If you’re already signed up for the TCS New York City Marathon this year, there’s one coach who may be your best bet at snagging a personal best: Shalane Flanagan. The 2017 champion is teaming up with Michelob Ultra to offer 95 runners the chance to train with her this fall. To enter, runners (21+) are invited to tell the story via JoinTeamUltra.com about how their love for beer and running motivates them to the finish line.
Open to entries starting today until 7/2, Michelob Ultra will “evaluate the stories and select 95 individuals that best embody the ethos of living fit and fun.” Because this is a nationwide contest, members of Team Ultra will be using a dedicated online social hub and training platform to interact with each other and Coach Shalane until race day.
Shortly before the marathon, Flanagan and Michelob Ultra will meet the team in-person for a training run and happy hour drinks post-race. We spoke with Flanagan to learn more about the contest, her proposed coaching strategies and what goals she has in mind to finish out 2018.
Competitor Running: How did you become involved as a Team Ultra coach?
Shalane Flanagan: I will be helping 95 beer-loving runners as part of Team Ultra and getting them a chance to run The TCS New York City Marathon. I will be helping by giving advice and training motivation and training tips so that they can have the race of their lives and a really memorable experience.
CR: What will your coaching strategies be for these 95 runners?
SF: I obviously don’t expect these 95 runners to commit their lives, the way I train. However, I do feel like running is a very basic sport, and I think the biggest part is being part of a community and having the accountability of other runners and getting excited and feeding off the energy of a bunch of people with a great motivation at the end of a training block, and that’s to run the New York City Marathon.
What’s beautiful is the community that we’re going to create. I will be giving them tips that will fit their lifestyle. Most of these people, I assume, are going to have families and full-time jobs and really hectic schedules. It’s all about trying to maximize their time when they do set aside a half-hour or an hour of training and trying to get the most out of their training within that period of time; to really have them commit, push themselves and find out where their personal limits lie. The amazing thing about running is, you find out a lot about yourself by pushing yourself to these physical limits. In the process, it becomes a really rewarding experience, when you finally get to race day.
CR: Will each runner have an individualized training plan, or will you use a template training plan and offer tips to supplement it along the way?
SF: That’s quite a task, to have 95 individualized plans, but I think that the general rule of training for a marathon, and hopefully I can offer some unique insight, just because of my experience in running for so long. My husband coaches a variety of runners, so I’ve been able to acquire some wisdom in how to manage time and life with trying to train for a marathon. There will be general motivational tips during training, but I hope that when I’m in New York I can give a more personal approach to the training guidelines.
CR: What did you learn during last year’s NYC Marathon that might affect the ways in which you coach these Team Ultra runners?
SF: What New York offers is a challenging course. When I train for New York, I make sure to incorporate quite a bit of hills. The bridges are the hills in New York, and obviously Central Park, that finish, is quite testing on a lot of runners that last 5K. I felt like I was so strong and spry through those last three miles because I did prepare for the hills, so I think that preparing for the course is really essential. I can envision pushing a lot of the runners to find challenging courses, run up and down hills—kind of fatiguing the legs in the process, but I still think that they’ll be ready on race day, once they get through that training block.
CR: To what extent will you incorporate strength training and cross-training into your training recommendations?
SF: It’s essential, especially for runners that can’t necessarily run a lot of miles because there’s always the risk of injury. It’s such a blessing to be able to stand on the start line without the injuries, and I want all 95 runners to get there without injury. Having the cross-training is pretty crucial, because you’re still getting that cardiovascular benefit, but not overworking the muscles and tendons and bones. It’s a key component, I think. For runners who are new to longer distances, it’s an extra way to get fit without putting too many miles on the legs.
CR: We’re just over four months out from this year’s NYC Marathon. Where should runners be right now in their training?
SF: I always have this saying that you have to get fit to get fit. Now’s the time to start to gear your body and start to create good habits: trying to get a little more sleep, trying to get your diet on point, all these little factors that will help you have a good training block. Starting to try to get fit so you can get fit, basically. When the time comes where we say, “Okay, we’re 14 weeks out from the marathon,” you’re kind of getting yourself prepped for that really hard training block.
CR: What does it mean to you to be coaching so many runners for this race that you yourself won just last year?
SF: For me, it’s a fun way to celebrate New York and the Marathon. I have two passions in life, and those are running and eating. That falls very much in line with Team Ultra and the fact that you work hard, push yourself and then it’s time to celebrate. I’ve always loved a good beer after my races to celebrate, or even after really hard training. I find that it’s really a great blend of things I love, and that’s what really excites me about this. It’s taking a really fun approach; you’re pushing yourself and achieving your goals, but it’s also a time to celebrate with other people.
CR: Do you have plans to run the NYC Marathon this year?
SF: I am in the midst of figuring that out. It’s really enticing, the idea of coming back as the defending champion. That sounds really nice. But it does require a lot of work, training and sacrificed time. I’m just making sure that, if I do it, I’m very motivated and I have the same excitement and passion I’ve always had. I’m just making sure I’ve gotten a good rest after Boston and making sure the desire to push myself really hard for the training again is there. If I don’t line up with all the runners, I certainly will be there at the finish line with Michelob Ultra, celebrating because it is such a huge achievement. I’ve never been at a finish line and not cried. It’s so emotional to me. It’s a really memorable day to people, so if I can’t run or if I decide not to race, I will certainly be there to greet runners.
CR: New York City aside, do you have any personal goals running-wise that you’re hoping to reach this year or next?
SF: Right now, I’m in that phase like the other runners that I’ll be helping to coach; I’m in the “get fit to get fit” phase. So I’m getting fit to help some of my teammates over in Europe this summer. I’ll be heading over to Europe to run some track races and help pace them to some personal bests. I don’t have any personal races on the calendar; it’s more about helping some of the other women I train with right now, which is kind of fun. It’s a little less pressure, but I definitely have to get fit to help them. That’s really the goal right now, and I’m kind of just feeling out my summer and don’t really know what is next, in terms of races. I have a cookbook coming out in August. Mixed with Team Ultra training plans, I’ve got good, fun projects ahead.