Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Flanagan will debut in marathon in NY

Boston Globe Reports

By now, Shalane Flanagan has checked off every other box on her road, track, and trail To-Do List: the 1,500, 3,000, 5,000, and 10,000 meters, the half-marathon, cross-country. Only one remains undone: the 26-miler.

“It’s the ultimate challenge for the distance runner,’’ says the Marblehead native, who already has a collection of medals and records from shorter events.

So Flanagan has decided to make her debut where most top American marathoners have, in the Big Apple, signing up to take on US record-holder Deena Kastor and what is expected to be a top international field at the New York City Marathon Nov. 7.

Though the five-borough race from the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge to Central Park offers a demanding layout, Kastor, Meb Keflezighi, and Kara Goucher all ran promising first marathons in New York.

“Our history with debuts is strong,’’ says race director Mary Wittenberg. “It’s a good place for significant athletes. They can throw the pressure of time out the window and just race. Shalane is a racer.’’

Flanagan, who will turn 29 next month, has a history of submitting spectacular efforts when she moves up in distance. In her first try at the 10,000 two years ago, she broke Kastor’s domestic mark by nearly 16 seconds in 30:34.49, then went on to win the Olympic bronze medal in Beijing. In her inaugural half-marathon in January in Houston, Flanagan broke Colleen De Reuck’s course record by a minute and 14 seconds.

“You talk about a tremendous competitor,’’ says Jerry Schumacher, Flanagan’s coach. “When she tackles something, it’s head-on to be the best. That’s Shalane for you.’’

The obvious next step was the marathon, and the natural place for a North Shore denizen figured to be Boston in April.

“I’m from Boston and it’s a dream of mine,’’ says Flanagan, who was a legendary competitor at Marblehead High School before becoming a 15-time All-American in cross-country and track at North Carolina and competing on two Olympic teams. “But it clearly just wasn’t the right timing for me.’’

By running in New York this fall, Flanagan can compete on the track during the spring and summer, have enough recovery time to return to the track next year and make a bid for the US team for the summer world outdoor championships in South Korea, then build up her road base for the Olympic marathon trials in Houston in January 2012.

“There comes a time when you have to get your feet wet with the event,’’ says Schumacher. “To wait too long would not be very smart. You blink and the Olympic year is on top of you.’’

New York has been a dependable springboard for top track runners looking to evolve into marathoners. Two years after he made his first 26-mile bid there in 2002, Keflezighi won the Olympic silver medal in Athens. Last year, he became the first US male to win in New York since Alberto Salazar in 1982.