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Kara Goucher is Changing Course – Women’s Running


One of the most celebrated elite runners of her generation, Kara Goucher faces her toughest challenge yet: being a beginner.

Kara Goucher is a two-time Olympian and World Championships silver medalist. She placed first at the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials in the 5,000 meters (15:01.02), third in the New York City Marathon in 2008 (2:25.53), third in the 2009 Boston Marathon (2:32.25), and won the U.S. Half Marathon Championships in 2012 (1:09.26). And that’s only naming a few of her accomplishments.

With a résumé like that, she easily could have coasted. Thrown in the towel on competitive running and spent the next few decades collecting speaking engagements, sponsorships, and race appearances based on the woman she was: a highly decorated—and even more highly respected—elite track, cross-country, and road runner. Instead, on March 11, 2019, Goucher announced an ambitious pivot: She would be turning her sights to trail running, preparing first for the Leadville Trail Marathon in June.

To the unacquainted, that may not sound all that drastic. After all, she’s a seasoned elite marathoner. How different would 26.2 miles on a trail really be? But there were a number of challenges that made this far from a sure thing: Goucher had never trained, much less raced, at altitude before (this historic racecourse starts at 10,000 feet); she also hadn’t run on trails in more than 20 years. As an injury-prone track athlete, Goucher says she swore off trails decades ago. It simply wasn’t worth the risk.

“When I was training for the Olympic Trials, I would warm up two or three miles and meet [my coaches],” she said. “If there was even a tiny bit of water melt that had frozen on the roads, say maybe twice in a mile stretch, we would shut it down. They’d go back to work for a couple hours; I’d go home and eat a snack, nap, and meet them 3 hours later. That’s how afraid I was of falling or running on uneven surfaces.”

So just the act of signing up for the race was scary; Goucher felt vulnerable, and admittedly terrified. Even friends were surprised: “Jenny Simpson and I went for this run two years ago; it started to go up this trail, and all of a sudden she turned around and couldn’t even see me—that’s how slow I was moving,” Goucher said. “When I said I was running Leadville, she was like, ‘My mind is blown!’”

And yet, there was also a palpable curiosity she couldn’t ignore. “It reminds me of the first marathon I ever saw,” she said. “In 2007, I came off winning a medal in the World Championships, and all of a sudden I was in the spotlight, and the New York Road Runners invited me to come out and watch the marathon. I sat on the press truck and was equal parts terrified and inspired watching Paula [Radcliffe]. She was out there for two hours and the better side of 20 minutes, and she was running so hard the entire time. I remember thinking, ‘Oh my God, that’s so scary I can’t even imagine doing that—but then I was also like, But I really wish I could. I really want to be that tough. Could I?’”

Kara Goucher trail running
Photo Credit: Julia Vandenoever

Preparing for Leadville, however, would require a completely different mentality than what she was used to. On the roads, you train for a certain pace that you can handle for those two hours and the better side of 20 minutes. That mindset, Goucher very quickly learned, wasn’t going to translate to her off-road training.

With steep inclines and uneven terrain, jumping over rocks and letting your body go with the trail, this type of running demands a whole different level of physicality than that used on roads and tracks. At 41 years old, Goucher found herself a true beginner all over again.

But she was determined to succeed. So the first thing she did was let go of any pace-based runs. There was just no use for them on the trails. She focused much of her training on doing a lot of mile-long repeats—12-mile stretches of one mile hard uphill and an easy mile down, or vice versa. She was humble and honest about the process (“Took my first spill on the trails today so I think I’m officially a trail runner?!” she tweeted on April 20). And she found experienced training partners like pro ultrarunner Cat Bradley, who also lives in Boulder, Colorado, where Goucher is based.

“As much as I respect her and like her as a human, it wasn’t necessarily fun,” Goucher said about her time on the trail with Bradley. “It was just three hours of being so tense and so scared, and trying to be brave but really just being like, I don’t want to do this, I’m going to fall, I’m so scared right now. My shoulders would be so tense after.”

There was, however, something in her road-running toolbox that would translate well on the trails; something Goucher could definitely use to her advantage. “One of the things in my racing career was, once I got to college, Mark Wetmore really taught me about pacing,” she said.

“He taught me about how if you burn up all the fuel in the beginning you go anaerobic right away and it’s a sufferfest, but you can go so much faster if you’re willing to let other people go out harder.” Trusting him, she gave it a shot, and suddenly she was a breakout star, becoming the NCAA outdoor champion in 3,000 meters and 5,000 meters, and the NCAA Cross Country champion in 2000. “Every coach I’ve subsequently had has said, ‘This is something you’re good at: not getting excited early on; knowing it’s a full 10K, or knowing it’s a full 26.2 miles.’”

On June 15, 2019, Goucher toed the start line of the Leadville Trail Marathon…

She had a plan. She was going to start at 10:30 pace, knowing that 9:30–10:30 pace traditionally landed women on the podium. The revised course started with the first six miles uphill. She had to be smart. She had to hold back if she was going to feel strong the whole way.

During her training, Goucher’s coaches (Wetmore and Heather Burroughs) hadn’t been super involved. “Literally the only thing they said to me was: ‘Go out slow, and then when you think you’re going slow, go slower,’” she said. “And I did the exact opposite.” She ran her first mile in 7:50. At the 10K mark, she wanted to see something between 62–65 minutes on her watch. She saw 51. “I knew I was running fast, but so was everyone else,” she said. “Either I was going to blow up, or do something epic.”

On a steep incline a few miles later, she charged up it even though the men around her were walking. So much for not burning up all her fuel in the beginning. “I remember thinking this was the most pain I had ever been in in my life—more than giving birth—and then I looked down at my Garmin and it said 11.6 miles,” she said. “I thought, ‘Oh my God. I don’t know if I’m going to make it.’ I knew the race was over for me.”

Around mile 15, she started to see spots. She started to throw up. She started to walk. “I would have cried if I hadn’t felt so sick,” she said. “I started to wonder why I signed up for this. I started to think about how I’d never run again. I knew I wasn’t going to finish and I knew I’d never enter a race again.”

But just before mile 19, as the course turned around and started heading back down the mountain toward the finish line, it was like the winds suddenly shifted. “People started passing me, but unlike in my past races, they would give me words of encouragement. ‘Keep fighting,’ they would tell me. ‘This will pass.’ ‘You can do it.’ ‘Embrace the suck.’ People waited for me while I puked and then ran another half mile with me. People showed me acts of kindness like I have never, in my 40 years of life, been shown before,” Goucher said.

Their encouragement was like oxygen, each cheer delivering a desperate boost of energy that propelled Goucher forward—one slow and painful step at a time. By that point, there was no doubt in her mind: She had to finish. “I had been given the strength from strangers, and I was going to get there if it was the last thing I did.”

And she did. With a time of 3:54.06, Goucher finished the Leadville Trail Marathon—the fifth overall female, and the first in her 40–49 age group.

Goucher has pushed her pain threshold in plenty of races before….

There was her first half marathon in 2007—the Great North Run in England—where she beat then-marathon world record holder Paula Radcliffe. (“I really didn’t know what I was doing,” she said. “I ran 66:57, but I was sick for a good six hours afterwards.”) There was the New York Marathon in 2008, her debut at the distance, where she became the first American on the podium since 1994. (“I had never felt that sort of fatigue before.”) Yet none of them come close to Leadville.

“I can’t even put it into words,” she said. “It was so much harder. It was the darkest I’ve ever been. I can go back and look at my text messages with my family right after I finished and I told them ‘I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy.’”

As one of the most accomplished road athlete to make a competitive switch onto trails, Goucher was well aware of the attention and analysis that would follow. “I was on a panel with an ultrarunner leading up to the race,” she said. “He was like, ‘I feel so bad for you. You can’t just go and run. If you don’t win, they’re going to make fun of you.’” And I was like, “yeah, I know.”

But the fear of ridicule or criticism was not what pushed Goucher through those tough miles at Leadville. Instead, it was a simple-yet-poignant phrase penned on her left forearm in black marker: Brave Like Gabe.

Like so many in the running community, Goucher had been deeply inspired for years by fellow professional runner Gabriele Grunewald, who was diagnosed with adenoid cystic carcinoma 10 years ago, and passed away just days before the race. “I was really heavy that week. I couldn’t stop crying,” Goucher said. “We all want to leave the world having impacted it and leaving it a better place, but she really did it.”

“She just makes me want to face things, you know? Like do hard things,” Goucher continued. “One of the best quotes was her saying, ‘I want to be nervous to race again. I remember when I was nervous to race, and now I’m nervous about what’s the scan going to say.’ That just put so much into perspective for me. I’m afraid people are going to say bad things about me if I don’t run well in Leadville? Who effing cares?”

So yes, she ran Leadville like a total rookie (her words, not ours). She didn’t train as much as she should have and she probably underestimated the altitude (again, her words, not ours). But her head is not down in the slightest.

“Crossing that finish line was the most satisfactory of my career,” she said. “I have been on two Olympic teams, won a medal at the world championships, but nothing was more rewarding than that finish line in Leadville. I have never worked so hard to complete something in my life.”

Since the last Olympic Trials, Goucher has been on a hamster wheel…

It was an incredibly warm February day in Los Angeles, the hottest in U.S. trials history. Amy Cragg won the 2016 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in 2:28:20. Des Linden followed 34 seconds behind. Shalane Flanagan collapsed at the finish line in third place. And just one minute behind Flanagan, just one spot outside of making her third Olympic team, Goucher finished fourth in 2:30:24.

That race was a tough one to swallow. Goucher dove straight back into her training, determined to show the fitness she knew was there. But before long, she found herself in an unavailing grind that went something like this: Start building up to decent mileage. Start pushing to run the paces she ran back in 2015–2016. Get injured. Rest. Heal up. Repeat.

