April 15 can’t get here soon enough for Shalane Flanagan.
Like just about all of her fellow runners in the 117th Boston Marathon, Flanagan is in the tapering phase of training. She’s dialing back on distance and intensity, and letting her body recover so as to maximize her performance on race day.
“I feel like a caged animal,” she said.
For Flanagan, who is from Marblehead but lives in Oregon now, her fourth career marathon will also be her Boston debut. She was 10th in the Olympic marathon in London last summer, and won the US Olympic marathon trials early in 2012.
But Boston is extra-special.
“It’s where I first fell in love with running, watching people compete in the Boston Marathon,” she said.
She recently took time to discuss her career and her first Boston Marathon in an exclusive interview arranged by one of her sponsors, Gatorade. Here’s the Q&A:
Where are you at in your training program? How’s it going?
I’m actually in taper mode, I had a day off, and I have too much energy, I feel like I’m a chatterbox, so this is a good day to talk to me, because normally I’m kind of, my brain’s mush, I don’t function so well. I was just telling my husband I feel like a caged animal, I’m so ready to get the race going and I’m really craving some good competition, so I’m trying to just keep it all contained and unleash it on the 15th. I’m pretty pumped up, training’s been going really well, and I just feel like I’m in a good place. At this point, all I can do is mess it up. I’m kind of just savoring feeling so good.
Have you done anything special as far as your training goes this time around?
I think with each training block, especially with each marathon training block, you learn so much, and I try to approach each one with fresh eyes, almost like I haven’t run one, but at the same time I’ve gathered lots of information. My first one went really well, but I think I suffered from the fact that I didn’t consume fluids on the first one, so that was like a novice move. I only consumed one of my bottles, but I still did really well, and then I’ve progressively gotten better with nailing down like nutrition, and race day, what to wear, what doesn’t bother me, what makes me not lose so many toenails, so I feel really prepared. I’ve been able to kind of fine-tune everything from the training aspect. I’ve actually done less mileage and kind of scaled back some of the workouts, and I feel like I’m thriving on a little bit less work than what I did for the Olympics. I feel like the training I did for the Olympics is only helping me now. I think I went into London a little bit fatigued, so I’ve been thriving off of this current build-up and just taking all the knowledge that I’ve had prior and just executing it to a little bit better degree.
What would a Boston Marathon victory mean to you?
It would basically put the cherry on top of my whole career. It means pretty much everything to me. When I started out running as a little girl, I thought of what are the ultimate stages to perform on, and to me it was the Olympics, and then, growing up in the area, the Boston Marathon. I mean, that’s the Super Bowl. Those two are on equal pedestals, they mean the most to me. I’ve already in a sense accomplished one major goal of acquiring an Olympic medal, and now this is really it, this is where all of my dreams are kind of riding on.
How does your perfect Boston Marathon play out in your mind?
All I can ask for is to be able to display the work I’ve put in, and hopefully that’s enough to put me in contention for the win. I just want to be in the battle and in the fight for the win. If I’m not, that’s where I’ll be disappointed. If I get left in the dust and I’m not even part of that battle down Boylston Street, I’ll be pretty upset about that. So my perfect Boston is just executing, just execution of everything.
What did you learn about yourself in the Olympic Marathon?
I almost learned a lot about myself not necessarily in the marathon, but prior. I think when you have this huge moment in front of you, you want to just give everything you have for that moment, and I think if anything I regret, or just learned, was I probably left a little bit too much of myself in my training. Didn’t have necessarily the proper recovery between workouts, I think I left some of my race at home in Portland, Oregon, and didn’t bring it to London. Sometimes a little bit less is more, and so that’s what I feel like I’ve done with this Boston preparation, just scale back, give 95 percent in my training and hope that last five percent is my competitive nature and just my talents. Hopefully I’m a little undercooked as opposed to overcooked for London.
Do you run with music?
I have a good group of training partners, which is ideal, but if I do have some solo runs, like I’m about to go on, I have a little shuffle and I definitely jam and bop down the road. It’s definitely motivating when I don’t have chit-chat with my girlfriends.
What do you listen to?
I have a wide range on my nano, everything from like country to some pop to some rock. It’s a good mix. I’m a Maroon 5 fan, Mumford & Sons, Alicia Keys, Madonna, every once in a while I’ll put some old school on, like Britney Spears.
Who has been the most influential person in your running career?
Wow. I feel like I have such a collection, like every coach has contributed to who I am, and training partners, but ultimately, I’d probably say my dad [marathoner Steve Flanagan], just because I look to him for literally every little piece of advice. He’s just very even-keeled. I just feel like he’s outside the running bubble and he has great perspective, even though he was a past runner. He just offers great perspective for me.
What has surprised you most about switching to being a marathoner?
I didn’t realize how rewarding the training would be. It’s by far my favorite, it’s the most taxing, I’ve never been more tired in my life, but for some reason it’s kind of a bliss and joy, that I appreciate being tired. I like really pushing myself and I enjoy that process. It’s a very rewarding event because you dedicate everything for three months for one race, and it’s all or nothing. I like the high stakes.