Carolyn Mather and I see each other at the big races. Carolyn and her late, beloved husband, Steve, were part of the major races in the US for several decades. Carolyn, a long time writer for Running Journal writes about the elite women for us at New York and a few other events. This was a piece on Shalane Flanagan and her masterful win!
SHALANE FLANAGAN ENDS FORTY YEAR DROUGHT
On a damp and chilly morning in New York City, Shalane Flanagan held true to her promise to win the TCS New York City Marathon and added a crown jewel to her massive resume of American records and an Olymmpic silver medal. Returning to the marathon after her last marathon in August 2016 at the Olympic Marathon in Rio de Janeiro, she has suffered through a broken back and basically a year out of competition missing the world championship 10,000 track team by one place.
Yet today brought a redemption and a dream finally realized as she took the TCS New York City Marathon by storm and became the first U.S. female winner in forty years. Throughout the week, she stayed firm in her belief that it was her time. Although the dominant,according to Shalane “alpha female” in the field was three time winner Mary Keitany, Shalane promised she would cover every move Mary or anyone else made to get that long awaited major marathon major title. Although that appeared somewhat of a potential suicide mission, her coach Jerry Schumacher said there was no specific plan except to do exactly that.
Fortunately on this morning in the Big Apple, an Italian triathlete Sara Dossenna took the early lead after a 6:43 first mile and 12:41 at two miles. A fairly pedestrian 19:15 for 5K and 36:55 10K left a large pack of nineteen together, jostling for their special fluid bottles and waiting for the racing to begin. A pack of nine remained at 25K (1:30:08 )and a few were seconds behind.They were still on a 2:32 pace which would not put undue strain on any of these women.
After they entered the Bronx,three began to separate themselves as the pace picked up and Mamita Daska, Mary Keitany and Shalane Flanagan took off. The three jockeyed back and forth for several miles before Shalane threw in a 5:08 23rd mile, followed by a 5:11 capped off by a 5:04. She gained over a thirty second lead and having watched Shalane for many years I could see that grit of determination burning in her eyes.
At the Thursday press conference she detailed how she has learned to suffer and get the pain under control. She conveyed that she was in the best shape of her life and her coach confirmed that statement. Jerry explained that she had gone to Mammoth Lakes to train a little higher and for only one session this training cycle. He explained not only does he feel that with increasing her mileage volume, she has finally reached her best but can continue to improve if she chooses to keep on that path. He also reiterates that continuing in her career is totally her decision and he will be happy whichever way she decides to go. Jerry further stated that Shalane has a very deep well she can go to for the fire she needs. He has no other way to explain it, but with six miles to go he knew she was going to win.
Shalane never looked back as she drove to the finish. Coming down the last stretch every one was cheering loudly and she crossed in triumph in 2:26:53 a minute and a second ahead of Mary Keitany. She was overcome with the emotion and remained tearful throughout the ensuing ceremonies. Realizing a dream that most naysayers thought would always be just a dream for her, was not only a great day for marathoning but most likely the highlight in her already stellar career.
Over an hour after Shalane finished, she finally got to see her coach for a very brief moment. He told her she was a champ and both had eyes filled with tears of joy, gratitude and relief as they embraced in a big hug. They along with all of the team had worked incredibly hard to bring this dream to fruition. But in true Jerry fashion he gave all of the accolades to Shalane. He said in the end she is the one who has to do all the work,eat properly, rest, train and do all the little stuff.
In return Shalane said “my coaches made me believe that today it was possible if I just ran a tactically sound race and was patient.. this is going to feel good for a very long time”. Shalane appeared to struggle early in the race with the slow and inconsistent pace as she stayed in the back of the pack with Mary, but once she got in her stride, her center of gravity was over her feet and she appeared to feel better running faster. I believe that is when Jerry knew she would win. She looked fierce but relaxed and knowing Shalane, I have seen that look before when she took the American record at 15K in the USATF championship at the Gate River Run in Jacksonville,FL.
The most amazing part of this victory was that Shalane stated that it would happen, she was ready for anything and she would not go away without the win. Still I am sure a few doubts slipped in periodically but she had prepared to conquer any of those doubts and although she does realize it is never over until you cross the finish line, I believe as she does that once you get to the start as fit as you have ever been, then the race evolves between your ears in your brain. You just need to execute and this morning she did that to perfection.”It was a pretty flawless race” she quipped and indeed it was as an American woman is once again after forty years THE CHAMPION!!