“I was in this space of trying to prove the impossible,” she said. “I just wanted so badly to have one last taste, because I knew had the Olympic Trials gone a hair differently,I would have gotten it.”

“I was so obsessed that it was actually holding me back,” Goucher continued. “I wasn’t running because I wanted to run, I was running because I wanted this goal that I thought was going to bring me closure on my career.”

The frustrating cycle continued until last fall, when she took a big, hard step back and acknowledged the thing no one seemed to want to talk about. “People don’t like it when I say it, but, I’m older. I’m 41,” she said. “People are always like, ‘No, age is nothing but a number!’ and to a certain extent that’s true, but there’s also science and physiology behind it—your body slows down.”

Goucher was ready to stop racing the runner she used to be. She was ready to look forward. “It’s no coincidence that I then stayed healthy for a full marathon buildup,” Goucher said. For the first time in years, she started to enjoy running again. She set her sights on the 2019 Houston Marathon in January.

She was excited and revived; still, it wasn’t easy. “There were times it was so humbling,” she said. “I’d be doing mile repeats at like 5:40 when before the trials I would be doing them in 5:15. So there were periods where it was hard to look in the mirror and think, I’m not who I used to be.”

When an old hamstring injury came out of nowhere during the marathon in January and forced her to drop out of the race, it was as if her past was haunting her all over again. “My coaches wanted me to sleep on it before making a decision,” Goucher said. “They wanted me to get out there and run a 2:35. But I was tired of comparing myself to the past.” She needed something that would test her in a totally different way. Which brought her to Leadville.

Goucher may never be the runner she once was…

“I’m never going to put on a USA kit again. I’m never going to make another team. I’m finally accepting that,” Goucher said. “But I still really like to prepare for something. I get so much out of a training block. It brings so much to my life. So now I’m at this crossroads: Do I give up something I love so much because I’m never going to be who people remember me as? Or do I say it doesn’t matter; I love this, I’m still able to do it, and maybe some people will be disappointed but this is my life. Obviously I chose the latter.”

This isn’t a redemption story. This isn’t about Goucher trying to stake her claim on the trails because she thinks it’s easier or can win more races. This is a story about presence; it’s about being able to hold space for the person you were, the person you are, and the person you could become.

“I love the process so much, and I do think if you don’t enjoy the process you’re missing out,” Goucher said. Sure, she learned something about herself at Leadville, but it was what she learned in the buildup—in those quiet moments on the trail, in falling and scraping her knees, in trying something completely new—that drive her. “I learned I was braver than I thought,” she said. “I can do tough things. I can do things I’m scared of. All these little things I’ve told myself—I want to face those things.”

Leadville was the first test, but it won’t be the last. “I mean, yeah, I would rather be Shalane, running [and winning] New York at 36, but that’s not my story,” Goucher says. “My body has been hit a little harder from my career, so I either embrace what I have or I don’t do what I love, right?”

Without a flinch of hesitation, she answers unequivocally: “I’d rather be dinged up Kara with the bad knee who’s a little bit older but who’s still getting out there than be Kara who’s too afraid to try.”

Kara Goucher runs on the trails near her Boulder, Colorado home. Her former coach Alberto Salazar has received a four-year ban from the sport due, in part, from her role as a whistleblower.
Photo Credit: Julia Vandenoever





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Why Women Will Save Running – Women’s Running


Former Nike Oregon Project runners’ accounts of emotional abuse by Alberto Salazar are kickstarting a conversation about an ugly side of sports and how to change it.

Former pro runner Amy (Yoder) Begley noticed that things started to get a little strange with her coach Alberto Salazar in 2008.

“You know, it was an Olympic year and everybody gets a little on edge,” she says, during a phone interview with Women’s Running. “Alberto asked me to sign a contract stating that I wouldn’t try to be friends with team members. I was supposed to be a cordial person, but nobody on the team wanted friends, he said.”

Begley, a national champion and 2008 Olympian in the 10,000 meters, remembers Salazar telling her not to laugh during Nike Oregon Project practices. Kara Goucher, her teammate at the time, remembers it, too.

“He told me my laugh was annoying,” Begley says. “Another time he told me I was too depressing. My dog had just died and I was probably sad that day. I was told to warm up by myself so I wouldn’t depress my teammates.”

Begley joined the Oregon Project in 2007 to train with Goucher. And although Begley saw a lot of success during her time there, it was despite a lot of injuries, criticism, and manipulation from her coach.

“In December 2008, he told me [my performance] was all a fluke and that I was too heavy. He said that to be on the elite level I needed to weigh less than I did,” says Begley, who is 5-feet, 4-inches tall and had just competed at the Beijing Games. “I weighed 114 pounds.”

By 2011, after placing sixth at the national championships in the 10,000 meters, Begley was kicked off the team because of her weight, despite working closely for more than a year with nutritionist and physiologist Krista Austin (who was hired by Salazar), and even offering scan results showing the percentage of lean muscle and body fat to prove to Salazar that she was fitter than ever.

“I had gained muscle mass from the lifting they made us do, which created most of my injuries,” Begley says. “He said he didn’t care what the science said; ‘I know what I see and you have the biggest butt on the starting line.’”

Amy and Andrew Begley coach the Atlanta Track Club, using their past experiences to inform their strategies.
PHOTO: Courtesy of Jay Holder
Amy and Andrew Begley coach the Atlanta Track Club, using their past experiences to inform their strategies.

Goucher also left the team in 2011 and went on to become a whistleblower in the U.S. Anti-Doping case against Salazar, revealing in 2015 that he had given her an unprescribed synthetic thyroid hormone to help her lose weight after giving birth (she didn’t take it, she says). But at the time she trained with Begley, Goucher says she just felt fortunate that she wasn’t the focus of Salazar’s ire.

“Remembering all of this makes me feel really, really bad,” Goucher says. “Amy was treated so terribly. I was relieved it wasn’t me, but I look back and I’m disappointed at who I was. It was everything being on that team—every aspect of your life controlled—and I was just relieved that I was the chosen one, that I was the favorite and she wasn’t.”

Catching Coaching Misconduct

While the picture that former Oregon Project runners describe may seem incomprehensible to some, it’s an extreme and high-profile example of a pervasive problem—a toxic culture that isn’t unique to track and field or confined to the elite levels of running. It launches a broader conversation about how athletes—and particularly female athletes—suffer in a sport dominated by often-antiquated coaching philosophies that neglect mental health, recent nutrition and fueling science, and individual physical development.

“You can’t just say, ‘this guy is just one bad apple,’ because then it’s just blaming one or two bad actors within a system that’s toxic and broken,” says Nicole LaVoi, director of the Tucker Center for Research on Girls and Women in Sport. “You’ve got to bring in the best-of-the-best sport scientists to help you build a culture from the ground-up and get rid of everybody in the system that was part of the problem.”

Begley’s experience mirrors that of Mary Cain, who joined the Oregon Project under Salazar as a teen phenom, foregoing NCAA eligibility in 2013 to sign a pro contract with Nike. She moved from Bronxville, New York, to Portland, Oregon, at age 17, a national high school record holder—the youngest athlete to ever represent the U.S. in a world-championships competition, where she raced the 1500 meters.

Cain was recently featured in a New York Times op-ed documentary titled, “I Was the Fastest Girl in America, Until I Joined Nike,” in which she alleges emotional abuse by Salazar.

She describes the pressure that Salazar and an all-male Oregon Project staff put on her to become thinner in order to perform better. She was weighed in front of her teammates and publicly shamed by Salazar for not hitting the goal he demanded. Cain also says that her coach wanted her to take birth control and diuretics to lose weight (diuretics are banned under the anti-doping code).

Ultimately, Cain says she suffered five stress fractures and didn’t menstruate for three years, which are symptoms of RED-S (relative energy deficiency in sport), a syndrome of insufficient caloric intake, amenorrhea, and decreased bone density that has serious long-term health effects like cardiovascular disease, infertility, and osteoporosis. It also has psychological and emotional repercussions.

“I felt so scared, I felt so alone, and I felt so trapped and I started to have suicidal thoughts. I started cutting myself,” Cain says in the op-ed.

Cain called her parents at the height of her distress in 2015, and flew home. She trained under Salazar from a distance but announced in October 2016 that she had left the team; she has largely disappeared from competition since then, though had sought to rejoin the Oregon Project in April 2019.

“I wanted closure, wanted an apology for never helping me when I was cutting, and in my own, sad, never fully healed heart, wanted Alberto to still take me back,” Cain wrote on Twitter. “I still loved him. Because when we let people emotionally break us, we crave more than anything their very approval.”

Mary Cain becomes the fastest high school girls 2-miler of all-time in 2013.
PHOTO: PhotoRun
Mary Cain becomes the fastest high school girls 2-miler of all-time in 2013.

Salazar did not return messages seeking comment for this article. He issued a denial, followed by additional explanation for his coaching methods to the Oregonian. In September, Salazar was banned from the sport for four years for doping violations. He filed an appeal and the Court of Arbitration for Sport announced on Monday that a decision is unlikely before March 2020.

Soon after Cain’s op-ed was published, Nike sent a statement to Women’s Running saying it would investigate, calling her experiences “inconsistent with our values.” (Though did not respond to questions regarding who would be involved in the investigation, the scope of it, if results would be made public, and if an independent review would be considered.)

Fixing Broken Systems

In the Larry Nassar-era, the dialogue heating up in running sounds all too familiar. Cain ignited a flood of #MeToo stories from the spectrum of people competing and participating in running who have felt pressured to lose weight, suffered disordered eating, and have been ridiculed by coaches for their appearance or sent to practitioners for treatments or counseling who lacked proper credentials.

