Shalane Flanagan: Five Things To Know About The Team USA Olympic Marathon Runner

Shalane Flanagan has been a mainstay on the Olympic track team since 2004, and though she has a lot of Olympic experience, the American distance runner only has one Olympic medal. The marathon runner from Massachusetts hopes to change that at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio when she takes to the road Sunday morning for the women’s Olympic marathon.

Learn more about American distance runner Shalane Flanagan with these five fast facts.

1. Shalane Flanagan’s Olympic experience.

When Shalane crosses the starting line on Sunday, she’ll officially be competing in her fourth Olympic Games. The 35-year-old competed at her first Olympics in 2004, where she finished 11th in the semifinals of the 5,000-meter. She went on to win bronze in the 10,000-meter at the 2008 Olympic Games, and in 2012 she finished 10th in the Olympic marathon.

Each of her Olympic experiences has focused on something different. She told Us Weekly that her goals have changed and grown with each Olympics.

“In my first Olympics in Athens in 2004, I had no idea what I was getting into and it was a really overwhelming situation, in an incredible way. I didn’t have goals or dreams of medals. It was more of a celebration, to just be a part of the Olympics and to celebrate my hard work. For the next one, I had my sights set on a medal.”

She went on to add, “Each one has evolved as I’ve grown older and my expectations of myself have gotten higher. The first one was more laid-back and there’s more pressure now. But I always say that pressure is a privilege. Each one is as exciting as the other but there’s more of an excitement to perform versus just be there.”

2. Flanagan doesn’t remember qualifying for the 2016 Olympic team.

In order to qualify for the marathon event at the 2016 Summer Olympics, Shalane Flanagan had to finish in the top three at the Olympic marathon trials in Los Angeles. On the day the race was contested, the weather was unseasonably warm and Flanagan almost didn’t make it to the finish line.

Flanagan said that she began to think about dropping out of the race around mile 23, but opted to stick with it because she “had something huge on the line.” Shalane told Runner’s World that her body wasn’t absorbing her liquids properly and that she was dehydrated to the point of delirium.

“I pushed through and pushed my body to a place I’ve never experienced. I was really dizzy, chills, ringing in my ears, couldn’t see straight. Because I pushed myself for three miles basically in a state where I had run out of fuel, when I finished I was just really out of it. I don’t really remember much, to be honest. It was recommended that I immediately go get an IV, which I’ve never had before.”

3. Shalane’s training partner, Amy Cragg, also is on the Olympic marathon team.

Not only do they train together, but Flanagan and Cragg work together when they’re running marathon races. At the Olympic trials, Amy pulled Shalane through some of the toughest final miles, Flanagan said. When she was struggling to reach the finish line, Flanagan used Cragg —who had already finished and was cheering Shalane to the finish — as a beacon, she told Runner’s World.

“I could see Amy and I kept thinking, ‘Just get to Amy, get to Amy.’… When I saw her, the relief of just crossing the finish line, all of my dead weight just went on top of her. I felt bad. I thought, ‘Oh God, I’m going down.’ I could not stand up at all. I saw Amy and I don’t know what she was doing, but that was like my safe harbor.”

4. Flanagan has two running goals left.

Shalane has been one of the most versatile female track athletes in the world for quite some time, but now that she’s gotten older, she’s firmly settled into the marathon — a distance which she calls “magical, sexy and cool.” As a marathon runner, Flanagan has two major goals she’s still chasing: Olympic gold, and a Boston Marathon win, she told Us Weekly.

“Those are the two things left on my bucket list that would really blow my mind. They’re really hard goals, but that’s what makes it exciting, to try to attain something that seems somewhat impossible.”

5. Flanagan runs about 115 miles each week.

Shalane’s training schedule is nothing short of incredible. In order to be prepared for the grueling 26.2-mile marathon race, Flanagan runs more than 115 miles each week in training. She runs twice per day. In the morning she runs for about 80 minutes, and in the evening she runs for up to 48 minutes.

In between runs, she relaxes and does everything she can to recover, she told Us Weekly.

“In between running, I get into the gym and maybe get a massage. It’s really import to get a nap in for at least two hours a day. Even if I don’t sleep, just to lie down and close my eyes.”

Will you tune in to watch American distance runner Shalane Flanagan run the Olympic marathon Sunday in Rio?

[Photo by Kent Horner/Getty Images Sport]