Podcast: Episode 7 with Shalane Flanagan


“It’s addicting to have a great performance. You always want another one. That’s why I considered stopping after New York because it was like, ‘How can I top this?’ And then only thing that can top this or be on the same level, is winning in Boston because of what the people and the city mean to me. There’s just as much fire but I definitely feel at peace, which is actually a good thing. I feel very calm and calculated with my approach and I feel very confident that I know how to get the most out of myself now.”

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Absolutely thrilled to welcome four-time Olympian and reigning New York City Marathon champion Shalane Flanagan to the podcast. She joined me last week from her altitude training base in Woodland Park, Colorado and we covered a wide range of subjects, from her preparation for April’s Boston Marathon, which has included training with Olympic triathlon gold medalist turned aspiring marathoner Gwen Jorgensen (“This woman is a beast,” Flanagan said of Jorgensen. “She is all-in and wants to be really great.”), to how coach Jerry Schumacher has modified recent marathon buildups for herself and teammate Amy Cragg, what’s different for her going into Boston this time around after winning last fall in New York, as well as why—and how—she convinced her coach to bring more women into the Bowerman Track Club training group a few years ago.

“It feels good to look around in our training environment and be like, ‘Man, there’s a lot of badass women here,’” Flanagan told me. “We’ve got just so much talent and hard work. I take so much confidence [from them] and I get the swagger when they perform well. It makes me feel so good. There are times they perform well and it feels way better than anything I’ve personally achieved. No matter what, whoever’s competing, I get this sense of fulfillment, and it keeps me motivated to keep going.”

Flanagan and I also talked in depth about her New York City Marathon win, including what she was thinking and experiencing during the final few miles of the race, why breaking the tape in Central Park was so validating for her, as well as the different ways in which the historic victory has changed her life.

“I wasn’t going to earn the title of New York City marathon champion ten years later,” Flanagan recounted. “I was going to earn it and own it in that moment and it could never be taken away. I just felt so validated that I kept pursuing the dream because it seemed really dark and dismal at times. And I think that was a huge component of my celebration that I finally freaking did it.”

We got into how she’s approaching the remainder of her competitive career, what’s helped her to stay relatively injury free and allowed her to perform at a high level for so long, the importance of relating to other runners, and how she navigates those moments we all face when it’s hard to muster the motivation to get out the door and train.

“I think it’s important to show that not every day is a picnic,” she admitted, “but of course I went for a run and I got it done and at various moments I was just chanting “Boston!” to myself because that’s the only reason while I’m out there doing it, because I want to have a chance on April 16. And so, it’s worth it, but for sure, there’s days where you’re just like, ‘Why am I doing this?’”

Finally, we discussed how running gave her confidence as a young girl and fueled her competitiveness, what’s exciting her right now in the world of professional running, and why getting injured before last year’s Boston Marathon was a blessing in disguise. Flanagan also talks what she’d like her legacy to be, reveals what she’s got lined up for when she eventually does hang up her racing flats, and a whole lot more.

Related links, references, and resources:

— Follow Shalane on Instagram and Twitter.

Going Long: An Interview with Shalane Flanagan. “Not until I allowed myself to just take a step back and rest, did I realize how tired I was,” Flanagan admitted to me last summer before the U.S. Track & Field Championships. “I think [taking a break] has rejuvenated me mentally and physically more than I ever would have thought, and it allowed me to appreciate the other amazing things in my life. I hadn’t taken a vacation in, like, 10 years, and that was really depressing to confess to myself.”

— “I’ve always tried to get so fit that I can’t make a bad decision in my racing because my fitness literally won’t allow me to—it will just carry me,” Flanagan recently told Brad Stulberg for Outside magazine. “I guess what I’m saying is that the more confident you are in your training, the less nervous you’ll be on race day.” This is a point Flanagan reinforced in our conversation, saying, “I’m working on the fittest version of me, and if that’s what I bring to the table, good things can happen.”

— The Shalane Flanagan Effect. “We usually see competitive women, particularly athletically excellent women, only in one of two ways: either competing to defeat one another, or all about team over self,” Lindsay Crouse wrote for The New York Times after Flanagan’s NYC win last fall. “But that’s a flawed, limiting paradigm. The Shalane Effect dismantles it: She is extraordinarily competitive, but not petty; team-oriented, but not deferential. Elevating other women is actually an act of self-interest: It’s not so lonely at the top if you bring others along.”

— “Flanagan, long a fan favorite, has the platform and personality to influence current and future generations of elite and non-elite American runners alike, especially women, who will be inspired by her story of persistence, struggle, and triumph—much like Keflezighi, whom she dedicated her race to on Sunday,” I wrote back in November. “Flanagan recognizes the importance of that one moment on Sunday and has already started running with it.” 

Flanagan and Gwen Jorgensen running long together at altitude in Woodland Park, Colo. “I think she’s in the best shape she’s been,” Jorgensen said of Flanagan’s training for this year’s Boston Marathon.

— The Race No One Could Take Away From Shalane Flanagan. “Her game face didn’t crack until the very end,” Bonnie D. Ford wrote for ESPN, “when she threw a punch skyward and let out a spirited epithet, then blew a kiss as she broke the tape.” Related: A “F*ck yeah!” montage of Flanagan’s celebration approaching the finish line in New York.

Flanagan appeared in a Super Bowl commercial for Michelob Ultra earlier this month. “I like beer,” she sang.

Buy Flanagan’s cookbook, Run Fast, East Slow, or pre-order her latest book, Run Fast, Cook Fast, Eat Slow, both of which she co-authored with her friend and college teammate, Elyse Kopecky.

This episode of the morning shakeout podcast was edited by John Isaac at BaresRecords.com.

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