“There’s plenty of research available about training principles and creating healthy cultures for athletes,” says LaVoi. “The problem is that you have to get that research to the right people who are actually working with the athletes—if they’re a bunch of old white guys, they’re going to do what they’ve always done. The idea isn’t ‘how do we coach women?’ It’s ‘how do you coach human beings.’”

Austin, who worked with Begley and other Oregon Project members, says that athletes aren’t the only ones who suffer at the hands of a sport that demands little accountability and allows clubs and coaches to have free rein over their programs without oversight.

“One thing I will not do is bash Alberto Salazar because there’s a system that failed him just as much as a system that has failed Mary Cain,” Austin says. “While I will never support the comments that he made that are coming out now, there is a much bigger picture here that we need to stop and take a look at.

“We don’t do a good enough job educating our coaches and supporting them and putting the balances into contracts and systems—like the coaching group itself, the way USA Track & Field operates, or how sport scientists and medicine practitioners are held accountable.”

Amy Yoder Begley ran professionally for the Oregon Track Club.
Amy Yoder Begley ran professionally for the Oregon Track Club.

Athletes most at risk are those who are young and isolated, unable to reach out to anybody for help or have no idea who to call to report misconduct. At the professional level, runners rely on sponsorships as a primary source of income and coming forward evokes fear of losing that financial backing. Some sacrifice their health because payments are dependent on a strict racing schedules and performance bonuses.

“We need a system of external accountability, especially at any level where money is involved,” Austin says. “Whether it’s an elite athlete on a contract or an NCAA athlete on a scholarship.”

For athletes contracted by Nike, finding an independent support system appears even more complex given the brand’s heavy financial investment in USA Track & Field. (Nike has an estimated $500 million sponsorship stake until 2040 in the governing body.) But Susan Hazzard, USATF director of public relations, said in an email that the sport’s governing body “does not compromise athlete health and safety” and had it known about Salazar’s alleged abuse, it would have investigated.

One place athletes can turn to is the U.S. Center for Safe Sport, an independent nonprofit organization that partners with USATF (and other Olympic sport governing bodies) to prevent and investigate claims of sexual misconduct, physical and emotional abuse, bullying, hazing, and harassment.

U.S. coaches—whether elite, masters, open, or youth—must go through Safe Sport training and certification in order to gain credentials to USATF-sanctioned competitions and appear on the Coaches Registry. Under the policies, Salazar’s alleged behavior would have warranted a possible coaching ban for causing physical and emotional harm. Although Safe Sport does not impose any statute of limitations on reporting, it’s unclear whether any former athletes have filed a complaint that would trigger an investigation.

Ju’Riese Colón, CEO of the U.S. Center for SafeSport, says that although rarely reported, emotional abuse typically escalates over time and may result in psychological trauma, including anxiety, chronic depression, eating disorders, or post-traumatic stress disorder.

“And while emotional abuse doesn’t always violate the law, it certainly violates the SafeSport code, endangers an athlete’s safety and well-being, and should be reported to the center,” Colón says.

Changing the Conversation

Former professional steeplechaser Shayla Houlihan was the head cross-country coach at the University of California, Berkeley and is now coaching an Under Armour-sponsored professional training group based in Flagstaff, Arizona. She knows that the kind of problems that occurred at the Oregon Project aren’t unique—they start young, with student-athletes arriving at NCAA programs already restricting their diets because high school coaches have required them to do so, or given them misleading information about how much they should weigh to compete in a specific event.

It’s not just female runners either—many boys and men in the sport also find themselves having unhealthy relationships with food and are even less comfortable talking about it. As one of few women who’s coached collegiate men, Houlihan says being a female coach has helped male athletes come forward and ask for help, too, when perhaps that wouldn’t have with a male coach.

“Most times, kids don’t want to open up about it, so if somebody is opening the door a crack to you as a coach, you have to bust through that door,” she says. “That’s your responsibility. It’s such a vulnerable position for your athlete.”

Instead of the “old-school way of thinking,” Houlihan doesn’t approach body composition from a weight perspective and is sure to refer runners to a nutritionist for professional help. But numbers are too arbitrary to talk about, she says.

“I always ask, ‘How are you feeling?’” she says. “If people are happy and able to compete and be around their teammates, then they’re going be in a really good space.”

Now 41 and a coach at the Atlanta Track Club, Begley is trying to foster a far different environment for runners of all abilities to thrive.

“My goal is to help people make it to the next level without having to go through the same mistakes that I did,” Begley says. “I want to help them avoid pitfalls and do it in a healthy way so that when they’re done with their careers, they can be happy with what they’ve accomplished.”

Nobody denies that weight factors into running performance. But how and when an athlete’s weight is talked about is critical. “For us, weight and body composition are the last things we focus on—we focus on building up strength, developing speed, and working on efficiencies and form before we focus on weight,” she says. “If they need that last 1 or 2 percent at the end, that’s fine, but usually with athletes, weight takes care of itself. If not, we’ll hire a nutritionist for them to work with if they want it.”

Having an outside professional who can look out for the best interests of a runner removes coaches from dealing with issues in which they don’t have education or expertise, like nutrition or mental health. Austin, for example, acted as a de-facto advocate for Begley in many circumstances with Salazar.

Even so, Austin says she didn’t know until recently how bad the tension was between Begley and Salazar and emphasizes that consultants can only offer proper support if they know all the details. (Austin stopped working with the Oregon Project before Cain arrived.)

“If you hold it back, there’s very little that can be done. If she had told me that there were derogatory comments going on, on a regular basis, I’m one of the first people to shoot a rocket up someone’s rear end,” Austin says. “Part of what Alberto appreciated about our relationship was that I wasn’t someone who ever held back with him.”

Pushing For Real Change

Recruiting more women into coaching would result in a safer sport, LaVoi says.

“Coaches have a lot of power and that becomes pretty clear where the culture becomes wrong,” she says. “The more visible, the more powerful, and the more lucrative the coaching position becomes, the fewer women you’re going to find. The reason why it matters is because when you have diversity in your workforce, abuse of power is less likely because you have diversity of opinions, perspectives, and safeguards.”

Although it’s hard to say exactly how many women are coaching post-collegiate athletes, there aren’t many. We do know that cross country and track and field received an “F” grade in the NCAA for having less than 24 percent of teams coached by women. During the 2018 Division-I cross country season, for example, 73 women were head coaches compared to 278 men, according to a study by the Tucker Center.

But women can’t do it alone. “Unless you have men actively being allies and giving women opportunities in the system, nothing will change,” LaVoi says. “If you’re a man at a coaching clinic and you’re asked to be on a panel and it’s all men, step off and tell them, ‘there are 10 women I know who’d be just as good, call them, I’m out.’”

Recently retired from professional running, Shalane Flanagan, a four-time Olympian and 2017 New York City Marathon champion, is now coaching the Bowerman Track Club, a Nike team independent of the Oregon Project, where she trained under coaches Jerry Schumacher and Pascal Dobert. Her primary goal now is to help the woman on the team always feel comfortable talking her about their concerns, whether about weight, menstrual cycles, or anything else that might hinder training at a high level.

“I’m constantly asking them, ‘Hey, how are you doing?’ I’m probably pestering them, but I always want to give them a window and an opportunity, so they don’t feel like they have to deal with anything on their own if they need help,” Flanagan says. “I’m also observing constantly—how they’re moving, what their demeanor is. I try to watch all the time and check up on them a lot.”

Flanagan knows she and the rest of the Bowerman group are facing scrutiny right now for not speaking out in the face of heightened public criticism of the way the Nike is handling Salazar’s doping and abuse allegations.

“This is not fun, but I’m hopeful that Nike will take the appropriate action and that we can be a part of the solution,” Flanagan says. “The hard work begins now. I want to figure out how our team can help guide a culture change in our sport.”

Flanagan gives credit to Cain and Goucher for their efforts to expose the serious issues—without their courage to speak out, there’d be no opportunity to fix the problems.

“I hope that they feel we support them,” Flanagan says. “They took on a big burden and we’re in a position to effect significant positive change because they were willing to shine an important light on these topics.”





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HOW TO CHOOSE A SHOE FOR TRAIL RUNNING – Women’s Running


Yes, you need a dedicated pair of trail shoes. Here’s what to look for.

Trail running means flying through puddles and getting into some wild places. But it can also mean sliding on loose dirt or wet rocks. That’s why choosing a trail running shoe is so important – the pair you select could mean the difference between skinned knees or scrambling with speed.

Unlike road running shoes, which are made for smooth pavement, trail running shoes are designed to support and protect the foot on the rugged terrain. To pick the best pair for kicking up some dirt, look for these important elements of good trail running shoes.

Durable Upper

Rocks and roots can tear up a shoe’s upper, so trail shoes include protective overlays in the upper to prevent pokes and reduce the likelihood of rips and tears. Trail running shoes can sometimes include materials for waterproofing – perfect for splashing through creeks and mud puddles.

Breathability

Sometimes, trail shoe overlays for durability can reduce breathability. Nothing spoils a trail run faster than blisters from sweaty feet, so look for a shoe like the Arc’teryx Norvan VT2, which uses a mesh upper treated with a TPU film overlay to keep water out without trapping heat and sweat in.

Aggressive Outsole

Trail shoes offer durable soles with more aggressive tread patterns than road running shoes. Technology like the Norvan VT2’s Vibram® Megagrip rubber gives the runner better traction on unstable surfaces – grippier soles keep the runner upright on rocks and wet logs, while deep lugs allow for digging in to soft dirt and mud.

Efficient Cushioning

Stability in trail running means being able to feel and adapt to the trail beneath your feet. For the smoothest ride, look for a balance of cushioning that will keep your joints comfortable without blocking your ability to respond to the terrain you’re tackling.

