How Shalane Flanagan Ran Six Fast Marathons in Seven Weeks


Very last drop, four-time Olympian and marathon good Shalane Flanagan arrived out of retirement to go after the the moment-in-a-lifetime possibility of running all six of the Abbott Globe Marathon Majors in 1 period. Owing to COVID, spring races had been rescheduled, so Berlin, London, Chicago, Boston, Tokyo, and New York had been held in a 7-7 days span. Flanagan ran them all in what she identified as Project Eclipse.

Tracing the arc of Flanagan’s finishes, it is clear her task was do the job of precision engineering. She commenced robust, rolled by means of the middle marathons, and ran an impressive finest-of-six two:33:32 in the capstone New York Town Marathon. She to begin with hoped to full the six marathons with an normal time of less than a few hoursand she did handily, with a ultimate normal of two:38:thirty.

From the outside the house, it appears clear that she had a fantastic system and adopted it to a T. But inquire Flanagan how it went, and she’ll convey to you very the reverse. She did not train perfectly, she felt the endeavor was “in serious jeopardy” midway, she had to hone her fueling and recovery skills, and she needed assist from family members, friends—and even frequent blood tests.

Flanagan succeeded, she believes, not mainly because she was tremendous in good shape, but mainly because she predicted the stumbling blocks and knew how to hurdle them. “I was nervous at the beginning, mainly because I wasn’t confident I was all set,” she says. “I created it to the end mainly because I was as proactive and preemptive as I could be.”

Flanagan does not pretend she’s just like anyone else. No, she’s nonetheless an Olympic silver medalist (for the 10,000 meters in 2008), a New York Town Marathon winner (2017), and a hardened veteran with two many years of globe-course competitive endeavours. That claimed, everyday living has a different tint now: she’s 40, with a year-old son, a coaching task, and a good deal of marketing do the job to do for Nike and her a few cookbooks. “My times are really comprehensive, and they are no extended centered on my have coaching,” she says. “My athletes are my precedence, and I’m pulled in a whole lot of directions.”

In a latest interview through Zoom, Flanagan talked about the hurdles, the scares, and her eventual accomplishment in her quest. (The function was hosted by InsideTracker, an athlete-centered blood-tests enterprise that has partnered with Flanagan and supplied her with frequent biometric checks all over Project Eclipse.)

Here’s how she did it, and how you can stick to in her footsteps.

Locate Your Objective

Positive, Shalane Flanagan is a well known international athlete with books, endorsements, and more, but that does not indicate she life in Camelot. She had surgical treatment on the two knees in 2019, hoping mainly for a return to soreness-totally free running in 2020. The surgeries went perfectly adequate, but 2020 wasn’t a easy year for everyone. While she and her husband had been thrilled to undertake an toddler boy, Jack, that April, little one-rearing brings a good deal of new stress and pressure.

This summer season was powerful, with the Olympic Trials for observe and field in late June and the Olympic Games in Tokyo a month later. As a coach to Nike’s Bowerman Keep track of Club runners, Flanagan had a frantic and anxious time of it. She commenced looking for a individually energizing effort, and was intrigued when she identified that the six Globe Marathon Majors had been returning to in-particular person races in a limited, 7-7 days time period.

She felt a robust pull to return to the running arena as a participant. “I wanted a crazy journey to reset my mental well being and to reconnect with running—my finest close friend for so long,” she says.

Set a Marginally Audacious Goal

A intention is different from a objective. The initial is an introspective, superior-stage mission the second, more nitty-gritty. What are you going to do, and when?

Ambitions should really be a little bit grandiose but also achievable. Flanagan had expended several years running twenty-milers just about just about every weekend. There had been number of because retirement, but her long-run lender account was comprehensive. She resolved to journey to and race all six majors, on a few continents, and aim to full each and every in less than a few hours.

As well as, she had a mystery inspiration. Flanagan knew she had a shot at an unbeatable globe report. “I understood the majors would never yet again occur so shut to each and every other,” she says. “I adore geeking out above stuff like that and thinking about what I’d have to do to cope with it all.” Not that the individually-contrived report would ever be recognized. But that is the attractiveness of intention setting. You can invent and chase regardless of what mark you want

Make a 360-Degree Help Program

“I knew I couldn’t complete Project Eclipse with no a significant guidance team,” Flanagan says. So she assembled 1. It bundled babysitting help, coaching and racing associates, a good deal of sleep and recovery time, cooking and nutrition assistance in her have kitchen, and blood-stage monitoring from InsideTracker.

She credits running partner Carrie Dimoff, who ran a two:29:33 at the California Global Marathon on December 5, with assisting her by means of a lot of the coaching. She also had pacing associates in all but 1 of her marathons. At Boston she ran with previous Bowerman elite athlete Andy Bumbalough, who has a marathon PR of two:10:fifty six. She submitted blood do the job in mid-August to create a baseline and then had a few more blood assessments involving her second marathon (London) and her very last 1 (New York), offering insights on her muscle, bone and brain-well being, recovery, and oxygen-transportation techniques, all of which informed her coaching and nutrition.

“It was it’s possible the highlight of my running profession to share Project Eclipse with so lots of close friends and supporters,” Flanagan says. “It was the journey of a lifetime.”

Acknowledge Altered Ideas

Flanagan never had a long-range system to run the six marathon majors. In point, she did not even announce her intention right until mid-September. By then she had currently missed quite a few months of what should really have been her coaching-buildup period—June, July, and August.

She expended most of that time attending to her Bowerman Keep track of Club runners at the Olympic Trials and the Tokyo Olympics. “At the Trials, I obtained in occasional thirty-moment operates some times and nothing at all at all on other times,” she says. “It wasn’t a lot, but I told myself that at least I had been paying out a whole lot of time on my toes.”

