From the Track to the Road

The story of Shalane Flanagan switching from racing around the tracks to running full marathons on the road.

Shalane Flanagan, who has steadily progressed toward track stardom and currently holds American records for women in the 3,000, 5,000 and 10,000 meters, is about to race a few more times and then disappear.

From racing, not from running.

She’ll actually be running more than ever — so much, in fact, it scares her a little.

After racing the 1,500 and 5,000 this week at the U.S. track and field championships and competing next weekend at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Ore., Flanagan will start what she calls the “lengthy apprenticeship” of marathon training.

As much as the wispy (5-5, 113 pounds) strider from Marblehead, Mass., cherishes her track records — and her Olympic bronze medal in the 10,000 two summers ago — she has said that she considers the ultimate test of a distance runner to be the 26.2-miler.

Flanagan, 28, announced last week that she would make her marathon debut at the Nov. 7 New York City Marathon.

So, after next week, the marathon quest she set for herself as a little girl begins in earnest. “We’re going to pony up to some real serious training,” she says of the goals being laid out by her coach, Jerry Schumacher.

Flanagan ran 100-plus miles a week heading into her half-marathon debut in Houston in January. That resulted in a course record of 1 hour, 9 minutes, 45 seconds.

“Now we’re going to take a bigger step,” Flanagan says. “We’re going to go up to 120-mile weeks … if I can take it.”

The New Englander was tempted to make her marathon debut in Boston, but she was swayed to choose New York because of timing and also because of a strong relationship with the New York Road Runners, the organizers of the race.

By running a fall marathon this year, Flanagan can still compete on the track circuit next spring and summer and try to qualify for the 2011 world championships in South Korea in the 10,000. Then she can get back into marathon training for the U.S. Olympic marathon trials in Houston in January 2012.

Her Olympic goals for London 2012 could include either of those events, depending on how she performs between now and then.

“On the world level, the 10K could still be my best event,” she says. “I want to create as many opportunities for myself as I can.”

Eventually, though, she will be a full-time marathoner.

“I’ve always just felt naturally gifted and drawn to the longer distances,” she says.

Distance runners have a successful track record making their marathon debuts in New York. The three fastest marathon debuts by U.S. women have taken place on the streets of New York: Kara Goucher in 2008, Deena Kastor (2001) and Marla Runyan (2002).

New York Road Runners race director and CEO Mary Wittenberg thinks Flanagan has a chance to break Goucher’s U.S. women’s debut record (2:25:53).

“I firmly believe Shalane will hold every distance running record there is for an American woman before she is finished,” she says.

As Flanagan begins her transition into a marathoner, she won’t have any shortage of advisers. Her mother, Cheryl Treworgy, is a former marathon world recordholder (2:49:40, in 1971), and her father, Steve Flanagan, competed in cross country and marathons with a personal record of 2:18. “I chose my parents well,” she says. “They are a wealth of knowledge about marathoning. They have so much passion for the event.”

From USAToday

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