Wide Forefoot

To provide support on uneven surfaces, trail shoes should feature a forefoot that is wide and close to the ground. This protects the foot and ankle from twisting when it comes down on rocks in the trail. Other protective features, like the climbing zone located on the forefoot of the Norvan VT2, keep the runner stable when edging on small footholds and smearing on steep inclines.

Underfoot Protection

Unlike smooth road pavement, trails tend to have a lot of surprises waiting underfoot: rocks, sticks, and the like are just some of the hazards runners encounter. That’s why trail runners should select a shoe with underfoot protection. These plates keep the forefront of the shoe stiff while also serving as a barrier against hard, uneven objects. Some trail shoes use nylon for underfoot protection; a high-quality shoe like the Norvan VT2 utilizes a more protective material known as TPU.

Comfortable Fit

Your shoes should hug your foot without being restrictive – a snug fit is critical for keeping your foot in place over uneven terrain. To find the best, most comfortable pair of trail running shoes, find your nearest Arc’teryx retailer.

 

Editor’s Note: This is a sponsored post paid for by Arc’teryx. For more information and to purchase the new Norvan VT2, go to arcteryx.com 





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Marathon Starting Line Advice From Pro Runners – Women’s Running


Six elite women share what goes through their minds on marathon morning.

It’s that moment. The one you’ve been thinking about and planning for. The weeks and months of hard work are over. Now all that’s left to do is run—26.2 miles.

Every runner who’s been there knows: The starting line of a marathon is a place filled with emotions. Anticipation. Nerves. Motivation. Excitement.

Ahead of Sunday’s New York City Marathon, we asked six of the professional field’s top women what they will be telling themselves in the moments before the race begins.

Sara Hall, 36, who’s fresh off running a personal-best time of 2:22:16 at the 2019 Berlin Marathon in September:

“At the starting line I think I’m just feeling really grateful for the opportunity. One analogy a sports psychologist gave me one time is a sled dog—they’re just pulling at the chains, they want to be the ones picked to pull the sled and get out and run and do what they were created to do. So that’s kind of the mentality I like to have going into a race; not kind of dread or pressure, but it’s excitement—it’s like, put me in! I want to be the one to run and do what I was created to do.”

Mary Keitany, 37, the four-time New York City Marathon champion from Kenya:

“When you are at the starting line, you are ready. You have come to run a race and you want to win, nobody wants to lose. What comes to my mind when I am at the starting line is that I just pray God and ask for his message all the way. Because a marathon is 42 kilometers, it is not an easy thing, even if you have trained well. You have to go out fast and the rest follows.”

Allie Kieffer, 32, seventh-place finisher at the 2018 New York City Marathon:

“This whole weekend, I feel like at parts I get overwhelmed with like ‘Oh my god I’m hurt and I’m going to the world’s biggest race, what are you doing?’ And I just keep being like, I chose to be here. I get to be here. I’m going to wear a smile on my face.”

Des Linden, 36, 2018 Boston Marathon Champion:

“I think on the start you’re just trying to be relaxed and calm; know that you’ve done the work and go out and have fun. The race is a celebration of all the hard work—it’s where you go out and prove that you’re fit and just have some fun with it.”

Kellyn Taylor, 33, winner of the 2018 Grandma’s Marathon in a personal best of 2:24:28:

“I think I’m just like let’s do this. Let’s get it done. You’re ready. It’s go time.”

Aliphine Tuliamuk, 30, third-place finisher at 2019 Rotterdam Marathon:

“I’m not sure how I’m going to feel on Sunday, but I’m going to try to enjoy the process as much as possible. When I’m at that start line, I want to remember how I feel when I watch other people on the start line of big marathons. When I was growing up, watching races on TV, it was just incredible. So I want to remind myself that I’m in it in person, I’m not just watching it on TV and I just I want to enjoy that experience.”





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Jepkosgei Wins the 2019 New York City Marathon – Women’s Running


On a nearly perfect Sunday to run through the five boroughs, Joyciline Jepkosgei, 26, of Kenya, won the 2019 New York City Marathon in 2:22:38, a record time for a debut at 26.2 miles on the course.

Mary Keitany of Kenya who has won the New York City Marathon four times, was second in 2:23:32, and Ruti Aga of Ethiopia was third in 2:25:51.

Joyciline Jepkosgei and Mary Keitany celebrate their first and second place finishes at the 2019 New York City Marathon.
PHOTO: Jen Ator
Joyciline Jepkosgei and Mary Keitany celebrate their first and second place finishes at the 2019 New York City Marathon.

The temperature was 45 degrees with just a light breeze under sunny skies—what many pro runners welcomed as an opportunity to run aggressively a little earlier than is typical on New York’s hilly terrain. Desiree Linden, who led the race for several miles before the half, was the first American to finish—she was sixth in 2:26:46. Kellyn Taylor was seventh in 2:26:52.

“I know the back half of the course is tough, but I honestly was eyeing up the American course record here,” Linden said. “It was a perfect day—we had a little bit of tailwind in the early miles and I thought I’d take a crack at having a good one. I paid for it…and Kara [Goucher’s] course record lives on.”

READ: Des Linden Take a Big Swing at the 2019 New York City Marathon

It was Jepkosgei’s first stab at a 26.2-mile race, though she showed tremendous promise in her young career. She is also the world record holder for the half marathon—1:04:51, set in the 2017 in Valencia. Jepkosgei just missed the course record of 2:22:31.

“I didn’t know I won it,” Jepkosgei said. “My strategy which I had planned was to finish the race strong. But in some kilometers, last kilometers, I see that I’m approaching the finish line and I was capable to win.”

Keitany, 37, is the world record holder for the women’s only marathon—2:17:01, set in London in 2017. Aga, 25, of Ethiopia is also the 2019 Tokyo Marathon champion, who has a 2:18:34 personal best.

Keitany had been going for her fifth victory and also had hinted at going for the course record prior to the race. It didn’t pan out for her, but she said she was satisfied with the runner-up position.

“I said that I’m happy with my results of today because I tried my best and the results that came up is okay for me,” she said. “I celebrate my colleague and we are happy that we take the winning back home.”

Jepkosgei, who put in a surge to shake Keitany at mile 23, takes home $100,000 for first place. She said she was not nervous for her first crack at 26.2 miles.

“Throughout this race, I didn’t have any pressure at all,” she said. “I was running my own race, but at long last, I become a winner.”





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Des Linden is First American at the NYC Marathon – Women’s Running


The 2018 Boston Marathon champion took command in the early miles of the 26.2-mile race, with Kellyn Taylor hot on her heels.

Desiree Linden feels liberated to take more chances in the final stages of her professional running career and she showed no fear on Sunday at the 2019 New York City Marathon, pressing ahead of the pre-race favorites for much of the first half of the race.

Linden, 36, the 2018 Boston Marathon champion, decisively broke away from a pack shortly after the 10K mark and held on to a lead up until just before hitting 13.1 miles. It was then that eventual winner Joyciline Jepkosgei caught her, along with four-time winner Mary Keitany, who ultimately placed second, and Ruti Aga, who went on to finish third. Linden ended up sixth, the first American, in 2:26:46.

The conditions were about as good as they get in New York, with temperatures in the high 40s, sunshine, and just a little bit of a breeze. Linden thought she should take advantage of the gift from Mother Nature and go for the fastest time by an American on the course—2:25:53, set in 2008 by Kara Goucher.

“I know the back half of the course is tough, but I honestly was eyeing up the American course record here,” Linden said. “It was a perfect day—we had a little bit of tailwind in the early miles and I thought I’d take a crack at having a good one. I paid for it…and Kara’s course record lives on.”

After taking that swing in that first half, which Linden hit in 1:11:40, she was about three minutes slower in the second 13.1 miles, experiencing cramps in her feet and calves in miles 18 and 19, she said. It was a diversion from how Linden usually races marathons, usually clocking nearly identical splits. By comparison, Jepkosgei clocked 1:11:39 for the first half and 1:10:59 for the second.

“It’s about trying something new. You don’t have a breakthrough doing the same thing over and over again, being really conservative and really cautious,” Linden said. “It wasn’t about running stupid or dumb, it was just going with the flow of the race.”

Kellyn Taylor, 33, was the second American finisher in seventh place, right behind Linden in 2:26:52. When Linden picked up that pace early in the race, Taylor said she knew it wasn’t the right decision for her to follow. So, she held steady around 5:30 per mile and hoped that some of the competitors would come back to her.

“It got pretty fast to where I was like, ‘I don’t know what we’re doing anymore,’” Taylor said, laughing. “When Des took off, I was thinking, ‘I don’t know. You go girl, but I’m not going with you.’ I didn’t want to crawl across the [finish] line.”

Desiree Linden and Kellyn Taylor celebrate at the 2019 New York City Marathon finish line.
PHOTO: Justin Britton
Desiree Linden and Kellyn Taylor celebrate at the 2019 New York City Marathon finish line.

Linden has been considering her professional options going forward and whether she wants to compete at the 2020 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, which take place on February 29 in Atlanta. She’s already a two-time Olympian and hasn’t committed to going for a third team. Another option on the table? Bypass the Trials and compete in April at the 2020 Boston Marathon instead. Linden didn’t give any hints about what her plans may be.

“Right now is not the time,” she said. “Just based on how my calves feel and my feet feel, maybe at 1 a.m. tonight I’ll have different opinions.”

Although she made not promises, Linden was forward-thinking in her analysis, saying in her next training cycle she may experiment with more long runs, longer intervals, and increased strength training. She also said she was happy to push herself in new ways on Sunday.

“It was good to test mental toughness and to know that you’re not going to die physically if you do it a different way,” she said. “It might hurt a little bit more but the upside could be fantastic.”

Taylor, however, is all in for trying to make the 2020 Games. She said her result on Sunday on a course that mimics the hilly terrain of the Olympic Trials route gives her a confidence boost.

