What We Can Learn From Shalane Flanagan’s American Record Attempt

This past weekend, Shalane Flanagan went for the American Record at the Berlin Marathon. She needed to run below a 2:19:36 (crazy town). Although she didn’t get it, she did run a 2:21:14, and ran 48 seconds faster than her personal best.

Shalane FlanaganPhoto source

In April, she also ran the Boston Marathon (I was there!), and led most of the way, running at a blistering pace. She didn’t win, but she ran the fastest time an American woman has run at Boston, and many of the women who ran that race (and who ran Berlin), ran PRs.

The winner of the Boston Marathon, Rita Jeptoo, ran a course record that day (by almost two minutes!!). Furthermore, the second and third place females also ran under the course record.

So what’s my point? My point is that elite runners are able to break through mental barriers. When Shalane set a pace, other women went after it no fear. They knew they were running faster than their personal record pace but went for it anyway. That’s why so many ran below the fastest course time in Boston. They didn’t doubt their abilities.

Here’s a great quote Shalane gave in an interview about Rita Jeptoo in that race:

Rita gave me credit again at the awards ceremony that night, and credited me with her record run and she said she actually didn’t want to run that fast early on, and I think she was a bit frustrated. But she told me she couldn’t let me go. If she gave me any room, she may not make it up. It was too much of a gamble, so she just had to stick with the pace.

Shalane is known for racing hard and “wanting to hurt” in races. She’s not afraid to go out fast. All of these elites aren’t afraid of going out fast and working for it. I want that kind of grit when it comes to racing, especially in longer distances.

PS – She was aiming for 5:19 mile splits when trying to get that American Record. So crazy to me!!

I admire that she laid it all on the line and told the media exactly what her goals were. Sometimes I’m afraid to do that for fear of not meeting those goals, or being WAY off.

I want to learn how to be mentally strong in races like those elite runners. Running really is a mental sport.

Sure, in marathons (and in training) your legs get tired and achy, but sometimes it really is all about your mental fortitude. Can you push through and ignore your body being tired? When you start thinking, “I can’t do this,” can you immediately stop and switch your mentality?

In future races I’m going to think back on Shalane’s races and be motivated to push through. A good analogy I read recently was this: Squeeze your fist as hard as you can. Now squeeze harder. You could squeeze harder couldn’t you? Same thing goes for pushing your body. You can probably push harder when you think you can’t.

Now I’m really pumped for my next 5K and especially my half marathon in November!!

Have you watched any of Shalane’s recent races? She is one of my main running inspirations!


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  1. A 5:19/mile pace just astounds me! And I agree that I admire her courage to tell everyone her goal. I’m pretty shy about my goals because of the fear or failing. But I guess the more people who know the more motivated you are to work for it.
    Jen @ Pretty Little Grub recently posted…Weekend happeningsMy Profile

  2. I love the squeezing fist thing – that is so true! I always doubt that I can go faster so I don’t push as hard as I should. I think that’s why I hate 5ks – it’s such a fast pace and I’m always chasing another PR!
    Kristen recently posted…HomeMy Profile

  3. My mind can’t even comprehend that pace! I’m just trying to break 4 hours still on a marathon. Hopefully it happens next weekend at Steamtown.
    Heidi recently posted…Jeter’s Farewell TourMy Profile

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