What’s in a team? If you’re a runner working towards getting the most of yourself, while also giving yourself to others, your training group is everything.
Since Shalane Flanagan’s win at the New York City Marathon a couple of weeks ago, a lot of details have come out about the team she trains with in Portland, Oregon. Flanagan joined the Bowerman Track Club in 2009 as the lone female, which in itself was a display of confidence, courage and vision. By committing herself to this team, she helped propel the club to where it is today.
Over the years, Flanagan worked with coach Jerry Schumacher to bring more women to the club. Bit by bit, she turned her one-woman act into an ensemble of the most formidable female runners in the United States.
One of the many notable facts that have come out in the wake of Flanagan’s historic victory in New York is that every one of the eleven women she’s trained with over the past eight years has made it to the Olympics. With a reputation like that, the Bowerman Track Club is now in a position to attract already-made Olympians and further bolster the competitive, yet supportive environment set forth by years and years of Flanagan’s hard work. Her dedication is an outstanding example of a runner’s commitment to bettering not just herself, but everyone around her.
The club announced earlier this week that 2016 Olympians Marielle Hall (10,000m) and Kate Grace (800m) have both joined the team. Rumours are circulating that 2016 Olympic Gold Medalist in the triathlon, Gwen Jorgensen, is eyeing the Bowerman Track Club as she makes the transition away from the triathlon to full time marathon training. The two athletes have trained together in the past as the triathlete posted about Flanagan on her social feeds after her big win.
With this line up of strong women, the #BowermanBabes (as they’ve dubbed themselves) are in fine standing whether Flanagan decides it’s time to step back, or not. Selfishly, I’m hoping for the “or not.” How fun would it be to watch what flourishes out of there with Flanagan training alongside these women?
There’s no doubt, from my own training experience, and from what I’m learning of Flanagan’s experience, that there’s power in numbers. While living in Saskatoon, I trained with a group of competitive runners comprised of a handful of men and women. That was an incredibly positive experience for me. This team is where the foundation of my running journey was laid. Together, we braved wildly sub-zero temperatures that are so characteristic of the Canadian Prairies, the dark evenings on the trails, bright mornings on the track and endless miles underfoot. Through all of these runs and workouts, we continued to challenge and support one another in the pursuit of our goals.
Given my own experience, I don’t find it one bit surprising that one of the greatest American runners of all time had the intuition to know that the way to the top was going to be surrounded by other talented, competitive women. I’ve now observed them raising one another up and bringing out the best in each other. That kind of support is invaluable. I count myself lucky to have experienced this myself and will consider myself fortunate if I’m to experience it again.