Shalane Is Back, Molly Is Worried, & Lagat Is Ready To Roll Ahead of 2018 NYC Marathon
November 2, 2018
NEW YORK — After international media day on Thursday, today it was the time for the top Americans at the 2018 New York City Marathon to face the press. We spoke to all the big names, including defending champ Shalane Flanagan (who said that it took her until July to commit to running New York), Molly Huddle (who is fit but was worried after being beaten at last month’s US 10-mile champs), and Bernard Lagat (who has studied his history and thinks he can break Meb Keflezighi‘s 2:12:21 American master’s record).
We’ve got highlights from everyone we talked to below, and a separate article here where we discussed the Nike Vaporfly 4% shoes and the attempts by other companies to incorporate carbon fiber plates into their shoes.
Shalane Flanagan Ready to Take on World’s Best One More Time, Has No Idea What Is After New York
One of the advantages of being an American NYC defending champ is you get your own press conference. Everyone else in New York was sharing the stage with others, but not defending champ Shalane Flanagan.
Flanagan said she really did not decide to run New York until July of this summer. This spring’s Boston Marathon was not what she wanted, but she still wasn’t sure she really wanted to put in the proper grind of marathon training to be ready for New York.
Sometime this summer, she realized she wanted to give it ago and is back in New York to defend her title. Last year, the last block of her training was at sea level in Portland, and this year she remained the whole time at altitude (first at Mammoth and then in Park City), so she can’t compare workouts, but her coach Jerry Schumacher was pleased and she is feeling fit. She said she did a workout in Provo, Utah, that reinforced that belief.
Flanagan said coach Schumacher keeps improving as a coach each year. She called him her “benevolent dictator,” a phrase LetsRun.com devotees know well. Flanagan doesn’t know what is next for her as an athlete after New York but will definitely be a coach at some point for her Bowerman Track Club. Schumacher is discussed at the end of the clip below from part 1 of the press conference.
Part 2 is where Flanagan discussed her training more and said she relishes facing the best in New York.
“I get excited by seeing exceptionally challenging fields. It does something to me that makes me excited to go to the training because it is hard. Vivian [Cheruiyot] is one of the most talented, hard-working athletes I’ve ever witnessed. She’s just an exceptional woman and I’ve never beaten Vivian and that (the possibility of beating her in the marathon) excites me,” Shalane said.
Shalane also discussed how cool it was people of all ages were dressing up as her for Halloween.
Bernard Lagat Ready for His Marathon Debut at 43 and Is Targeting Meb’s 2:12:21 American Masters Record
It’s rare for Bernard Lagat to be the inexperienced runner in the room, but the 3:26 1500m runner is making his marathon debut and entering uncharted territory.
Lagat is known for the longevity of his career and not running a ton of miles (70 or so per week), which many might think wouldn’t lead to a successful marathon. But many thought it wouldn’t lead to a successful road racing career and Lagat won the US 10k road title at Peachtree this year and ran 1:02:00 for the half marathon at the age of 43.
Lagat said he could not hang with Juan Luis Barrios the entire way on their longest hard run (24 miles), but both people who have trained with Lagat in this buildup, Barrios and Abdi Abdirahman, confirmed he’s very fit. Can Lagat’s efficient road running style convert to a successful marathon without some of the mileage a lot of the other runners run (Lagat says he does a lot of cross training)?
Lagat’s definition of success is definitely breaking Meb Keflezighi’s American master’s record of 2:12:21. That seemed to be his focus and Lagat realized that in the last 10 years, 2:12 often places one in the top 5 or 10 in New York.
If Lagat wants the American master’s record he will have to make sure he beats Abdirahman as the leading Americans could both be over 40 on Sunday.
Lagat is so green in the marathon he discussed at length how hard it was for him to learn how to drink fluids while running in interview #2 below.
Abdi Abdirahman Ready to Roll at 41
The last two years, Abdi Abdirahman was the first American in New York. After talking to him Friday, he gave the indication at age 41 he thinks he can be #1 again as he said he is definitely fitter than last year thanks to doing most of his buildup with Chicago champ Mo Farah as part of his Mudane Team.