“I was a little disappointed that I couldn’t pull something special like a top three finish off today, but sometimes you have to wait for special things,” she said. “If it happens on February 29th, I’m cool with that, too.”

Sara Hall, who finished the Berlin Marathon five weeks ago with a four-minute personal best (2:22), did not finish on Sunday, dropping out at mile 18 with stomach problems. Aliphine Tuliamuk, coming back from injury over the summer, was 12th in 2:28:12.





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Always the Underdogs? Maybe Not For Long – Women’s Running


The women of Northern Arizona Elite say they have at least one 2020 Olympian on their team. They each have a crucial role to play in getting her there.

Aliphine Tuliamuk is a little late getting back from the grocery store.

“It took me longer than I thought,” she says, now resting at the kitchen table in her Flagstaff, Arizona, apartment.

She decided to walk to a store almost three miles away and carry her haul the whole way back.

“The milk was heavy though,” Tuliamuk says, giggling. “I almost called an Uber.”

After more than two months of nursing a femoral stress fracture, the nine-time national champion is antsy for any kind of physical activity. Real physical activity. During her downtime over the summer, Tuliamuk retreated to her home in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where her boyfriend lives, and learned how to make hats and scarves by watching YouTube videos.

“In the beginning, I got so excited—I would wake up in the morning, get my coffee, sit down, and crochet,” she says, sitting across from nearly three dozen beanies that she plans to sell on the Northern Arizona Elite website. “And then I’d crochet until late at night. It’s not running, of course, but I can see the product of [my efforts], so it brings my stress down.”

Finally, though, it’s time to set the crocheting aside. It’s the last week in August and Tuliamuk is ready to ease back into training. She will meet the coach of Northern Arizona Elite, Ben Rosario, at the grass football practice field on the nearby university campus to jog for 15 minutes. If all goes well, those modest first steps will lead Tuliamuk back to her pack: a dozen high-performing women and men of the Flagstaff-based professional running group she joined in 2017.

Most of her teammates are deep in training for fall races. And while it’s daunting to think how she’ll regain the fitness that led to her marathon best of 2:26:50, it’s the influence of the group—which includes fellow marathoners Kellyn Taylor and Stephanie Bruce—that Tuliamuk believes will get her ready to contend in February at the 2020 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials.

“I was just texting Steph saying, ‘Oh I am so out of shape,’ and she was like, ‘Don’t worry. You get healthy; we’ll get you in shape,’” Tuliamuk, 30, says. “Having two strong women to help you achieve your goals—I don’t think that is something you can always find. I feel privileged to have that.”

PHOTO: James Q. Martin The women of Northern Arizona Elite bring unique strengths to the group to help elevate each other's performances.
PHOTO: James Q. Martin
The women of Northern Arizona Elite bring unique strengths to the group to help elevate each other’s performances.

Tuliamuk is right. A women’s professional running group wasn’t easy to come by five or 10 years ago. While male-dominated post-collegiate teams seemed to pop up all over the country, women were less likely to work together in large groups—or, perhaps, found fewer opportunities to do so.

But the power of team training for U.S. female distance runners has never been more evident than it has been during the past four years. The most prominent example is in Portland, Oregon, where the Bowerman Track Club, led by 2017 New York City Marathon champion Shalane Flanagan, sent seven women to the 2016 Olympics. In Colorado, Emma Coburn, 2019 world silver medalist in the steeplechase, jump-started her own group, which includes middle-distance star Cory McGee and Jamaican Olympian Aisha Praught-Leer. Marathoners Molly Huddle and Emily Sisson have joined forces, too, as well as the New Balance Boston all-women’s track-focused team.

Northern Arizona Elite, backed by a sponsorship from Hoka One One, has also brought together high-performing female athletes, offering a tangible career path with financial incentives, coaching, facilities, and medical support. But beyond those staple resources, these elite runners have learned to leverage something even greater: using each member’s unique strengths and successes to inspire greater performances in each other.

The trick? Finding the right chemistry—the right coach, in the right location, with the training partners who can straddle that precarious line in which athletes on the same team inevitably compete against each other for titles, medals, prize money, and coveted spots at global events.

The women of Northern Arizona Elite have passed the test. Case in point: the 2018 Peachtree Road Race, which also served as the national 10K championships that year. Bruce pulled up alongside Tuliamuk in the final mile, and Tuliamuk knew she didn’t have another gear to go with her. As Bruce surged ahead, Tuliamuk simply said, “You go, girl.”

Bruce went on to win her first national title that day and Tuliamuk was runner-up—not an easy position for a nine- time U.S. champ, but one she handled with grace. It served as one example in which Rosario, who founded Northern Arizona Elite in 2014, knew the culture he was trying to create was taking hold.

“It was just as exciting for Aliphine because she knew how hard Steph was working,” Rosario says. “That’s rare. People are bitter and jealous, because it means too much to them. So the fact that these women are so grounded—that Aliphine knows that she’s had her day and she’ll have another day. That’s rare.”

Tuliamuk, Taylor, and Bruce all bring something different—and valuable—to the group.

“Aliphine is always optimistic,” Taylor says. “Always.”

Born in Kenya, she’s one of 32 siblings, and Tuliamuk’s levity, laughter, and smile can light up even the most grueling run on Flagstaff ’s undulating Lake Mary Road. Her perspective reminds the team to be grateful for the chance to make a living by running—Tuliamuk, who became a U.S. citizen in 2017, is often blown away by the opportunities the sport has afforded her.

“I’m hoping that as I do my thing, I’m able to inspire my group to believe in themselves,” she says. “The younger ones might not be able to handle the workload or they might get dropped in the beginning. I just tell them to continue to be consistent—today you’ll get dropped, next week you might hang on longer. You just need to get better as time goes by.”

PHOTO: James Q. Martin Aliphine Tuliamuk is coming back from injury on her way to the 2019 New York City Marathon.
PHOTO: James Q. Martin
Aliphine Tuliamuk is coming back from injury on her way to the 2019 New York City Marathon.

Tuliamuk tried the 26.2-mile distance three times before her breakthrough at the 2019 Rotterdam Marathon. Today she thrives on Rosario’s policies to treat training sessions like a regular job, and relies heavily on the structure and accountability that the team demands—meeting nearly every day for morning runs and workouts, along with weight-lifting sessions several times a week.

But what attracted her most to joining this group were her potential training partners and how they could unmask the talent she might have at the distance. Taylor had placed sixth at the marathon and fourth in the 10,000 meters at the 2016 Olympic Trials; and Bruce, who had a 2:29 personal best (she recently lowered it to 2:27:41 at the 2019 Chicago Marathon), was mounting an impressive comeback to racing after giving birth to her two sons in 2014 and 2015.

Bruce and Taylor were two of Northern Arizona Elite’s first members in 2014, when Rosario and his wife, Jen, sold their share of Big River Running Company in their hometown of St. Louis to fund the new organization.

“If somebody is willing to put their own money into it, they’re in it and they’re going to create something special,” Taylor says. “That showed me that he was all in. And that’s what I wanted to be part of.”

Pregnant at the time with her older son, Bruce and her husband, Ben—also an elite runner who now helps coach the team—were drawn to Rosario’s training philosophy geared toward strength and longer distances, but more than that, they were on board with his businesslike approach to a sport that often treats itself more like a high-level hobby than a professional endeavor.

“He talked to us about how he wanted us to behave and engage as athletes,” Bruce, 35, says as she sits on her family room floor, oscillating between folding laundry and foam rolling after her morning training session. “He said, ‘This is your full-time job and it’s a 24-hour-a-day job.’ Part of that means making good decisions and having a coach-athlete relationship that’s very adult-like and mature.”

Rosario, an Olympic Marathon Trials qualifier and member of the Hansons Brooks group earlier in his career, had studied the market to decipher what niche he could fill.

“The place I thought we could win was the business side,” Rosario says. “From the very beginning we were talking as a group about branding ourselves…building a fan base via newsletters and social media channels, selling gear—doing things that nobody else was doing. Certainly it’s worked, because now a lot of people copy us, which is fine.”

Part of the athletes’ mandate is to share the journey. Their training logs are public, they plug their sponsors’ products, they attend events as much as possible, and they consistently showcase their lives on Instagram.

It’s an area where Bruce, especially, has excelled. Her fan base boomed as she opened up about the triumphs and the struggles of coming back to work after two childbirths. The pelvic-floor dysfunction, the bladder control issues, the baggy skin on her abdomen stretched from pregnancy, the mom guilt while traveling, the potty training—no topic is off-limits.

“I don’t just love the training, I love the fans, I love interacting,” Bruce says. “It doesn’t feel like a job or a task. I just hope that the people see me for who I really am—that it’s very transparent what I’m all about.”

PHOTO: James Q. Martin Stephanie Bruce is the Northern Arizona Elite team "mom."
PHOTO: James Q. Martin
Stephanie Bruce is the Northern Arizona Elite team “mom.”

The team calls her “the leader,” though Bruce thinks of herself more as a team mom. Nevertheless, she takes it upon herself to check in on the group, especially the younger members, some of whom are just out of college and acclimating to the demands of professional running—higher mileage, more intensity, and the increasing levels of competition.

“She wants to make sure everybody’s doing well,” Rosario says. “She’s very empathetic in that way, which is good, because I’m not as empathetic.”

Bruce emphasizes to the group that pro distance running is a long game and that she and Taylor have been at it for more than a decade. She remembers when her days were not filled with carpools, swimming lessons, training, and tending to her coaching business, and focused solely on nailing workouts and recovery. She much prefers her current lifestyle—though hectic and maybe not ideal for other runners, it’s working for her. Since her return, Bruce has made two world cross-country teams, she’s lowered her times in just about every event, she’s placed in the top 10 at multiple World Marathon Majors, and she’s won national titles in the 10K and half marathon.

