Can the blond assassin add to her collection of American records in Houston?
Shalane Flanagan will make her eagerly anticipated debut at the half marathon distance Sunday at the Aramco Houston Half Marathon. Although there is seldom talk of record setting when a runner takes her first crack at a new distance, Flanagan already owns American records at 3000m, 5000m, and 10,000m on the track, so one can’t rule it out.
The 28-year-old Massachusetts native is neither encouraging nor discouraging such speculation. In a recent Running Times interview she stated, “I want to test myself and push myself in the last couple of miles to see where I’m at. I could run 1:12 that day and be really pushing myself, or I could run 1:08. I’m going to focus on winning and let the time take care of itself. I love running fast and running fast usually means that I can win.”
The existing American record in the half marathon is held by Deena Kastor, who ran 1:07:34 in Berlin in 2006. Kara Goucher ran faster in 2007, clocking 1:06:57 in winning the Great North Run in England, but that event’s net downhill course exceeds the IAAF limits for record ratification.
Flanagan and Goucher have a longstanding rivalry that could see a brand new chapter opened if Flanagan follows Goucher in moving up to the marathon distance. The two women staged two epic battles in the 2008 Olympic Trials, with Flanagan nipping Goucher in a mad sprint to the finish line in the 10,000m and Goucher returning the favor in the 5000m.
Since then Goucher, who is three years Flanagan’s senior, has made a successful shift to the roads, setting an American debut marathon record of 2:25:53 in the 2008 New York City Marathon, where she finished third. Flanagan has said that her half marathon debut will serve partly as a way of testing the waters of the full marathon distance. If she runs well in Houston—and why wouldn’t she?—it will probably be a matter of time before Flanagan takes aim at her nemesis’ debut marathon record, and after that, just maybe, another American record held by Deena Kastor: 2:19:36.