Shalane Flanagan Leads US Team to Historic Day at Olympic Marathon and Says (Likely) Goodbye To The Olympics

August 14, 2016

RIO DE JANEIRO — Shalane Flanagan led the US team to its best group result at the Olympic marathon with three runners in the top 10 (Flanagan was 6th, Desi Linden was 7th, and Flanagan’s training partner Amy Cragg was 9th, race recap here). Flanagan, who improved on her 10th place finish at the London Games, afterwards indicated this may be her final Olympics.

“I feel my heart starting to get excited about (helping) other athletes genuinely. I’ve had 12 years of really high-level running. Sometimes I think it’s fun to be on the other side,” she said after responding “I don’t think so” when asked if she would be in the Tokyo Olympics.

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“I’d love to help out some future teammates in the next Olympics. You never know (what will happen) but I think I really enjoy helping other people as much as my own training at this point. I would really like to be helping one of my teammates get on the podium next time instead of me,” she said.

One thing Flanagan was certain of was her pride for her US teammates and how much fun she is having training and racing now. “I told Desi as soon as I finished, I’m so proud of us. We came here ready to run hard and I feel like we did.”

“I lot of people don’t love their work setting. I love my co-workers. I love what I do. I have a lot of fun in training so regardless of the result I can always go back home and said I had lots of fun in this buildup,” Shalane said of what she’s doing now. The addition of Cragg as a training partner this past winter has made the training much more enjoyable.

Shalane said, “(Amy) keeps me accountable. She rejuvenated me. I think I was in a point in my marathoning where I was getting a little stale, just grinding it out day in, day out by myself. It’s hard work, running 18 miles a day by yourself. It’s a lot of time in your own head. That’s not healthy. It’s going to be sad when I step away because we’ve had a lot of fun together.”

Flanagan’s not stepping away quite yet and first up she’ll be doing something different this fall, a book tour for her book, Run Fast. Eat Slow. Nourishing Recipes for Athletes. First up, she’ll be on Good Morning America this Wednesday to promote the book.

Between now and then, she can savor today’s run. Flanagan said her coach Jerry Schumacher told her to be prepared for a big push to the finish after 30km and that’s what happened.

“I tried to just hang as tight as I could but I also tried to play it smart knowing they may blow each other up and I may be able to pick off some of the carnage…I just tried to keep my head up and stay positive the entire time. There were a few times where I started to feel sorry for myself. I was feeling pretty uncomfortable towards the end and I just said, just put your head down and fight. I’m happy I hung in as long as I could, but unfortunately it just wasn’t enough. Had I been able to just push a little bit sooner maybe I could have been part of the carnage but closer (to the medals), maybe I gave up too much ground, but that’s all I had, that’s what I am.”

Giving it your all is all any athlete can do and Desi Linden expressed similar sentiments:

Flanagan tried to enjoy what likely was her final Olympics saying, “I tried to remind myself coming down the stretch to savor this.”

Flanagan managed the heat much better than she did in Los Angeles for the Olympic Trials, but could not hang on for a medal at the end. “The last 7k was very much technical, (like) a cross country race and they threw in some good surges. (I was thinking) just be patient, be patient, they may come back,” she said.

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One of the women who did not come back was Volha Mazuronak of Belarus who finished 5th, and according to the BBC broadcast is coached by convicted doper and former World Marathon Majors champion Liliya Shubkhova.

When told of Mazuronak’s coaching arrangement, Flanagan said, “I was wondering what she was doing up there. I’ve never seen her before. That was impressive.”

Flanagan knows that there is always the possibility the results can change because of drug positives, but she had to tip her cap to the women in front of her, noting they nearly broke the Olympic record in warm conditions. “The women in front of me ran super tough. The winning time, 2:24 in these conditions is outrageously fast.”

While Flanagan may not run another Olympics, she is having a lot of fun and the lure of the Boston Marathon still pulls on her strong. “My heart’s always in Boston,” said Flanagan, who grew up in Massachusetts. Flanagan’s future hasn’t been mapped out, but there’s a good chance American distance fans will see her in Boston next spring.

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Is this Flanagan’s Olympic goodbye?

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