Portland’s Shalane Flanagan Shows Mastery of Marathon with Olympic Trials Victory

By David Monti
(c) 2012 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved, used with permission

Running in only her second marathon, Shalane Flanagan showed a mastery of the distance in winning the USA Olympic Marathon Trials here today.

Flanagan, 30, who is coached by Jerry Schumacher within the Nike-sponsored Oregon Track Club Elite, ran with the leaders from the gun, but saved enough energy to pull away from her primary rival, Desiree Davila, at the 40-K mark.  Clocking 2:25:38, she shattered the previous Trials record by about three minutes.

“The last mile was a cross between savoring the moment and just being really grateful that I was almost done,” said the 2008 Olympic bronze medalist at 10,000m.  “I knew Desi was charging hard, and I told myself that I just had to have one last gear if she came up on me. So, I tried to approach it like a track race, and know that it’s a hard last mile, so if Desi pulls up I’ve got to have something.”

In just two marathons, Flanagan has finished second (New York, 2010, 2:28:40) and first here.  The smoothness she showed in the final miles provided ample evidence that she was totally prepared.

“Literally, I didn’t enjoy that last mile; it felt really long,” she said.  “Just couldn’t wait for the finish line to get there.”

After her runner-up finish in New York, Flanagan dedicated the first quarter of last year to her cross country career, winning the USA title and winning the bronze medal at the IAAF World Championships.  She went back to the track in the spring, running 30:39.57 for 10,000m, 14:45.20 for 5000m, winning the USA title at 10,000m, and finishing seventh at the IAAF World Championships in the same discipline.

Flanagan went back to endurance training in the late summer, and started her marathon build-up.  She didn’t race again until November 13, when she ran her first of two tune-up races at the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Antonio Half-Marathon in 1:10:49, followed-up by a 1:09:58 at the Dodge Latin Music Miami Beach Half-Marathon on December 11.  The latter effort was impressive because of extremely windy conditions, and showed that Flanagan was ready for her race today.

Midway during her marathon training, she began to do some of her workouts with Kara Goucher who had joined her training group.  Even though Goucher was about a month behind Flanagan in her training due to an injury, the two women nonetheless helped each other both to get ready for the race, and to execute their race plans today.

“It felt very comforting to know that Kara was in the race today,” Flanagan said.  “There were a couple of times we pulled up next to each other.  It just made it feel like were were at home working out, and kind of had this level of calming effect for me.  Kara said just the other day as were doing our shake out, she looked at me and she’s like I’m so happy that I’m not doing this alone.  We’ve had a great journey together, and I think it’s going to get even better now that we get to train full-time for London.”

Now that Flanagan has finished well in tactical races with no pacemakers, she has already begun to think about how fast she can run, and what it would take to win a medal in London.

“That’s encouraging,” she said of her time today.  “When I ran my first marathon it was 2:28:40, but I knew on that day I was in better shape.  I knew I was capable of something like this.  I believe I’m capable of something even faster, because this was tactical and we were all over the board with some of our splits.  It just shows that there is more work to be done to put myself in contention in London.”

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