Abdi said he couldn’t hang with Farah on all of his workouts, but wasn’t too far behind. Once Farah did Chicago, Abdi did some training with Bernard Lagat and Juan Luis Barrios in Flagstaff.
Molly Huddle Was “Definitely Worried” After Losing to Sara Hall at US 10-Mile Champs
Huddle has done more altitude training in Flagstaff in this buildup than she did before Boston, spending seven weeks and coming down a month before the race as opposed to a one-month stint coming down two months before the race.
While Huddle broke the American half marathon record earlier this year (67:25), she lost her last race, the US 10-mile champs on October 7, finishing second to Sarah Hall. That result is notable because it was Huddle’s first loss in a US road champs since March 2012.
Huddle said that she was “definitely worried” about the result, even though she was coming directly from altitude, but that she has corrected some form issues since then and hopes she will be feeling more rested for Sunday.
Huddle said that her main goal is to finish on the podium on Sunday — which will be tougher than when she finished third in 2016 as this field is much deeper — but added that she’d also be happy with a PR (her best is 2:28:13 from her NYC debut).
She’s also learning that fitness alone isn’t enough in the marathon. In the past, Huddle has been able to train herself into supreme shape and dominate on the roads by imposing her win on the field. That’s a lot harder to do over 26.2 miles on a course like New York.
“Marathons are weird,” Huddle said. “I had a great buildup before Boston and a terrible race.”
Shadrack Biwott Is Fine with Flying Under the Radar, Knows He Can Run 2:09 Some Day
Biwott has finished 5th, 4th, 10th, and 3rd in his last three World Marathon Majors, an enviable track record. Yet he’s often overshadowed by Galen Rupp, his former teammate at the University of Oregon, and in New York, 43-year-old Bernard Lagat is the one getting all the attention.
Biwott says that is absolutely fine with him — as long as he keeps grinding out top finishes, he’ll be happy.
“Doesn’t matter to me,” Biwott said. “I know what I can do. If people want to recognize that and want to talk to me, I’ll be happy, but it’s not going to change anything. From me, it’s a bonus if I get an interview from reporters. That’s not on my agenda.”
We also asked Biwott about the lack of sub-2:10 marathons by Americans in recent years. His PR is 2:12:01 from New York in 2016 and has finished 4th and 3rd in Boston the last two years. Does he think those performances were worth sub-2:10 on a course like Berlin?
“No doubt,” Biwott said. “It’s just a matter of when…but again, it’s easy to talk. Until you really run it, I’m not gonna speculate too much about it. But I know deep inside that I can run 2:09.”
Scott vs. Scott: For The Loser, a Fate Worse Than Death Awaits
Scott Fauble and Scott Smith, NAZ Elite teammates, have one of the fiercest rivalries in the sport (the hatred is fake, but they’ll never admit it). We asked them what they have bet on the outcome of Sunday’s race.
“Life,” Fauble said, adding that if Smith loses, he will have to “fall on his own katana.” “One of us will die. We’re not both making it to Flagstaff.”
Perhaps fittingly, Smith disagreed on the stakes.
“It will bring much shame to whoever loses,” Smith said. “It’s almost going to be worse to live with the shame than to be killed afterwards…if I beat Scott, I’m going to spare his life, but it’s going to be a miserable existence.”
For the record, Smith beat Fauble by 14 seconds last fall in their first marathon matchup in Frankfurt, but Fauble earned a measure of revenge by running 62:18 at the Great North Run in September to Smith’s 66:36. Fauble was particularly pleased that he was able to run that fast and beat out Ryan Vail while pushing the pace in the chase pack for much of the race.
As for the race, Fauble said that training has been “as good as you could expect,” though he admitted that there are always hiccups in marathon training. Smith said the same thing.
“It wasn’t picture perfect, but it was definitely good enough and better than some of the other ones in the past where I’ve gone in confident things were going to go well,” Smith said. “ I’m excited where I’m at and where we’re both at.”
