Shalane Flanagan has an ulterior motive for running in Saturday’s USA Cross Country Championshps at Plantes Ferry Park.
“My brother’s been accepted at Gonzaga,” the 2008 Olympic bronze medalist at 10,000 meters reported this week. “I’ll be scouting out the campus and checking things out for him.”
John Flanagan is a senior and track co-captain at St. John’s Prep in Danvers, Mass., with an interest in joining coach Pat Tyson’s budding distance program at GU. The recent winner of the mile in an indoor dual with Boston College High, his times aren’t outstanding by, say, Greater Spokane League standards – but could it hurt to have a Flanagan in the house?
It certainly doesn’t hurt to have big sister in the field for the USA Championships – along with defending champion Emily Brown she’s a favorite to win her second title in the 8K race at Plantes Ferry, a qualifier for the IAAF World Cross Country Championships next month in Bydgoszcz, Poland.
Though Flanagan hasn’t fully committed to the world race if she qualifies in Spokane, she said she is “leaning toward” it.
“Cross country is probably the first form of running I fell in love with,” said the 28-year-old University of North Carolina graduate. “I’m just excited to mix it up. I’ve been craving and missing cross country and I really look forward to racing. World cross would be a great stage to get some confidence.”
You wouldn’t think she’d be lacking.
With her courageous bronze in Beijing – she had been laid low with food poisoning in the three days prior to the final – Flanagan moved to the forefront of a gaining U.S. women’s distance movement that began with Deena Kastor’s Olympic marathon bronze four years earlier in Athens and Kara Goucher’s third place in the 10,000 at the 2007 World Championships.
But Flanagan changed career course shortly after her Olympic breakthrough, and the adjustment is ongoing.
She made a contentious split with coach John Cook and uprooted her training headquarters from North Carolina to Portland to work instead with Jerry Schumacher, the former Wisconsin distance coach lured west by Alberto Salazar and the Nike Oregon Project. Her desire to move up in distance to the marathon triggered some necessary training changes, and her progress has been fitful – including a 14th-place finish in the 10,000 at last year’s worlds.
“I have full trust in Jerry and he’s great at communicating,” she said, “but physically I’ve been behind the ball where Jerry thought I was in my training.
“Since I’ve had success, maybe he had an assumption that my training was further along. Come to find out, I’ve been undertrained – which is exciting in the same sense. But it’s required a good six months of tough training and it wasn’t easy. I’m fortunate to be a part of this group and have an extremely passionate coach. I trust wherever Jerry is going to take me.”
Flanagan is the American record holder indoors and out at 5,000 meters, but where she wants to go is longer – not just the 10K but the marathon, though she’s taking her time. She won a half marathon in Houston last month and may do another in lieu of the cross country worlds.
“I didn’t feel like I laid it all out there in Houston,” she said, “like I didn’t race hard enough. So there were two great options – either go run with the best at world cross or run with some of the best, potentially, in New York at the half marathon they’re setting up. That’s still to be determined.”
And a full marathon?
“I don’t think I want to be too greedy within the first year,” Flanagan said. “I think mixing it up with cross country is probably the best scenario. It really is a great platform to just really see where I’m at against some of the best.”
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