Why Running Needs a Shalane vs. Jordan Showdown

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If nothing else, final summer time’s perverse bout between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Conor McGregor proved compelling storyline is what sells sporting occasions. It didn’t matter that anybody who knew even the slightest bit about boxing knew that the whole conceit was a total scam; within the United States alone, an estimated 50 million people tuned in to observe a non-boxer go ten rounds with the most effective boxer of his technology. The “Money Fight” lived as much as its identify.

We can select to view Mayweather vs. McGregor as a depressing symptom of an age by which the precise mixture of hype and crassness will at all times carry the day. But maybe it’s extra helpful to acknowledge that what made so many individuals care in regards to the combat was that it dished up a juicy rivalry—albeit 1 devoid of any actual aggressive advantage. Against all odds, this is likely to be a teachable second for skilled distance operating. While the game won’t ever be capable to present the spectacle of 2 obnoxious blowhards bashing one another within the face, operating now has an ideal alternative to supply an epic battle by itself phrases: if the marathon gods are merciful, we’ll get to see newly topped New York City champion Shalane Flanagan vs. the once-in-a-generation prodigy Jordan Hasay sq. off on the 2018 Boston Marathon.

We had been nearly handled to it this 12 months. Having grown up in coastal Massachusetts, for Flanagan the Boston Marathon is basically her hometown race. She was slated to run her fourth Boston final April, however a again harm compelled her to withdraw. Instead, it was Hasay who made headlines by operating the fastest-ever debut marathon by an American lady, her time of two:23:00 ok for 3rd place. (To put this in perspective, the earlier debut document was Kara Goucher’s 2:25:53 on the 2008 New York City Marathon.) Remarkable as this achievement was, Hasay managed to prime herself final month in Chicago, when she ran 2:20:57, coming in 3rd as soon as once more. In her first 12 months contesting the gap, the 26-year-old Californian all of the sudden discovered herself in 2d place on the all-time record amongst U.S. marathoners. She trails solely the illustrious Deena Kastor, who stays the one American lady to have gone beneath 2:20.

“I just love the marathon,” Hasay told LetsRun.com after Chicago. “It’s definitely my event. Some people are just gifted at certain things.”

No kidding.

However, since Hasay trains with the Nike Oregon Project, Alberto Salazar’s Eugene-based group that has repeatedly been suspected of using doubtful strategies of efficiency enhancement, there are those that are leery of her meteoric rise.

Count Shalane Flanagan among the many skeptics.

“That program, the NOP has been under investigation for the last two years,” Flanagan said after Hasay’s marathon in Chicago, the place, within the males’s race, Galen Rupp, one other NOP-er, grew to become the primary American to win in 15 years.

Flanagan added: “As a fan of my own sport, it’s hard to have full excitement and faith when you don’t know all the facts yet. There’s still an investigation going on so it’s hard to truly and genuinely get excited about the performances that I’m watching.” 

It’s unattainable to gauge the extent to which this response might need been influenced by a contact jealousy. After all, Flanagan, who’s 36, has been the highest U.S. marathoner in recent times; she was the primary American finisher within the ladies’s marathon in each of the final 2 Olympic Games and her PR of two:21:14 (Berlin, 2014) had her within the #2 spot on the U.S. all-time record earlier than she was usurped by Hasay final month. A recent op-ed within the Times argued that Flanagan’s benevolent method to coaching has had a “rising tide” impact on American ladies runners. Fair sufficient. But it’s laborious to think about that an athlete as aggressive as Shalane Flanagan wouldn’t have been at the very least a bit of bit irritated at seeing her time bested by an upstart. (The title of Bruce Barcott’s 2011 Runner’s World profile of Flanagan says all of it: “The Killer Inside Her: Don’t let the innocent look fool you. Shalane Flanagan is an assassin in compression socks.”)

Last week, marathoning legend Joan Benoit Samuelson told me that she felt Hasay’s nice race in Chicago offered additional motivation for Flanagan heading into New York. Flanagan is likely by no means quick on motivation, however maybe with Hasay respiratory down her neck there was a further sense of urgency. “The athlete’s mind in me told me that she’d have something to prove now,” Samuelson stated. Flanagan actually ran prefer it on November 5, dropping three-time defending NYC champ Mary Keitany on 5th Avenue and powering house to turn into the primary American lady to win the New York City Marathon in 40 years. (In response, Hasay offered her brief congratulations on social media.)

Now it is likely to be Hasay who has one thing to show. Granted, at 26 she’s simply getting her ft moist within the marathon, however Hasay has a historical past of unbelievable races that introduced her tantalizingly near pulling off the massive win. It’s an ambivalent honor, which, till very just lately, appeared like it could be Flanagan’s legacy. Despite being the most decorated runner within the University of Oregon’s historical past with a mixed 18 collegiate All-America awards, Hasay by no means gained an out of doors nationwide title. Her resume at NCAA DI cross-country championships consists of 3 podium finishes—3rd (2010), 2nd (2011), 3rd (2012)—however no outright victories. Given her super potential over 26.2 miles, the onus is on Hasay to show that she can’t solely run obscenely quick in main highway races, however that she will be able to additionally win them.

So far, neither Flanagan nor Hasay has dedicated to operating the Boston Marathon in 2018. But the unofficial rivalry between these 2 ladies is a thousand instances extra intriguing than what’s at the moment occurring on the lads’s aspect of American marathoning the place, for higher or worse (in all probability for worse), Galen Rupp stands alone. Having previously intimated that she would possibly retire after New York, Flanagan says she needs the choice about whether or not to run Boston to “come naturally” over the following few weeks. If the Boston Athletic Association is aware of what’s good for them, they are going to do the whole lot of their energy to woo her and Hasay to Hopkinton subsequent April. While they’re at it, they need to prolong invites to Molly Huddle (the U.S. 10,000-meter document holder who made her marathon debut final 12 months in New York) and Amy Cragg (Flanagan’s coaching associate who gained a bronze medal within the marathon finally summer time’s IAAF world championships), so we are able to have a battle royale between the titans of American distance operating.  

Now that might be a combat value watching.


(Editor references)

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