Words by Emilia Benton
Photos by Emily Maye

Erica Stanley-Dottin only ran her first marathon at the age of 35. Her goal back then, at the 2008 New York City Marathon was to break four hours. Fourteen years later and multiple marathons more experienced, the former Georgetown University sprinter and now Tracksmith's New York City community manager has her sights set on an altogether loftier goal: to join the ranks of only 24 Black American women who have broken three hours in the marathon since 1973.

Finding her community

After running her first BQ at the 2018 New Jersey Marathon, Stanley-Dottin, now 48, decided to get more serious about working on her speed and joined Black Roses NYC, a competitive group coached by founder Knox Robinson. Not long after her arrival, conversations with Robinson familiarized Stanley-Dottin with “the List,” which is updated and maintained by historian Gary Corbitt, son of New York Road Runners founding president Ted Corbitt. However, it wasn’t until she ran the 2019 Philadelphia Marathon in 3:15 that Stanley-Dottin began to believe a sub-three-hour marathon was in her wheelhouse, which she credits largely in part to the community Black Roses has provided her. 

“That was the first time I felt like I was actually racing a marathon, that I could get faster and the goal was within reach,” she says. “Coming in as a 3:44 marathoner, I couldn’t even comprehend running a three-hour marathon and it just wasn’t on my radar. Having the group to run and train with has stepped up my running 100 times over.” 

As was the case for many people, the pandemic brought on additional stress for Stanley-Dottin and increasing her mileage in 2020 and 2021 served as a key coping mechanism. 

“All that added mileage actually started helping my running in other ways and I was kind of surprised by that,” she says. “[That time period] was kind of about rediscovery and my own practice.”

Stanley-Dottin went on to run the 2021 London Marathon and the 2022 Boston Marathon in 3:07 and 3:01, respectively, after aiming to break three hours at each one. While each race brought some disappointment related to missing her goal, she still found reason to celebrate running a five-plus-minute PR on Boston’s challenging course.

“You literally never know what’s going to happen on race day and I’ve learned that every race is so different and nothing is promised to you,” she says. “I’m not injured, so I know it’s in there and I just have to get back out there.”

More than a milestone

While Stanley-Dottin doesn’t want the sub-three to be the be-all-and-end-all of her running story, potentially adding her name to Corbitt’s list adds fuel to her fire. 

“Two of the women I train with [in Black Roses] have already broken three and the other two of us Black women who are thinking about it haven’t done it yet, but the collective part of the group, our training and story together, is not just about making the List,” she says. “It’s also about the journey and self-discovery, and how four of us Black American women are training at this level with a Black coach. In terms of representation of our community, I feel like it’s just as important to not only be out there, but to also be able to perform.”

While having a big goal like breaking three has naturally kept her motivated, Stanley-Dottin also hopes this kind of representation and community work helps to bring more women of color to the sport. 

“I hope people can see me and feel like it’s accessible, that they can come out, train and get faster, too, if that’s what they want,” she says. “I joined Roses because I saw my teammates out there and was inspired by them. I think it’s really important for women of color to see ourselves and see other people doing it.”

Faster as a master

As a master’s runner, a mother of two and the oldest member of her training group, Stanley-Dottin embraces the fact that her running journey looks different from many others’.

“One of the most rewarding and satisfying things about running as a master is being able to push and move my body at this high level,” she says. “Being my age and having kids, the physical part of it keeps me alive and gives me energy, even though marathon training is exhausting.”

That drive and energy is what’s given her the confidence to keep going after more, which she plans to do at the Berlin and New York City Marathons this fall.

"I know what I could have run in Boston had the day been mine, and I still don’t feel like I’ve had the race,” Stanley-Dottin says. “So it’s not even about breaking three at this point, because in my mind, I’ve already broken three twice, in London and in Boston. Now I just want to see how many more marathons I have in me and how fast I can actually run. Now that I’ve felt what it’s like to have that in my body, I want to see how far I can push it.”