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Breaking Down Shalane Flanagan’s Stanford 10k

PALO  ALTO — Much like she did two years ago, Shalane Flanagan took to the track for what amounted to be a 10,000 meter time trial at the Stanford Invitational as a tune-up for the Boston Marathon in two weeks.

Flanagan had company this time in Ethiopian Gelete Burka, who ultimately passed Flanagan on the final lap to win in 31:08.16 ahead of Flanagan’s 31:09.02.

Flanagan spoke to the media after the race and made a few comments worth analyzing.

When asked about differences between this year’s Boston preparations compared to past years’, Flanagan noted, “My build-up has been shorter [due to a hiccup in training in January], so I’m mentally more fresh and that transcends to the body as well. I feel a big momentum going into it. Sometimes I’ve felt like I’m just surviving the last few weeks because I’m tired. I think it’s a blessing in disguise.”

I tend to agree with Flanagan’s last statement. As she noted in a follow up question, Flanagan has 10 years of setback-free training in her legs prior to the January injury, making lack of fitness a non-issue.

In the past two Boston Marathons, Flanagan truly laid it all on the line but just didn’t have enough to pull of the win. Though unintentional, this altered training cycle could be just the tweak she needs to come out on top.

When asked about what she expects for this year’s Boston race, Flanagan’s response hinted at her own race plan:“I think it’s going to be a much tighter finish which is going to make for a really great event. I think it’ll be a little more tactical this year and an overall closer race because there will be 10 sub-2:23 women.”

Last year, Flanagan served as the glorified rabbit, leading from the gun until the 20-mile mark, when a pack of East Africans moved to the front and left her in the dust.

By anticipating a more tactical race, Flanagan is all but ruling out a repeat of the same strategy, a wise tactic given the fact winning is her sole focus.

A few other observations from Stanford:

Gabe Grunewald had an up-and-down 2014 outdoor season that followed the chaos of her win-to-DQ-to-win U.S. indoor 3k title. She now looks to be back in form after winning a thrilling women’s 5000 meters that saw three women — Grunewald, Nicole Sifuentes and Alisha Williams — all dip below the World Championships ‘A’ standard of 15:20. This 14 second personal best for 5000 sets Grunewald up well for her specialty, the 1500 meters.

The road back for German Fernandez appears to be on track. Fernandez won the tactical ‘A’ section of the men’s 1500 meters in 3:43.72 against a solid field primarily consisting of collegiates. Not blazing fast, but a step in right direction.

After some misguided pre-race hype, the Oregon superstar duo of Edward Cheserek and Eric Jenkins ran a controlled 10,000 meters, finishing in 29:08.06 and 29:08.08, respectively. The effort should easily qualify them for the NCAA preliminaries (29:37.56 qualified in the west prelim last year).

We’ve seen fewer top collegiates run fast, time trial 10k’s in the last few years, with the exception of athletes chasing World and Olympic qualifying standards.

Though playing it safe by running a conservative qualifying mark is understandable given the NCAA championship system, it’s not quite as fun for fans.

Think about the story lines. How fast can King Ches running flat-out run for a 10k? Can Jenkins challenge Chris Derrick’s American collegiate record of 27:31.38?

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