As America’s Sweetheart of running, Shalane Flanagan is known for her sunny disposition and kindhearted spirit. But don’t let her welcoming temperament fool you – she’s a fierce competitor aiming to run down her opponents every time she steps up to the start line. Women’s Running recently caught up with the Olympic Bronze medal runner (and July/August Cover Model!) for some exclusive girl talk about her training routine, her relationship with running girlfriends and why we might see her eventually tackle an IRONMAN triathlon.
RUNNING & TRAINING
Women’s Running: How did you begin running?
Shalane Flanagan: I started running because my parents were both runners and they were my role models. I just wanted to be like them because they ran everyday. Also, when I was in grade school in Boulder, CO we had a physical fitness test and I beat all the boys in my grade and I thought, “You know, I really like beating all the boys.”
WR: What’s an average day like for you?
SF: When I’m in serious marathon training, I run twice a day. I start at the Nike campus for my first run of the day, followed by a core workout with my team. Then I have lunch and take a nap. Later I might get physical therapy or get a massage. Then I do my second run, followed by dinner and bed.
WR: What do you typically eat during a normal day?
SF: Breakfast – oatmeal with fruit and nuts and coffee, followed by Gatorade
Mid-morning snack – apple or banana
Lunch – hearty turkey sandwich with fruit and yogurt with granola
Dinner – I’m more creative. I don’t limit myself for dinner – it’s whatever I’m craving, like good Mexican food or sushi.
WR: What do you think about when you line up at the start line of a race?
SF: I usually savor feeling really good because I know there are going to be moments that I will be tested. I savor the calmness and peacefulness before the storm begins.
WR: What do you think about in the final miles of a race?
SF: I really try to stay focused in the final miles because I think when you start to get tired, it’s most crucial to stay focused so that you keep your form together and don’t get sloppy. You have to keep it together in those last miles because that’s where true champions are made.
WR: Do you have a running mantra?
SF: With each build up to a specific race, I have a different mantras For the Olympics Games it was, “Run without any regrets.” For the Olympic Trials, it was, “Cold execution.” I wanted to put the emotion aside to make sure I made the team without letting the emotions of making an Olympic team get to me. My mantra is always changing and evolving with each race situation.
WR: What kind of training is your favorite?
SF: I really love good, fast 200-meter sprints on the track, but I also love a long, hard tempo run.
WR: Is the marathon your favorite distance?
SF: It is. It’s gut wrenching and can be heart breaking if it doesn’t go well, but it’s also the most rewarding race I’ve ever run. There’s a lot on the line because you dedicate so much time, and I love that you have to be all in for the race.
WR: If you could run anywhere in the world, where would you run?
SF: My favorite place to run is St. Moritz, Switzerland. It’s by far the most stunning scenery, beautiful trails, lakes – it’s my running mecca.
GIRLFRIENDS & MORE
WR: Describe what your running girlfriends mean to you.
SF: I find a lot of joy in the running journey and sharing that with my training partners is very rewarding. I just feel like it’s a lot more meaningful and enriching when I can share my running with others. We go through a lot on a daily basis together (a lot of ups and downs with our training and in life) so it just makes those races a little more powerful because we’ve gone through so much to get to that point. I have some really great relationships through running.
WR: How do you put competition aside to forge friendships?
SF: Since my competitiveness only comes out on race day, I’m really good at executing the training goal for the day and helping my training partners get better. That’s what we’re ultimately striving for – getting the best out of ourselves. But we wouldn’t be great athletes if we weren’t competitive, so on race day I want my friends to be competitive too. I want the best version of Kara [Kara Goucher is Flanagan’s training partner] on the starting line. I want all of my competitors to be their best so that if I do win, it’s more meaningful. I feel empowered by having my teammate next to me competing. I feel like we’ve done a lot of hard work together, so I feel like I have a secret weapon next to me.
WR: What’s your best race memory?
SF: Most recently it was leading the 2012 Olympic marathon with Kara [Goucher] for the first 12 miles. How often can you say that you led the Olympic marathon with one of your best friends? It was a pretty unique experience.
WR: If you had a chance to talk to young girls, would you encourage them to pursue running as a sport?
SF: Yes, running builds a lot of confidence to feel good about yourself. You just need a pair of shoes and no one can stop you from getting out the door and running.
WR: With the holidays around the corner, do you have a favorite family tradition?
SF: For tradition, my family recently started a new one. We all gather together in a location separate from our houses because we find that we actually spend more time together when we collaborate somewhere outside of someone’s home (so no one is stuck with the regular duties of home!). We pick a new spot each year to gather for a destination Christmas!
WR: Do you play any sports outside of running?
SF: I don’t have a lot of time with marathon training, but I do incorporate some swimming as recovery into my training. I also just purchased my first adult bike this Fall because my Dad got really into biking and it’s something I can incorporate that shouldn’t hurt my running.
WR: Since you like biking and swimming, will there ever be a triathlon in your future?
SF: I would love to compete in a triathlon. It’s been a dream of mine. I just met Chrissie Wellington and she’s inspired me with all that she’s done in the sport of IRONMAN, so it’s definitely on the bucket list.
WR: What are you training for now?
SF: My big goal for right now is the Boston Marathon in the Spring.
WR: Why did you choose to partner with the Nissan Innovation for Endurance* program?
SF: I think it’s a really good fit for me because I’m always looking to innovate my training to get better. I love that I can interact with regular runners through the program and help them improve their running. There are things that I can share from my own training, that I might sometimes take for granted, that might help other runners see self improvement.
*Nissan’s Innovation for Endurance campaign aims to help athletes take their performance to a whole new level through exclusive daily content that showcases the latest innovations in running, cycling and general fitness. Visit www.facebook.com/InnovationForEndurance for state-of-the-art tips from the Nissan Innovation for Endurance Innovators: Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte, elite runners Ryan Hall, Shalane Flanagan and Kara Goucher; and cycling champion Chris Horner.