“I think if you live and die by your training every day and your race results, that can feel really empty if it doesn’t go well,” Bruce says. “So, I don’t sit on my couch [and recover] all day. It’s a balance.”

On a Thursday morning, the trio gathers at Buffalo Park, a two-mile gravel loop in the shadow of the San Francisco Peaks where local runners log all kinds of miles—the easy ones, the fast, the hills, the fartleks. In between light spurts of running, Taylor and Bruce swap stories of their boys’ bittersweet first days of kindergarten.

“The same turkey sandwich I packed in the morning came home with him and I said, ‘You know this is going back in your lunch tomorrow, right?’” Taylor says, laughing.

The special kind of bond and balance these women have developed through training together is something Rosario believes is not only prolonging their careers but allowing them to continue to improve into their mid-30s.

“That’s what prevents them from going to the dark side of athletics, which is attaching your self-worth to your running,” he says. “They can get over bad workouts quicker, and they can place good races in a more realistic perspective.”

If Bruce is the mama bear, Taylor is the disciplinarian. The 33-year-old would rather not be on social media at all, but reluctantly posts about her workouts and sometimes throws in amusing glimpses of her busy family life with husband, Kyle; 8-year-old daughter, Kylyn; the children they are foster parenting; and the five dogs, flock of chickens, and bearded dragon who also reside at the Taylor residence.

“To most people she comes off very stern and private in a lot of ways,” Bruce says of Taylor. “But if you can break through that barrier, deep down she is a goofy woman who loves her kids. And yeah, she does not like to fail at anything that’s put in front of her.”

Taylor is unrelenting in her expectations—she pours herself into her workouts and tends to beat herself up when race results don’t live up to her capabilities. When torrential rain led to hypothermia, forcing Taylor to drop out of the 2018 Boston Marathon, she turned around eight weeks later to win Grandma’s Marathon in 2:24:27, a PR by more than four minutes.

“I’m obviously a veteran and probably a silent leader,” Taylor says. “I’ve been through every aspect of it. When I first joined a professional team, I probably made $3,000 for the year. Hopefully my younger teammates see the hard work that I put in at practice, and just the mentality that I take into the things that I do.”

PHOTO: James Q. Martin Kellyn Taylor, also a trained fire fighter, impresses even her teammates with her strength in the gym.
PHOTO: James Q. Martin
Kellyn Taylor, also a trained fire fighter, impresses even her teammates with her strength in the gym.

Her quiet strength doesn’t go unnoticed. Some of the guys even avoid easy runs with Taylor. She can definitely do the most pull-ups in the gym—and maybe that’s because she’s a trained firefighter, or maybe it’s because she just works hard at it. Either way, she has the fifth-fastest qualifying time for the 2020 Olympic Trials.

“I remember one time when a team member referred to Kellyn as a freak, in a good way,” Rosario says. “But I said, ‘I just want you to know that’s not true. She’s a human being. She’s working really hard and challenging herself in ways that most people don’t. That’s why she’s having this success. It’s not because she’s a freak.’”

Aspirations are always high for pro runners, but particularly so in an Olympic year. While other U.S. training groups may get more of the spotlight, Rosario sees value in flying a bit under the radar. “I don’t know how many times you have to beat people—it’s very strange, but it really plays to our advantage because then you get the chip on your shoulder,” he says. “You want to prove people wrong.”

Going into 2020, Northern Arizona Elite looks different than it did in 2016. These women have not only the physical capability to contend, but also increased confidence from their collective experiences. Tuliamuk has learned that she can’t just crank at the whim of somebody else’s pace from the gun. Taylor has worked on meeting challengers instead of falling back when leaders put in surges. Bruce has realized that she’s not just a “classic distance runner” who heel strikes and shuffles—she has the foot speed to close fast if she needs to.

“Because of my time on paper right now, I would not pick me to make the Olympic team and I wouldn’t be offended by anyone not picking me,” Bruce says. “But just because I haven’t done it doesn’t mean I’m not ready to do it.”

At the beginning of 2019, Rosario handed out plain black T-shirts, a symbol of his team’s perceived dark horse status. Bruce posted on Instagram that she wore it when she felt intimidated and needed a boost of confidence. The night she put it on to warm up at a track meet early in the 2019 season, she set a new 5,000-meter best of 15:17.76.

“[The shirts] were meant to represent that no matter what we achieve, we will always be underdogs and there is always more to achieve,” Bruce wrote.

One thing every member of Northern Arizona Elite agrees on: They have at least one Olympian in their midst. Taylor sits in the best position in the marathon, followed by Tuliamuk; they have proven they can also contend at the 5,000- and 10,000-meters.

“Hopefully in 2020 we can walk away and say we have two or three Olympians on the team, whether that be the marathon or the track,” Taylor says. “All the possibilities are there. We just have to go into the Trials confident and see what happens.”

And in a grander sense, Rosario hopes the group has become an example of how individual athletes can thrive as a team and how the sport can excel as a whole when more people perceive it as a professional endeavor.

“I hope that our entire culture has showed that some of the things that people thought maybe were mutually exclusive aren’t,” he says. “You can have a realistic, pragmatic approach and yet dream. You can have a life outside of running and yet care about running a lot.”

And maybe you can be an underdog and still become an Olympian one day, too.





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How to Watch the 2019 New York City Marathon – Women’s Running


The 2019 New York City Marathon is upon us—specifically, on Sunday, November 3. While 50,000 runners, including a professional field full of compelling storylines, make their way through the five boroughs, the rest of can watch. We’re here to tell you how—and why you should.

The 26.2-mile race begins on Staten Island and ends at Tavern on the Green in Central Park. The pro women lead the way at 9:10 a.m. eastern, following by the elite men at 9:40 a.m. (with the rest of the first wave of runners). Three more waves follow at 10:10 a.m., 10:35 a.m., and 11 a.m.

(PSA: Most of the U.S. turns its clocks back one hour on Saturday night.)

On the women’s pro side, Mary Keitany (2:17:01) of Kenya is going for her fifth New York City Marathon win, but she’ll likely have a few competitors who will make it difficult. Joyciline Jepkosgei, also of Kenya, is the half marathon world record holder (64:51)—she hasn’t finished a marathon yet, but as the reigning NYC Half champion, she knows New York. Worknesh Degefa, the 2019 Boston Marathon winner, is also scheduled to race.

American women to watch include Desiree Linden, the 2018 Boston Marathon champion, and Kellyn Taylor, who has a personal best of 2:24:29. Sara Hall, who just set a big PR of 2:22:16 at the Berlin Marathon five weeks ago, will also compete on Sunday. Aliphine Tuliamuk (2:26:50), a nine-time national champion who trains with Taylor on the Northern Arizona Elite team, began preparing in September after recovering from a femoral stress fracture.

On the men’s side, look out for defending champion Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia—he won the world championships marathon in Doha just a month ago, but seems unfazed by the quick turnaround. Geoffrey Kamworor of Kenya won New York in 2017 and recently set the half marathon world record (58:01). Tamirat Tola (2:04:06) and Shura Kitata (2:04:49) are also safe bets to threaten for the win.

Jared Ward is the top American man to line up in a field—he placed sixth at the 2016 Olympics and was sixth in New York last year with a personal best of 2:09:25.

If you’re not out on the course, here’s how to watch:

New York region: Pre-race coverage begins at 7 a.m. on WABC-TV Channel 7 and the race broadcast is from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Live streaming will be available from 7 a.m.¬–2 p.m. on the ABC App and ABC7NY.com.

National: Pre-race and continuing coverage will be streamed live from 7–9 a.m. and noon–2 p.m. on ESPN3. Live race coverage begins at 9 a.m. on ESPN2 and via the ESPN App. A view of the finish line will also stream on ESPN3 from 9:30 a.m.–5 p.m.

Track a runner: Check the New York City Marathon website for instructions to download the runner tracking app.

At Women’s Running and Podium Runner: We’ll offer live updates and commentary on Twitter throughout the professional races. Follow us @womensrunning and @podiumrunner. We will also have in-depth coverage and race recaps on our websites all weekend long—get the latest news here.





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Abigail Anderson is Running the NYC Marathon to Honor Her Sister, Gabe Grunewald – Women’s Running


Anderson has coped with her sister’s death through running and hopes to “show her what I can do” on at the New York City Marathon.

During the final run that Abigail Anderson shared with her sister, U.S. track standout Gabe Grunewald, they circled the reservoir in Central Park. It was a route they took often when the Minneapolis-based siblings found themselves in New York for treatments and fundraising events related to Grunewald’s rare cancer diagnosis.

That last run was in March, three months before Grunewald died at age 32 from complications of adenoid cystic carcinoma (ACC), an incurable cancer with which she was diagnosed in 2009. Now Anderson, 28, is returning to the city, this time to run 26.2 miles on Sunday in Grunewald’s honor.

“Some of my favorite memories with Gabe are in New York,” Anderson said, during a phone interview with Women’s Running on Friday. “We’d run in Central Park together, go shopping in SoHo, go to Other Half brewery in Brooklyn. To be back in the place where we had so much fun and bonding and running, it just seemed like the perfect place to be my next marathon.”

Anderson is joining a group that’s racing the New York City Marathon to raise funds and awareness for Brave Like Gabe, the foundation her sister started to support rare cancer research. Following Grunewald’s death, many runners across the country have gathered donations while training for various events, and the community at large has continued using the #BraveLikeGabe and #RunningOnHope hashtags to keep Grunewald’s spirit alive.

Gabriele Grunewald and her sister, Abby Anderson, spent time together in New York during Grunewald's cancer treatments.
PHOTO: Courtesy of Abigail Anderson
Gabriele Grunewald and her sister, Abby Anderson, spent time together in New York during Grunewald’s cancer treatments.

