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Shalane Flanagan & Des Linden Dish On The 2018 TCS New York City Marathon

Shalane Flanagan and Desiree Linden talk us through their training, goals and marathon readiness ahead of the 2018 TCS New York City Marathon.

Two of the 2018 TCS New York City Marathon’s top elite females—defending champion Shalane Flanagan and 2018 Boston Marathon winner Desiree Linden—had a lot to share during this morning’s “26 Days Out” press conference. From the Nike athlete’s current training model to Linden’s new coach and Flanagan’s possible retirement, here’s what they had to say ahead of the big day on November 4.

On heading back to New York as the defending champion…

Flanagan: Fitness is good, I couldn’t ask for better. I definitely notice my age a little bit more, recovery nowadays is taking a lot more serious. There’s a great country song that I’ve been sort of chanting to myself, ‘I’m not as good as I once was, but I’m as good once as I ever was.’

I’m excited to try and win again, to put myself in contention and I have fun racing with Des and all the American women. I feel like we’re on this trend and trajectory of a lot of greatness so to be in this era and stacked with all these great women, I’m just really excited.

On working with new and former coach Walt Drenth, Michigan State Director of Track & Field/Cross Country…

Linden: I’m kind of in my comfort zone right now, I think I’m finally putting in more miles per week than selfies taken, so that’s a nice feeling to be back to the grind and just focusing on the running. But also, probably more out of my comfort zone than ever before in terms of training. I made a big switch to working with Walt Drenth earlier this year and he’s really testing me with workouts and systems that I haven’t worked on in a really long time. The training has been challenging and hopefully it will take me to a new level, which is what it’s going to take to be competitive and try to break the tape in New York.

I think the biggest adjustment is that I’ve gone 13 years doing one system and now it’s totally different. I’ve worked with Walt Drenth in the past, so I know him well. I know he’s a really bright guy and knows what works for me and why the Hanson system worked and what we can add to make me maybe extend my career and get back some leg speed.

On Flanagan feeling pressure after winning in 2017 to do well this year…

Flanagan: It’s exciting to be called the defending champion, my standards from New York are pretty high, I’ve placed second there and first. So the podium is always the goal and always be in contention for the win. That’s what excites me, that’s what I visualize in training. I don’t feel any added pressure to be honest. I feel that the American contingency and then the international crowd that the New York Road Runners has assembled is quite phenomenal.

On what keeps them motivated to continue competing after both securing wins at major marathons…

Linden: I just really love the process. I know that’s such a cliché but going out and testing myself and seeing how good I compete can be still what motivates me. I know I’ve done it on one day, I know it’s there, but can I get a little bit better? Can I do it on another deep field? Can I do it on another course? Can I do it on another day? Those things are still pushing me. So it all goes back to, for me, the motivating factor has been finding out how good I can be. All the decisions I’ve made this year are about pushing my boundaries and seeing if there is maybe just a little more we can seek out instead of just staying on the plateau.

Flanagan: I enjoy the process of the work that I do. There’s definitely a grind element to it. Marathon training to me, it’s harder than track training and I’ve done a fair amount of both in my career. I really feel like, since 2016, I’ve really become a better marathoner over the last two years and it’s just fun to test myself and see progress, even at age 37.

I love the process and the challenge of the daily basis and it gives myself a tremendous amount of fulfillment and purpose.

On Gwen Jorgensen’s performance at the 2018 Bank of America Chicago Marathon and her future in the event…

Flanagan: I know she’s massively disappointed with the result. I got to witness and be a part of the process over the last three months with her and she definitely wasn’t on the short end of effort and putting the time in to become a marathoner.

I think the tough position that Jerry [Schumacher] and Pascal [Dobert] and my team and I are in, in helping Gwen, is that she just had a baby about a year ago and she’s switching to a completely different sport. As we all know, marathoning pays dividends after years and years of work, and I try to teach her patience but she’s a very driven woman. I tried to remind her that I didn’t have my big breakthrough moment in the marathon until seven years from when I started. And I’ve been running my entire life. I try to remind her of that.

It’s hard because she’s just so used to a really high-level of performance but if I put my coach’s hat on, I definitely seem more of an inclination toward her 5K and 10K potential. It’s much more similar to her background in the triathlon. She’s just a much more natural fit at this time. Doesn’t mean that she can’t become a marathoner, I just think it’s going to take a lot longer than the time frame she wants it to happen in.

On who could potentially win in New York other than each other…

Flanagan: I think Molly Huddle, she did really well in New York in her first marathon. In her debut she was third there, so that bodes well.

Linden: I think the New York Road Runners invite people who they think can win and so if there’s an American on the line, they have a great shot. The beauty is sometimes we count people out because they don’t look great on paper and then there’s a really big breakthrough. And then we see it that way but they’re not surprised at all. All the American women are lining up with more confidence, so it might be them, but anybody in the field has a shot.

On more women in the event securing sub-2:20 marathon times and whether its reason to be suspicious or not…

Linden: Success breeds success. We’re starting to see barriers broken down. I think when one person does it, it becomes likely that another will. I think that’s happening obviously on the American side but on a global scale too. I get excited about it. I think that there are people in the past who have done it right. I think that it’s doable, I think people are certainly capable to run that fast, but I’m always a little skeptical if there’s a reason to be skeptical. That really just depends on the history and the situation surrounding the individual. But I certainly think that the barriers being broken are attainable for a lot of people.

Flanagan: It’s amazing when you see someone that is similar to you have a breakthrough moment and you’ve been that person. It just builds confidence in one another. I think the only reason to have doubts is really just looking at the history or the surrounding team of the athlete. That’s usually where I tend to have my doubts because I just feel like they’re not going about it the right way in terms of who they’re working with, but it’s fun to be excited about amazing performances. We all thrive on it and are inspired by it.

On Flanagan retiring after the marathon or continuing to compete…

Flanagan: I haven’t really decided what the next step in my career is; I’m just focused on the next 20 days of being the best athlete I can be. Over the last maybe two years, since Rio, I’ve acted as each marathon is my last, not knowing really where it’s going to take me. I just let my passion and my excitement kind of dictate my next goals. I’m not in the days of my career where I’m focusing years in advance, I’m very much living in the moment in the day-to-day. So until I cross the finish line on November 4, I honestly don’t know.