Interview with Shalane Flanagan
By Parker Morse

Shalane Flanagan runs alongside eventual race winner Meseret Defar in the 3,000m at the 2003 adidas Boston Indoor Games.
(Both Photos by Alison Wade/New York Road Runners)
Flanagan wins her first NCAA title at the 2002 NCAA Cross Country Championships.

UNC's Shalane Flanagan returned to the Boston area for the adidas Boston Indoor Games 3000m, her first race in New England since she started her NCAA career. A star at nearby Marblehead High School, Flanagan has gone on to win numerous All-American honors at UNC and captured the NCAA cross country title last fall. The Boston race was Flanagan's first race with post-collegiate and open runners, and a step towards her stated goal of making the U.S. Olympic team in 2004 at 5,000m. After passing the first kilometer in 2:59 behind pacemaker Svetlana Badrankova, Flanagan moved to the front to keep the pace from lagging and led through a 6:05 2k split. Three Ethiopian women passed Flanagan at the bell, and 5,000m Olympian Amy Rudolph caught her at the line, but overall Flanagan was pleased with her 9:00.22 result. spoke with Flanagan after her race. Did you expect that kind of a finish?
Shalane Flanagan:
I was prepared for a fast finish. I've been working out getting ready to race a mile. I don't know what my last splits were, but it was really hard to be in the lead and then try to kick. Ideally I wanted to be somewhere in the middle of the pack and then be kicking against those girls. I kick a lot better if someone's in front of me. It was hard getting passed and then trying to get back.

FW: You were at 2k in 6:05 and [Meseret] Defar [the winner] ran 8:57, so she did a 2:52 closing kilometer.
So I was still under 3:00 for the last kilometer. Does anyone know my time? I was hoping I would be right around 9:00. I really wanted to break nine. But having to take the lead like I did... I felt like it was slowing down, or maybe I felt really good at that point. I said to myself, 'I'm feeling really good right now, I'm not afraid.' I have confidence from this past fall, the most confidence I've ever had racing, so I maybe should have won that? But who knows where the pace would've gone. I was feeling on a roll and I didn't want to let that pace drop. I went after it. It was a gamble, and who knows what would have happened if I had stayed back, but you know, racing is a gamble like that, and I think I came out on top today, even though I got fifth.

FW: It's hard to run for time against other people who are running for place.
Yes, exactly. I knew that, too. These women are here to make a living, and time may not be the top thing on their list of priorities, and making some money would be, so I completely understand.

FW: Did you know how close Amy [Rudolph] was?
No, I wasn't really paying attention, and I wasn't paying attention to the laps. Maybe with three laps to go I started to pay attention a little more, to focus on my form and myself. I don't really pay much attention to other runners. I'm shocked that I was even as close to her as I was, she passed me in the last straightaway.

FW: Did you feel at home here?
Oh my God, I almost started to cry right before the start, just because my high school teammates were here. Some of them I've never met, they're the future of Marblehead track and field, but it's a large crowd and it really, really touched me that they're here. I felt so much support today. It was awesome coming home.

FW: Did you hear the girls from your high school on the second turn?
Yes, every lap. It's about the only thing I was hearing outside the race. I heard my coach, he was somewhere on the backstretch, but I probably heard them more than my coach. I wasn't really paying attention to him. He does all his coaching beforehand so I don't have to pay attention to him during the race.

FW: Is this a step towards a larger plan?
My plan right now is not race to race, it's a larger plan which is the Olympics. All these races build confidence towards that, they're all steps towards the Olympics, which is the ultimate goal, it's as far as you can go with running. To me all this is a plan towards that.

FW: What's the transition like from cross-country to a short oval?
It's definitely hard. I enjoy cross country so much, and I'm always really sad when it's over. In some ways this takes more focus and more effort from me. The track is definitely not kind to me. It demands a lot more than cross country.

FW: What are you looking at for NCAAs?
The 3,000m, but I'll do anything to help the team out. That's the main goal. Overall, for the team, how we do at Nationals is the ultimate goal. For me, the best thing to do is let my teammate Erin Donohue step up and take responsibility in the mile. Ordinarily we share that. She'll be taking care of that, and I'll be in the 3k, and I'll be anchoring the DMR. The DMR is always our ultimate goal, and hopefully we'll set an American or World record there. Whether we win or not, that will be incidental, but that American record -- it's already ours, but we'd like to better that time and then go after the world record eventually.

FW: Then in the spring, are you looking at the 5000m, or the 1500m?
I'd love to double, but with this new regional system, I don't know how well my body will fare with that. It's going to be a long season, I'm hoping to go to USAs and run the 5k. Whether I'll run it at NCAAs, I don't know. I think I have a good shot at winning it, however, 1,500m will be easier on my body and prepare me better for the USAs.

FW: But you'll run a few 5ks during the season.
Hopefully one fast one. To get to USAs, I'll need to run one at some point, but whether I'll do it at NCAAs, I don't know.

FW: What Olympic event are you hoping to run?
5,000m. I've been doing the 1,500m to better my 5k. That's the plan. My training has been for shorter stuff, to be able to run fast and have that transfer ultimately into a fast 5k.

FW: How much indoor track experience did you have?
I never ran high school indoors until my senior year. I ran three meets, and won all three, a Brown Invite, Millrose, and Indoor Nationals in the mile. I was training to go to World Cross, so that's why I didn't do much indoors at all. This is my fourth season of indoor racing.

(Interview conducted February 1, 2003)

Nothing contained herein may be reproduced online in any form without the express written permission of the New York Road Runners Club, Inc.