“I know Gabe would be floored and astounded—I don’t think she knew the impact she was having on people,” Anderson said. “I’m grateful for everybody who has been considerate and thoughtful to take Gabe’s message to heart. All she really wanted to do, if she couldn’t do anything else, was make people’s lives better. This is a way for people to look at their own lives and be brave themselves. People finding that motivation in her is just really telling of her character.”

Grunewald was a middle-distance Olympic hopeful, as well as the 2014 indoor national champion for 3,000-meters. She was running for the University of Minnesota when she first learned she had ACC. During four recurrences throughout her young adulthood, Grunewald continued to compete at a high level and spoke about qualifying for the 2020 Olympic Trials, even in the final months of her life. Although her performances during her last races weren’t what she wanted, she said she was compelled to show the importance of staying active and pursuing goals despite life’s challenges.

Growing up in Perham, Minnesota, Anderson remembers the earliest days of her older sister’s running career, falling asleep in the backseat of the car on the way to far-flung cross-country meets where the family would cheer Grunewald on. It eventually rubbed off—Anderson started running as a kid, too, at the encouragement of her big sister. Training for the marathon this year has been part of her mourning.

Gabe Grunewald (left) and Abby Anderson bonded through running throughout the years.
PHOTO: Courtesy of Abigail Anderson
Gabe Grunewald (left) and Abby Anderson bonded through running throughout the years.

“When I run now, it’s just a reminder where I come from and it’s an echo of Gabe’s impact on my life,” Anderson said. “In my grief and not really knowing what to do with all these emotions and frustrations, going out for a run and having that control and release has been a huge part of the healing process. I’m just trying to take a cue from Gabe and find a positive thing I can do when I don’t really have control over the situation around me.”

Putting in the training hasn’t always been easy. Anderson is a pediatric nurse who works with patients who have neurological disorders. Sometimes her 12-hour shifts have made preparation for New York tricky, but she’s remained dedicated, she said.

“Some people think I’m crazy because I’d get home from work at 7:30 a.m., go to sleep until 1 p.m., then go run eight miles—albeit pretty slowly—prior to going into work again for another shift,” she said. “Then the next day I’d just run 30 minutes or sleep. I just tried to listen to my body.”

It will be Anderson’s second marathon—her first was the 2018 Twin Cities Marathon, where Grunewald, of course, was out on the course cheering her on. This year, Anderson hopes to beat her time of 3:24:34 and her long runs indicate she’s ready to chop several minutes from it. She’s also set a goal of raising $3,000 for the Brave Like Gabe foundation, which she hopes to accomplish before Sunday.

Whatever the outcome, Anderson said she will give it her best effort, because her sister would have insisted on it.

“Not a lot of people in my running career believed in me as much as Gabe—she would even get mad at me in college when I didn’t do well and say, ‘You’re better than this,’” Anderson said. “That’s a big motivating piece for me. I’m finally believing in myself the way that she wanted me to. I’m excited to show her what I can do.”





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Shalane Flanagan Retires from Pro Running – Women’s Running


After competing for 15 years, the 2017 New York City Marathon champ will coach the Bowerman Track Club, becoming one of the only women guiding the careers of U.S. Olympic runners.

During the past three years, Shalane Flanagan has felt a shift in her enthusiasm for running. It’s not that her excitement has waned, but she’s noticed that it’s less invested in her own performances and deposited more in her teammates’ results.

It is one of the primary reasons why Flanagan, 38, announced on Monday that she has retired from professional running and officially moved on to coaching the Bowerman Track Club, the elite athlete empire she helped build in Portland, Oregon.

“I love running so much, but I don’t really want it to be my job anymore,” she said, during a phone interview with Women’s Running on October 15. “From the Rio Olympics on, I was running each race as if it were my last and I think that allowed me to maximize my performances. That mentality served me well, because otherwise I literally never would have had one of my greatest achievements—winning the New York City Marathon.”

Flanagan leaves the sport as one of the most-decorated American track and field athletes in history—and certainly in a generation of women, across a range of distance events. A four-time Olympian, she won the 2008 silver medal in the 10,000 meters. She was a world cross-country individual and team bronze medalist in 2011 and ends her career as the third-fastest American female marathoner in history (2:21:14 at the 2014 Berlin Marathon). She placed in the top three at four World Marathon Majors races, including the 2017 New York City Marathon, when she became the first U.S. woman in 40 years to win.

Her final race was one year ago, at the 2018 New York City Marathon. Waving to the spectators who had come to uproariously support her as the defending champion, Flanagan savored an emotional moment at the finish line—as if she knew it was her last. She placed third in 2:26:22.

But during the training leading up to that race, she chalked up the pain she felt in her knees to age and forged on with the high-mileage weeks that had become the staple of her preparation under Bowerman coach Jerry Schumacher. Ultimately though, in April, Flanagan underwent surgery on her right knee, where 75 percent of the patella tendon had torn off the bone. Now she’s preparing for possible surgery on her left knee later this fall.

“I don’t think I can put myself through the arduous training and I don’t want to take the chance of not being able to run for another 20 years because I’m pushing myself through 130 miles a week,” Flanagan said. “My relationship with running has evolved over the last couple of years and I’m in a really happy place to use my love for the sport in new ways.”

***

As a girl growing up in Marblehead, Massachusetts, just 16 miles north of Boston, Flanagan had varied interests. She pursued art, soccer, and swimming, before dabbling in running.

When she tried cross country during her sophomore year, she won the state title right off the bat. It was apparent she had inherited the endurance genes of her parents, Steve Flanagan and Cheryl Treworgy—two celebrated distance runners themselves (Treworgy held the marathon world record of 2:49:40 in 1971), who had met at the world cross-country championships in 1976 and became parents to their prodigy in 1981, while living in Boulder, Colorado.

Flanagan went on to compete for the University of North Carolina, where she won the individual NCAA cross-country titles in 2002 and 2003. As a Tarheel, she also met her husband, Steven Edwards, who was a middle-distance standout on the team. When Flanagan graduated in 2004, she knew that professional running was an option, but she envisioned making ends meet by working in a running store and living out of a van, she said.

“I wasn’t sure even in college that I had enough success to earn a contract—I constantly thought I wasn’t good enough,” Flanagan said. “In a way that helped me though, because I never felt entitled to anything and I always felt like I would run regardless if I got paid or not.”

She signed with Nike out of college, when she also made her first Olympic team in the 5,000 meters (she placed 22nd). Flanagan was surprised to discover that she could afford a home without wheels.

“I remember being handed the keys and signing the papers and I cried,” she said. “I couldn’t believe that running would allow me to buy a home at age 24. I have never forgotten that—it blew my mind that someone would pay me enough that I could own a home.”

Flanagan trained mostly on her own under coach John Cook during those early years and as her career grew, she convinced Edwards to leave his full-time job at a sports media firm to help manage the increasing demands of her racing and appearances.

“I’m really appreciative that he stepped up to that—I just felt like I needed that to maximize my running,” Flanagan said. “He has been a huge factor in allowing me to enjoy what I do.”

She ran her first 10,000 meters at the 2008 Payton Jordan meet at Stanford University, setting the then-American record (30:34.39), and went on to win the silver at the Beijing Games, which remains the best U.S. women’s Olympic standing in the event (she was originally awarded bronze, but upgraded in 2017 after Elvan Abeylegesse of Turkey failed a drug test).

It wasn’t long after that success that Flanagan began eyeing new challenges on the roads and saw her future at the 26.2-mile distance. To make that switch, she sought out a new training environment, ending up with Schumacher in Portland in 2009. She became the first and only female athlete under his leadership at the time.

“He says in an affectionate and complimentary way that he only agreed to coach me because he felt like I was kind of like a dude,” Flanagan said, laughing. “I think he meant that I was highly coachable.”

The relationship would span the rest of her career and now they will continue working together, along with coach Pascal Dobert, guiding Bowerman Track Club athletes. But it took some significant adjustment during those early days, she said, recalling their first workout together when she ran eight one-mile intervals on the grass. Schumacher made her start the workout over again three times because she began each mile at an unsustainable pace.

“And I’m like, ‘This guy’s crazy. Just let me run!’ But he said, ‘You need to learn patience. If you want to run the marathon, it’s all about patience and delaying the hurt,’” Flanagan said. “He was trying to teach me control—these skills I did not have until I met him.”

Schumacher had never coached a marathoner before Flanagan, either, but the two perfected the preparation over time, leading to two Olympic teams in 2012 (10th) and 2016 (sixth).

“We have evolved as an athlete and coach, and while my physicality is on the decline, his coaching gets better every single year,” Flanagan said. “We’ve always communicated and collaborated well as we picked out what was important to us—we’re both dorks and geeks in the sense that we just love to sit and talk about planning and schedules.”

Mary Wittenberg, former director of the New York City Marathon, remembers Flanagan’s first crack at 26.2 miles in 2010, when Flanagan placed second to Edna Kiplagat after a duel with Mary Keitany through the final undulating miles in Central Park.

“We were celebrating like she had won because she was so strong and competitive—she ran an extraordinary race. It was the best debut we had ever seen,” Wittenberg said. “In New York, we don’t fool around; it was a really competitive field. She really had to fight with Mary Keitany at the end—and that is brutal. Shalane just took to it.”

***

Desiree Linden, 2018 Boston Marathon champion and U.S. Olympic teammate of Flanagan in 2012 and 2016, said she saw the marathon glimmer in Flanagan’s eye in 2009, when they rode in the lead vehicle together to watch the New York City Marathon—it turned out to be a front-row seat for Meb Keflezighi’s victory.

“You could see her soaking in the event and her sheer joy when Meb won,” Linden said. “I didn’t really know her before that, but I could definitely see her passion for the sport.”