Tokyo was even worse, with its notorious midsummer humidity and rigorous COVID protocols. While Flanagan managed 1 ten-mile run for the duration of the Games, she expended hours each and every day going for walks involving many Olympic venues. Not the finest planning for six marathons, but “I identified as it my ‘poor man’s altitude coaching,’” she says.

Regulate the Purple Flags

The initial InsideTracker blood final result, in mid-August, revealed that Flanagan’s vitamin B12 level was “suboptimal,” in the terms of nutrition expert Stevie Lyn Smith. She encouraged Flanagan to start on a B12 health supplement though also taking in more B12 foods like organ meats, fish, dairy, and eggs. Smith also prompt a vitamin D health supplement and an iron health supplement. She believes in foods initial, then dealing with acknowledged deficiencies with particular supplements, not scattershot multivitamins.

Immediately after a good initial marathon in Berlin, Flanagan ran into problems in London. She did not like the unfamiliar food solutions, which bothered her abdomen and likely led to underfueling. Jack, who was traveling with her, arrived down with a chilly and passed it along. Flanagan commenced too fast (a rookie mistake) and had to halt and stroll for the initial time in her racing profession. As a final result, she ran the second half five minutes slower than the initial, feeling awful all the way.

Her publish-London blood examination revealed dramatically bigger liver- and muscle-breakdown markers, along with elevated inflammation and an enhance in white blood cells. “I considered the complete task was in jeopardy,” she says. “I felt definitely fatigued, and the blood outcomes told me it wasn’t just in my head. I knew I had to make a significant reassessment.”

When in Doubt, Go Again to Fundamental principles

Flanagan had hit a slippery slope. With four marathons to go, she understood she may possibly spiral even farther downward. But she did not want to halt rather, she chose to refocus. “I wasn’t going to give up,” she says. “I resolved to system for the worst and hope for the finest.”

She created substantial modifications to her coaching, traveling, and fueling. She remaining Jack at house for the back again-to-back again, Sunday-Monday Chicago-Boston double, took an ice tub involving the two races, and recruited a close friend, Natalie Bickford, to her kitchen to assist prepare and freeze some favorite superior-nutrition foods from her cookbooks. These bundled Bolognese sauce, turkey meatballs, beef and lentil minestrone, turmeric-coconut curry sauce, dim chocolate and banana muffins, and buckwheat-chocolate-molasses cookies. She consumed these at house and also carried quite a few journey-all set freezer baggage with her on the street.

As a veteran runner and cookbook creator, Flanagan did not will need to stretch for new tips. She just had to concentrate on what she currently knew.

Just This When, Really don’t Hear to Your Physique

Flanagan did improve 1 important exercise. She had long acknowledged about the “glycogen replacement window’’—that thirty-to-sixty-moment time period following a difficult run when leg muscle mass are primed to take in and shop carbohydrates. But a runner may possibly also feel sweaty, tired, and potentially queasy for the duration of that time. “You’re not automatically hungry,” Flanagan says. “It’s effortless to convey to your self it can’t make a really significant variance.”

Her nutrition expert encouraged her to imagine if not. “I convey to runners this is a time to make a ‘business meeting’ with their fuel,” Smith says. “You may possibly not have any hunger, but you will need to set the fueling session into your calendar like any other meeting.”

Flanagan tried out this and felt much better for the effort. “I imagine I may possibly have been underfueled for a lot of my profession,” she says. “This is unquestionably a little something I’m going to emphasize with my athletes going ahead.”

Goal to Thrive, Not Just Survive

Immediately after Boston, Flanagan’s blood do the job appeared a lot better—all the muscle-breakdown and inflammation markers had dropped down properly, and she felt greater, too. It did not harm that she only had Tokyo and New York to go, with almost a few weeks involving them. Immediately after racing Tokyo pretty much with close friends all-around her Oregon neighborhood—given that the race was canceled due to a COVID-19 surge—she commenced scheduling for a robust complete.

“I needed New York to be the exclamation point at the end of Project Eclipse,” she says. “I needed to clearly show that I could not just endure, that I could basically thrive.”

She did. She ran the initial half of New York in 1:seventeen:08, and the second half in 1:16:24, for a complete time of two:33:32. That placed her second overall in the 40-to-44 age team and a decisive initial between those people who had run the five prior majors this year (so significantly no other is acknowledged).

Dare to Have Entertaining

Flanagan considers herself a realist. She is aware just about every day can’t be a peak practical experience, and she’d be happy not to relive the London Marathon yet again. But she says she had more exciting with Project Eclipse, specially its 360-degree guidance program, than she did though competing in her previously times. “As an elite runner, you have all-around this kind of superior expectations and concerns about your self-well worth that it can be difficult to get pleasure from the pleasure of the method,” she says.

Project Eclipse proved significantly different. For 1 issue, she realized that lots of runners basically communicate to each and every other for the duration of their marathons. Diverse runners launched on their own to Flanagan en route, commenting that her son was definitely cute, that they had been “teammates” who had been also wearing Bowerman Keep track of Club singlets, that they had been carrying “energy bites” from her cookbook (and offering to share), and inviting her on a ski family vacation in Sweden.

“I’m a social runner, but elites don’t have conversations like this for the duration of marathons,” Flanagan noted. “It was a really different and exciting practical experience.”

In point, she misses it now. “Project Eclipse gave me an appreciation for getting nutritious and becoming a member of other runners at huge races. It was a neat 42 times, and I’m unhappy that it is above. I hope anyone else makes an attempt a little something that will make them feel so fully alive.”