You mentioned your good relationship with your coach, Ray Treacy. Describe that relationship.
I think Ray’s a great coach, because he’s been around a long time. He’s coached a lot of athletes. I mean he’s coached four white girls to 15-flat or faster. Not many people can say that. He’s coached every type of athlete, so it’s taken away a lot of guesswork with what we are doing. He gets to know you in a couple months and calls back to all that’s he’s done. He says, “Well, you’re like this runner or like that runner. I know this works and that doesn’t.” I think that’s pretty good. There’s not a lot of handholding. I don’t see him a lot of the time, because our whole group travels a lot. So we do a lot by phone and by email. He has the team as his first priority, so if he can’t make a workout, that’s fine. There is a lot of flexibility. It works pretty well. Sometimes we make our own calls with weightlifting, drills, and rehab. He doesn’t enter that world. He’s just the running guy.
Since Ray sticks to just running coaching, do you have a weightlifting or cross-training coach?
No. In college, we did basics in the weight room for runners. I think everyone at this level knows the basic drills–you know, core work, hurdle drills for hip flexibility–things like that. We do those things by ourselves. Some of us do it; some of us don’t. It’s important for me, because I have a few imbalances. A physical therapist will teach you what to do there.
Do you think Flanagan’s American record of 14:44 is within reach?
I wasn’t thinking about it after Paris, because seven seconds is a lot when you’ve already run that kind of PR. I really don’t know where I’m going to find seven seconds. It’s something I can try for, at least. It’s a good goal to have for the end of the summer—something to just get you into the race. I want to get into the mix in the first 3K. In Paris, I felt like I was off a little bit. I was leading a third pack of people. There’s got to be more of that. I’ve got to be dragged rather than leading a little group. I’m thinking about improving on what I’ve done. I don’t want to get it into my head that I’m going for an American record or something like that. It’s a tall order. If Shalane’s done it, then you really have to be in phenomenal shape to do it. It’s not at all expected. I think there’s a three percent chance of it happening.
A lot of people reading this interview aren’t as fast as you are, but still want to glean some information on how you ran your big PR. What can you share with them about making improvements in a 5K?
I’d say maybe to focus on the quality of your workouts. For me, that’s part of what changed. I’ve never been one who’s had great workouts. I’ve just always raced better than my workouts. But they are getting a lot better and I just feel I had to get familiar and comfortable with the paces I needed to be at in order to run 14:51. It gives you a lot of confidence and prepares you really well. If that means maybe taking an extra easy day between workouts in order to make that workout much better, then it might be worth doing. I know a lot of people have to fit their workouts around a work week, so they will do a seven-day schedule. They’ll do a workout; have two days in between, and then a long run on Sunday. But we do three days in-between, so it’s like an 8-day or 12-day cycle, depending on what we are doing. So it’s like having more intense workouts in order to give you more rest. I think that’s the only thing that’s really changed with me. That, and consistent work are the most important things. If you can avoid an unplanned break due to injury or something else, even if you don’t change anything else, that’s going to help you right there. I think that is really important.
Duncan Larkin is a freelance journalist who’s been covering the sport of running for over five years. He’s run 2:32 in the marathon and won the Himalayan 100-Mile Stage Race in 2007. His first book, Oxygen Debt, was recently released.