By David Monti, @d9monti
(c) 2020 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
September 29, 2020, Published on October 1, 2020
Lindsay Flanagan came into the 2020 USA Olympic Team Trials Marathon last February ranked #12 on qualifying time, and that’s exactly where she finished. The 29 year-old, Asics-sponsored athlete never got into a rhythm, got caught up in surges, and took a beating from the course’s many hills and sharp turns. Her tenth career marathon was good (2:32:05), but she had wanted so much more.
“I think I just left the Trials pretty disappointed,” Flanagan told Race Results Weekly in a telephone interview today from London where she’ll be running the special elite-only Virgin Money London Marathon on Sunday. “I don’t think, maybe, I ran the smartest race.”
Flanagan, who lives and trains in Boulder, Colo., came into the Trials fit and ready to race. But unlike at the Bank of America Chicago Marathon last October where she set her 2:28:08 personal best, she couldn’t settle into a steady pace. She’s a natural tempo runner and likes the feeling of a flat course.
“All of the fartleking up and down the hills you were going off of other people’s paces,” Flanagan lamented. “I think that zapped my legs a little bit. I’m more of a rhythm runner, and I love just clicking off splits.”
After the Trials Flanagan went home to Boulder where she lives with her younger sister Kaylee, also a runner. The pandemic would soon take hold of the country, and she wasn’t sure when her next marathon would be. Under the guidance of her coach Steve Magness, Flanagan kept putting in the miles –mostly alone– building both strength and speed for a marathon to be named later.
In July she heard rumors that London might stage an elite-only race, and she discussed it with her agent, Brendan Reilly of Boulder Wave. She learned from Reilly that the race was indeed happening, but that the organizers were giving priority to athletes who needed the Tokyo Olympic qualifying standard, and that it was going to be tough to get a starting spot.
“I wasn’t high priority,” Flanagan admitted.
But with Reilly advocating for her, she received an invitation in late August.
“I was pretty shocked,” she said.
Her build-up would be decidedly short, but Magness assured her that with all of the uninterrupted, injury-free training she had done since the spring that she would be fine. She had a great base to start with.
“I was like, six week build-up or not let’s do this,” Flanagan recounted. “It’s a little crazy that I’m here right now.”
Flanagan quickly got up to her usual 100 to 110-mile marathon training weeks. She’s not part of a training group, so she did nearly all of her training by herself, including her long runs. She got plenty of moral support from her sister, but Kaylee too had her hands full adapting to working from home. She works for the Boulder-based company Stryd that makes a training monitor which runners lace into their shoes.
“She kind of took over the kitchen table,” Flanagan said.
For Sunday, Flanagan has a simple goal: get faster. She’d love to drop her personal best by a minute or two, and her half-marathon career best of 1:09:37 from Houston last January converts to a 2:26:10 marathon by one popular conversion formula. She’s hoping to run with a few other women who want to finish in that time range.
“I’m feeling fit and confident that can happen on Sunday,” she said. “Even just the brief chattings with people already we will find ourselves an organic pace group to help each other.”
Until Sunday’s race, Flanagan has to remain in the COVID-safe biosphere the London organizers have created for the athletes. She entered that controlled area the moment she was picked up at the airport and brought to a hotel which is well outside of Central London. After her initial check-in, Flanagan cannot leave the grounds of the hotel and must do her daily training there. She’ll also have all of her meals there, and meal times are staggered so athletes can remain at least six feet (about two meters) apart at all times. Dining tables have been spaced apart, accordingly.
Moreover, the London organizers are utilizing a person-to-person distancing technology provided by robotics company Tharsus. All 100 of the elite athletes (and about 500 of the marathon’s operation team) have to wear a sensor which warns them any time there are too close to another person.
“They’re definitely really taking all of the precautions,” Flanagan marveled. “We have to wear this sensor that beeps any time we’re within six feet of another person. I feel like all day I just hear, beep, beep, beep.”
Flanagan is one of four Americans who will be running on Sunday. The others are Jared Ward, Sara Hall and Molly Seidel. Hall, her husband and coach Ryan, and Seidel were all on Flanagan‘s flight from Chicago to London on Sunday night which, Flanagan said, only had 36 passengers. She was able to take an entire row to herself and got some critical rest. Her trip is off to a good start, she said.
“I think I actually slept the whole seven hours which is pretty unusual for me.”
Flanagan is looking forward to meeting some of the international stars who are running London, including world record-holder Eliud Kipchoge. She saw him at a distance doing a photo shoot, but hasn’t met him yet.
“I wanted to get my own picture of him like you know, from the bushes, but I didn’t,” she said with a hearty laugh. “I was like can I just hide and snap a picture?” She added: “I haven’t run into him in the dining hall yet, but it’s going to happen eventually.”