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Shalane Flanagan To Coach 2018’s Team Ultra
Michelob Ultra surprised runners with the opportunity to snag 95 TCS New York City Marathon bibs after the registration cutoff for 2017’s race—and the beer brand is doing it again this year, with one added twist. In addition to hosting a contest in which 95 runners will be selected to race as part of “Team Ultra” alongside runners from collaborating partner Achilles International, Michelob Ultra is also providing a special coach to get them race-ready: 2017 New York City Marathon champion Shalane Flanagan.
“I have two passions in life, and those are running and eating; I’ve always loved a good beer after my races to celebrate, or even after really hard training,” Flanagan told Women’s Running. “That falls very much in line with Team Ultra and the fact that you work hard, push yourself and then it’s time to celebrate.”
The competition to join Team Ultra begins today and ends on July 2. Interested runners are required to be at least 21 years of age in order to submit an application essay, which must explain how their passion for running and beer motivates them to race toward finish lines. Once the application window closes, Michelob Ultra will select 95 winners and direct them to Coach Flanagan, who will contact her trainees through an online social and training platform created for Team Ultra’s use. As race day approaches, Flanagan will also host a training run for Team Ultra members in New York City (date to be determined) and will attend a post-race happy hour hosted by Michelob Ultra.
While Flanagan is still undecided about whether or not she’ll defend her title in New York City this fall, she realizes that her Team Ultra runners will have different goals in mind when they approach the Staten Island starting line on November 4. “I obviously don’t expect these 95 runners to commit their lives, the way I train,” Flanagan said. “However, I do feel like running is a very basic sport, and I think the biggest part is being part of a community, having the accountability of other runners and getting excited and feeding off the energy of a bunch of people.” In terms of specific coaching strategies, Flanagan identifies strength and cross-training as important focal points for aspiring marathoners. “Having the cross-training is pretty crucial, because you’re still getting that cardiovascular benefit but not overworking the muscles and tendons and bones,” Flanagan said. “For runners who are new to longer distances, it’s an extra way to get fit without putting too many miles on the legs.”
The difficulty of the NYC Marathon course also provides targets for Flanagan’s coaching. “When I train for New York, I make sure to incorporate quite a bit of hills. The bridges are the hills in New York—and obviously Central Park is quite testing on a lot of runners for that last 5K,” Flanagan said. “I can envision pushing a lot of the runners to find challenging courses, run up and down hills and fatiguing the legs in the process; but I still think that they’ll be ready on race day.”
With 19 weeks to go until this year’s NYC Marathon, there’s still plenty of time for runners to prepare their minds and bodies for the distance. “I always have this saying that you have to get fit to get fit. Now’s the time to start to gear your body and create good habits: trying to get a little more sleep, trying to get your diet on point, all these little factors that will help you have a good training block,” Flanagan said. “When the time comes where we say, ‘Okay, we’re 14 weeks out from the marathon,’ you’re getting yourself prepped for that really hard training block.”
On a personal level, the opportunity to coach runners through the NYC Marathon training process is a special one for Flanagan, whose unique perspective as the course’s defending champion can benefit Team Ultra runners, whether they’re aspiring to tackle the course for the first time or nab a course PR. “It’s a fun way to celebrate New York and the marathon,” Flanagan said of Team Ultra. “It’s taking a really fun approach: You’re pushing yourself and achieving your goals, but it’s also a time to celebrate with other people.”
As for the lingering question of Flanagan’s race-day participation decision, she knows one thing for sure. “If I don’t line up with all the runners, I certainly will be at the finish line with Michelob Ultra, celebrating because it is such a huge achievement. I’ve never been at a finish line and not cried. It’s so emotional to me. It’s a really memorable day to people, so if I can’t run or if I decide not to race, I will certainly be there to greet runners.”
To learn more about how to enter for a chance to join Team Ultra, visit the official Team Ultra contest page.