Jared Ward Will Tough It Out on Sunday
Ward had a spectacular 2016, finishing third at the Olympic Trials and then sixth at the Olympics in Rio in a PR of 2:11:30. But since then, things have been anything but smooth. A pelvic injury that had bothered him in his Rio buildup really bothered him in 2017, and this year he has battled a hamstring injury that he thinks was related to the pelvic injury.
Ward says that he got healthy enough for some great training in Flagstaff this summer, but had another setback in September, tweaking his hamstring and missing three weeks of workouts. NYC elite athlete coordinator David Monti convinced Ward to give it a shot in New York.
“I know that that three-week block that I missed in September is important, but I feel great and I feel fit and I’m excited for this weekend and Sunday as an opportunity to just go out and run with these athletes,” Ward said.
Ward has not lost hope however, even though it’s been over two years since his last good marathon (he ran 2:15 in Boston and 2:18 in New York last year).
“I remember thinking at the end of 2017 that if I still love running at the end of this year, then I still got some running in me,” Ward said. “Because really on paper, it was really the first year in my life that hadn’t been better than the year before in terms of running…I still feel like it’s in there, and I don’t know how deep it’s in there and when I can hope to get that to resurface, but I still feel it in there.”
Stephanie Bruce Hoping to Put Herself in Conversation Among Top Americans in New York
Bruce reads LetsRun.com and she knows that right now, she’s in a different tier than women like Shalane Flanagan and Des Linden.
“It doesn’t bother me because I haven’t done anything that would put me in the conversation to be a favorite,” Bruce said. “Des said it in one of her quotes [about herself]: I haven’t done shit yet. And that’s kind of how I feel about myself on the world stage in the marathon.”
Bruce believes that could change on Sunday however, though she admitted she will have her hands full with women like Linden, Flanagan, Huddle, and the international stars.
“I really think top five would be a great day,” Bruce said.
Allie Kieffer: “I Think I Can Run 2:26”
Kieffer was the breakout star in New York last year, going from doing CrossFit at the start of the year to finishing 5th in New York while being self-coached. Now she has a sponsor (Oiselle) and is back with coach Brad Hudson, former coach of Dathan Ritzenhein, who first coached Kieffer when she was grinding away in the sport just out of college, but not yet a marathoner.
Kieffer had been asking Brad for informal advice last year in her buildup and they cemented their coaching relationship this year. Brad has been with Kieffer overseeing her training in upstate New York and they both say she is much fitter than last year.
Kieffer, who clocked 2:29 in 2017, said, “I think I can run 2:26.”
Kieffer may be in the best shape of her life but 2018 has not been smooth sailing. A stress fracture kept her out of the spring marathons and then when she started training again after it was a grind. “I took 7 weeks off and it was really hard. Nothing clicked when I came back this year, but the races were still good,” she said (she set road PRs at 5k, 10k, and the half).
The injury was a blessing in disguise for Kieffer because it caused her to see a specialist in Bend, Oregon, that her sponsor Oiselle set her up with, who helped her realize she needed to change her form. She’s adjusted her foot strike which should help her be healthier in the future. Her future looks very bright. At the end of the interview below she discusses some of the doubters on LetsRun who say she is too big to be a top pro runner.
Coach Hudson on working with Kieffer again
(in a second interview here Hudson talks about the Nike 4% shoes and how other companies are now trying to put carbon plates in their shoes).
Chris Derrick Trying to Emulate His Female Teammates’ Success in the Marathon
Derrick, a member or the Bowerman Track Club, is looking to lower his PR from his 2:12 debut in Chicago. While the Bowerman women have had tremendous success in the marathon (Shalane Flanagan NYC win, Amy Cragg Worlds bronze), the men haven’t had nearly the success. The same thing could be said with the American men in the marathon compared to the women with the exception of Galen Rupp.
Derrick hopes to be a part of the next group of American men getting under the 2:10 barrier.