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Heir Apparent: Shalane Flanagan Looks To Fulfill Her Destiny As Running Royalty

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Shalane Flanagan is currently the 10,000m record holder outdoors and 5,000m record holder indoors. Her move up to the marathon in November 2010 gave her a second place in a exhaustingly tactical race at the ING New York City Marathon. Her bronze medal at the World Cross Country Championships showed the world that she is one of the best women distance runners on the planet.

We saw Shalane, her husband and her coach, Jerry Schumacher, come in this evening to the race headquarters. It was obvious that Shalane Flanagan is focused on this 26.2 mile run that she will do on Saturday, January 14, 2012, through downtown Houston.

Jon Gugala, the writer of this tome, considers Shalane Flanagan as running royalty. We think Jon is right about that!

You can talk about your Davilas, your Gouchers, and your dark-horse picks for the 2012 Olympic team trials in Houston. But examine enough top-three lists and you’ll find a common denominator: Shalane Flanagan, 30, of Portland, Ore. Why have so many predicted her podium finish among the deepest women’s field ever to toe the line of a trials race? Here’s why:

First, the Marblehead, Mass., native (as well as Boulder,CO) has the pedigree. Unlike other top U.S. women marathoners, sprung from the loins of Average Joes, Flanagan’s mother, Cheryl Treworgy (nee Bridges) is a former marathon world record-holder, and Flanagan’s father, Steve, a 2:18 marathoner, competed wearing the red, white, and blue at the World Cross Country Championships.

Flanagan has been weaned on running, and her high school state records and NCAA championships were as predictable as a lioness cub devouring her first wildebeest.

Then there’s Flanagan’s ability to produce staggering results her first time at bat.

Case in point: Flanagan debuted at the 10,000m in 2008 and set the American Record. She ran a half marathon for the first time at the 2011 USA Half Marathon Championships, winning and setting a course record (1:09:45). Most pertinent, in her marathon debut at the New York City marathon in 2010, she kept a level head in one of the more bizarrely evolving, slow-starting World Marathon Majors races ever, and took the runner-up spot in 2:28:40, splitting a pair of women (Edna Kiplagat and Mary Keitany) that would run 2:20 and 2:19, respectively, the following spring.

While Flanagan hasn’t raced a marathon in 2011, she has proven she as just as sharp in the shorter distances as she was at her peak, which foreshadows trouble for her fellow U.S. marathoners. She was the bronze medalist at the 2011 IAAF World Cross Country Championships, and in late spring, she ran 30:39.57 at the Payton Jordan Invitational 10,000m, which wasn’t far off her own American Record (30:22:22).

Then over the summer, after another USATF 10,000m Championship, she gave a good scare to Molly Huddle, the current 5000m American Record-holder (which Flanagan formerly held), running 14:45 and 14:46 (the current record is 14:44.76) in the space of three weeks.

One might argue that track results prove little when it comes to road racing. To that, Flanagan answers with the fastest tune-up races of the field this fall, running 1:10:49 in San Antonio in November and 1:09:58 in Miami in December. It was the same in 2010 before New York, when she set her half marathon PR of 1:08:36 in Philadelphia. If this is business as usual, American women might as well relegate themselves to second and third.

It’s for these reasons that Flanagan enters the 2012 Olympic team trials as the favorite. In a sense, she has become her own worst enemy: Flanagan is the anticlimax, the rhetorical question, the foregone conclusion. She is the Harlem Globetrotters playing your local community college team. But coming from the stock that she has, this is her destiny. The princess stands poised to claim her crown in Houston.

This article courtesy of RunBlogRun.com. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
Article written by Jon Gugala

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