, Salem, MA

April 7, 2014

Going For Glory

Marblehead's Shalane Flanagan ready to run the race of her life

By Phil Stacey
Sports editor

---- — There has been nary a detail left unattended.

Shalane Flanagan says she could not be any more prepared for the 118th running of the Boston Marathon two weeks from today. The 32-year-old Marblehead native has done everything humanly possibly to put herself in the best position to cross the finish line on Boylston Street first.

She’s ready to run. And win.

“We’ve pulled out everything we could think of in terms of preparations so I can have the race of my life on the 21st. We’re all in,” Flanagan told The Salem News.”

“There’s a huge motivational factor, given what happened last year,” continued Flanagan, speaking of the horrific Boston Marathon bombings that happened a few hours after she placed fourth in the women’s race in 2:27.08. “We think it’s going to be the most historically significant Boston ever, which is saying a lot. And I want to be a part of history.”

Mild mannered in everyday life but a ferocious competitor with sneakers on her feet and a numbered bib affixed to her jersey, Flanagan still gets very upset thinking back to the events of one year ago. It’s why the three-time Olympian and 2008 bronze medalist says that this will be “the most significant race of my career” without hesitation.

“Looking back, it’s very surreal,” said Flanagan, who now makes her home in Portland, Ore. “I was that little girl on the corner of Hereford (Street), watching my dad (Steve) run, watching (Germany’s Uta) Pippig win the Marathon. This happened in my city, in the race I absolutely adore. It’s freaky: it’s Patriots Day, the Red Sox playing, just a huge celebration ... and that happened.

“I took it very personally and so did the running community. “That’s why there’s a lot of motivation for this year’s race; not just for me being from the area, but for all of us in the running community and having the ability to overcome adversity.”

When asked what one word she’d use to describe the plan of execution she and her coach, Jerry Schumacher, set up to get ready for Boston, Flanagan answered quickly: meticulousness. “I will say I’ve done a lot of preparation for this, more than I ever have in terms of knowing the course and not just doing hard workouts on the course,” she said, “and making it my home course and making it an advantage for me.”

Training, and not actual races, has been the focus for Flanagan leading up to Boston. Schumacher felt that one tuneup -- the USA 15K Championships in Jacksonville, Fla., three weeks ago, which she won in a record time of 47:03 -- would work best; the rest has been pounding the pavement from the Boston course itself to high alitutude work in Flagstaff, Ariz.

Now, she’ll spend these final two weeks tapering down before flying under the radar as she comes into Boston, saving any fanfare that might come her way for race day itself.

On the cover of the latest issue of Runner’s World magazine, Flanagan is well aware of the plethora of challengers she’ll be up against in two weeks. There’s defending champion Rita Jeptoo of Kenya (”I don’t think anyone could have touched her last year; she was ridiculous”); Ethiopian runners such as Mare Dibaba, Meselech Melkamu and Meseret Hailu; and Tatiana Petrova Arkhipova of Russia, who won a bronze medal in the event at the London Olympic Games.

To fuel herself during her most difficult workouts, she wouldn’t think about these other elite racers or what they’ve done to get themselves ready. Flanagan would picture her own ultimate success.

“When I’m in the gritty parts of workouts, I think about coming down Boylston and leading,” Flanagan said. “I almost don’t do that too much; I don’t want to get ahead of things and get too far ahead. I want to visualize having that moment, but at the same time I have to think about each mile and each step. I’m wanting the results too much instead of worrying about the process. But when I’m having a tough day, I reserve it for that.”

Well aware that an American woman hasn’t won this race since 1985, Flanagan would love to be the one to end that streak on a day when eyes all around New England, the country and even the world will be on the world’s most famous marathon.

“It could be a game changer for me and the sport if I can execute the perfect race,” she said.