Little did Flanagan know that her brightest day would come at that same finish line, eight years later. She had multiple tests of faith, mixed with many moments of joy and accomplishment ahead of her. One of her often-overlooked, but greatest performances, was at the 2011 IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Punta Umbria, Spain, where she took the bronze medal in one of the most competitive fields of her career—and led the U.S. team to third place in the process.

Molly Huddle, 35, who captured the 10,000-meter American record (30:13.17) from Flanagan in 2016, was a member of that cross-country team and considers it one of Flanagan’s biggest achievements.

“For somebody of my generation, who is pretty close to her in age, it was important to see her doing things we didn’t think were possible,” Huddle said. “She’s raced with no fear, which has been a really good model to have. [World cross-country] was the most-humble of award ceremonies and probably the hardest medal she earned. We were just standing in a field and like 10 people were watching.”

Over the years Flanagan never shied away from sharing her goals—even the ones that eluded her, like setting an American record in the marathon or winning her hometown race, the Boston Marathon—where she stood as a child, cheering for her father and dreaming of one day racing to Boylston Street, too.

The Boston victory is the one item on the career checklist that is “a thorn in my side forever,” Flanagan admitted. Her fastest time there was 2:22:02 in 2014, which was good enough for seventh, after Flanagan led the race for the first 19 miles. The result has been upgraded to sixth after winner Rita Jeptoo was banned for taking performance-enhancing drugs. It’s little consolation for Flanagan, who had crafted her training and bold racing strategy based on what she thought would give her the best shot at beating Jeptoo, who ultimately was unbeatable because she was cheating.

“No American has run faster at Boston and normally that time would win, so I’ll always have a hint of regret,” Flanagan said. “If I could write my storybook ending, it would involve a win in Boston, although I’m very happy with how things panned out for me.”

***

Over time, Flanagan’s goal became elevating the performances of U.S. women in track and field. While she grew up emulating Lynn Jennings, who is the only other American woman to win an Olympic medal in the 10,000 meters (1992, bronze), and Deena Kastor, who won the 2000 Olympic bronze in the marathon, she felt like the bar was set too low for the sport as a whole. Making U.S. teams and sneaking into final rounds was not enough, she thought.

“If you had said at the beginning of my career that I’d win a major marathon and have an Olympic medal and a world cross-country medal, I would have never believed it—because what’s the saying? You can’t be what you can’t see,” Flanagan said. “I have always wanted whatever I am doing to count for something and contribute to moving women’s distance running forward.”

Wittenberg observed the growth of an athlete who “filled the biggest stages” with her athletic prowess, but in the beginning didn’t have the biggest presence in the public eye. That developed as the performances demanded that Flanagan spend more time in front of cameras and among an increasing number of fans. Now she can add Super Bowl commercials and television broadcast commentary to her résumé, too.

“Shalane is such a New Englander. She loved the attention as a competitor, but you never saw her take over in the post-race conferences—she’s grown beautifully into it,” Wittenberg said. “And then she had this evolution as this ‘Mama Bear.’ I think Shalane is responsible for more women making Olympic teams than any other athlete and maybe any other coach, too.”

Gradually, Flanagan and Schumacher began inviting more woman to train with them at what eventually became known as the Bowerman Track Club, taking the team concept to extremes at times. Among her first female training partners was Lisa Uhl, who Flanagan helped in the 10,000 meters at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials, when Uhl’s shoe came untied. Flanagan moved to the front of the pack to slow the pace down while Uhl tied her shoe, made her way back to the lead group, and made the Olympic team, thanks to the teamwork.

“I remember thinking in that moment that Shalane had it right. She was an individual fierce fighter who was becoming somebody who was going to fight for others, too,” Wittenberg said. “She’s not shy to own her ambition or competitiveness and through that she also has a unique ability to lift other people. Now that’s her hallmark.”

The same year, Kara Goucher had trained with Flanagan for the marathon trials and came in nervous that an injury had prevented her from getting fit enough to contend. She too, made the Olympic team, and gave credit to Flanagan for the help and friendship—their partnership continued through the London Games.

During that time, Emily Infeld also joined the enclave. Flanagan has been there for every step (and misstep) of her career, including the first years when Infeld was plagued with serious injuries and contemplating whether she was cut out for professional running. Flanagan sat down over a glass of wine and listened.

“I was devastated and just at a loss and didn’t understand why my body wasn’t cooperating,” Infeld said. “She was so kind. We didn’t know each other that well at that point, but she said, ‘I really think you can do incredible things.’ I was so lost at that time, but she talked me out of the dark hole I was in. She’s not a bullshitter, so her belief in me carried so much weight. If I hadn’t had her to talk to her in that moment, I don’t think I would have continued in the sport.”

At the 2017 New York City Marathon, Schumacher recalled a distinct moment he knew that the Bowerman group would expand to include more women. Flanagan and Infeld were running individual workouts on their own when a group of 10 male teammates took to the track to grind through a speed workout together.

“Emily and Shalane looked at me like, ‘Really?’” Schumacher said.

By 2016, the “Bowerman Babes,” as they’re now known, had grown to a group of seven who each made it to the Rio Games, making it the most successful U.S. women’s training group to date.

“I’ll affectionately blame that on Shalane,” Schumacher said, later adding, “We finally got the pieces together where we felt like it was the right group of athletes…they’re driven, motivated, they want to do big things in the sport and that’s an easy group to work with when they’re like that.”

In a full-circle moment at the 2016 Olympic Trials, it was Amy Cragg, who had joined the BTC earlier in the year, who encouraged Flanagan through the final miles as Flanagan was experiencing heat-related illness. Cragg went on to win and Flanagan finished third to make her fourth and final Games.

Without the women like Cragg around her, Flanagan believes her pro career would have ended years ago.

“It can be a very lonely pursuit if you don’t have that support system and I’ve just been able to enjoy it a lot more with them around,” Flanagan said.

Shalane Flanagan and Amy Cragg
Photo: Image of Sport

And it’s because of the BTC that she found her next calling in coaching, which will allow her to continue her pioneering ways in the sport. Few women coach at the Olympic level—she will be among the first. Flanagan remembers how she landed on the idea—it was at the 2015 world championships, when Infeld won the bronze in the 10,000 meters. Flanagan had also competed and placed sixth.

“It actually made me realize I really wanted to get into coaching—after helping Emily overcome her injuries and her doubts, then having her big moment achieving a world championship medal,” Flanagan said. “That night in Beijing, it felt like I had won a medal. She did it, but it felt exactly the same to me as if I had achieved it. That was a turning point for me.”

Infeld still reflects on the race—and Flanagan’s belief in her abilities—with awe.

“She was so proud of me and that meant the world to me,” Infeld said. “She had always been a mentor to me and to be able to share that moment with her was so cool.”

***

Along with the support of her family and coaches, Flanagan also gives credit to Elyse Kopecky for helping extend her running career, evaluating Flanagan’s nutrition and giving her new ideas to nourish her heavy training. The duo teamed up to create the Run Fast, Eat Slow cookbook franchise, which has landed them on the New York Times bestsellers list twice.

“It’s been satisfying to set good examples of how to eat as athletes,” Flanagan said. “I think that kept me in the sport longer, too. I wanted to perform well to showcase that Elyse had really given me a gift in learning how to cook and feed myself well.”

Huddle said that Flanagan’s attention to that kind of detail is part of the legacy she leaves the sport.

“It was always eye-opening to get a glimpse into her work ethic,” she said. “It showed me what I need to do to get to the next level. It’s your profession and you really have to put more than a couple hours a day into it. There won’t be many people repeating what she’s done—she’ll be legend status.”

Linden will remember a competitor who was as fierce as she was friendly—the culmination of which was the 2018 Boston Marathon, when Linden wasn’t feeling well during the first half and offered to pace Flanagan back to the pack after an unexpected stop in the porta-potty. Linden, of course, rebounded and went on to become the first U.S. woman Boston to win in 33 years.

“It didn’t matter the race, it didn’t matter the conditions, it didn’t matter who lined up against her—she just had this belief that she belonged and that she could win,” Linden said. “She carried other people along to have that belief in themselves—even people like me who aren’t necessarily her teammate but bought into her enthusiasm and found a little bit more in themselves because of what she tapped into.”

2017 New York City Marathon Champion Shalane Flanagan
PHOTO: PhotoRun
Shalane Flanagan wins the 2017 New York City Marathon.

When Flanagan ran the final stretch of the 2017 New York City Marathon, she famously let the “F*ck yes!” fly from her elated heart, it was the final feel-good moment she had wished for before calling it a career. It was everything she dreamed of for herself, her team, and her family. And it almost didn’t happen.

“I had been feeling depleted and deflated, just coming off an injury and not feeling optimistic about the sport because of doping—it was kind of getting me down and I was ready to just tap out,” Flanagan said. “It was so exceptionally gratifying to win for so many reasons—it was an accumulation of a lifetime of work for that one moment.”

Her next mission is to help other talented women realize those moments can be theirs, too. As the 2020 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials loom in February and the track and field trials approach in June, Flanagan is relishing a new role in helping athletes like Courtney Frerichs and Colleen Quigley in the steeplechase, Shelby Houlihan in the 1500 meters, and Karissa Schweizer in the 5,000 meters, reach their potential.

“For 15 years I’ve only known one thing and that is waking up and running—it’s been the only foregone conclusion every single day,” Flanagan said. “But how lucky am I that I got to do this amazing job for 15 years and now I get to move on to a different passion? It feels good.”

Flanagan may be gone from the starting lines, but her influence will no doubt remain strong throughout the running community. Wittenberg is sure that Flanagan’s big moments and barrier breaking are far from over.

“I think she’ll be the greatest American coach we’ve ever seen,” Wittenberg said. “Why wouldn’t I think that? The sport needs people like Shalane—and she’s had a hell of a career.”

And in many ways, it seems, she’s just getting started.





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