Shalane Flanagan, the top American distance runner who came down with food poisoning this week at the Team U.S.A. track camp in Dalian, China, seemed to be OK this morning in Beijing. In fact, Flanagan was feeling good enough to take the bronze medal in the 10,000-meters finals.
Flanagan finished in 30:22.22, which lowers her American record she set last May 5. She also became just the second American woman to medal in the 10,000, joining Princeton's Lynn Jennings.
Flanagan finished behind Tirunesh Dibaba of Ethiopia, who finished in an Olympic-record 29:54.66 and Turkey’s Elvan Abeylegesse, who ran 29:56.34.
Americans Kara Goucher finished 10th in 30:55.16 and Amy Begley came in 26th in 32:38.28.
Both Flanagan and Goucher will run in the 5,000-meters, which begin Tuesday.
However, just a couple of days ago Flanagan’s participation in the Olympics were in doubt. Tuesday morning Flanagan woke up at 2 a.m. with stomach distress that delayed her trip to Beijing and left her coach John Cook thinking that she may have to skip the 10,000 in order to get healthy to concentrate on the 5,000-meters.
“Today the world kind of collapsed a bit,” Cook told NBC Universal. “She didn’t sleep at all last night. It just came out of nowhere and she spent most of the night in the bathroom.”
Flanagan laid low for the rest of the week leaving experts to suggest that she was in too weak to be a threat despite the fact that she owned the best 10,000-meter time in the world in 2008 with a 30:34.49. Actually, reports from Beijing were that Flanagan was going to race halfway and decide how she felt. If she wasn’t feeling good, Flanagan could step off the track and prepare for the 5,000.
Obviously, she was feeling pretty good.
Flanagan and the lead pack in the 31-women field went through the first mile in 4:49 thanks to lower humidity for the 10:45 p.m. start in the Bird’s Nest in Beijing. The pack stayed together through the first half of the race with The Netherlands Lornah Kiplagat, Dibaba, Abeylegesse and Ethiopian Mustawet Tufa pulling the runners.
The pack strung out into a single-file line past halfway and Flanagan dropped back a bit around 8-kiliometers, falling to sixth place. She quickly rallied after two laps and was within striking distance of third place with less than a mile to go.
But with approximately 800-meters to go, Flanagan surged into third place and held it to the bell lap. From there, Flanagan ran the final lap in 68 seconds to smash her American record and win the bronze. However, when Flanagan finished the race she had no idea she was in third place. Because she had lapped so many runners while driving for the tape, she didn't know if she was passing contenders or stragglers. When she crossed the finish line, Flanagan asked, "Did I do it?"
Much to her surprise, she had.
"I had no idea I was even in third," she said after the race. "I was praying I was, but I thought I might've been in fourth, and I didn't know whether to celebrate."
Her pre-race plan worked.
"My plan going out was just to go with the flow, zone out, and then go for it at the 250," Flanagan said, noting that she wanted to "fall asleep for as many laps as you can and just give it a go.
"It was enough," she said
Flanagan also wasn't aware that her time was good enough for another American record. In the past year she has set the American standard in the 3,000-meters, 5,000-meters and the 10,000-meters, twice.
"Wow, I’ll take that," Flanagan said. "I had food poisoning a couple of days ago — at least I don’t know if it was food poisoning but it wasn’t pretty — but they took good care of me and they got me rehydrated."
Can Flanagan make it two in the 5,000? Heading into the 10,000, her coach Cook said she was in really good shape.
1 Tirunesh Dibaba ETH 29:54.66 (OR)
2 Elvan Abeylegesse TUR 29:56.34 (AR)
3 Shalane Flanagan USA 30:22.22 (AR)
4 Linet Chepkwemoi Masai KEN 30:26.50 (WJ)
5 Mariya Konovalova RUS 30:35.84 (PB)
6 Inga Abitova RUS 30:37.33 (SB)
7 Lucy Kabuu Wangui KEN 30:39.96 (PB)
8 Lornah Kiplagat NED 30:40.27 (SB)
9 Kimberley Smith NZL 30:51.00
10 Kara Goucher USA 30:55.16 (PB)
11 Kayoko Fukushi JPN 31:01.14 (SB)
12 Joanne Pavey GBR 31:12.30 (PB)
13 Sabrina Mockenhaupt GER 31:14.21 (PB)
14 Ejegayehu Dibaba ETH 31:22.18
15 Hilda Kibet NED 31:29.69
16 Yingying Zhang CHN 31:31.12 (SB)
17 Yoko Shibui JPN 31:31.13
18 Penninah Arusei KEN 31:39.87
19 Tatyana Khmeleva-Aryasova RUS 31:45.57
20 Yukiko Akaba JPN 32:00.37
21 Xue Bai CHN 32:20.27
22 Anikó Kálovics HUN 32:24.83
23 Kate Reed GBR 32:26.69
24 Nathalie De Vos BEL 32:33.45 (SB)
25 Preeja Sreedharan IND 32:34.64
26 Amy Begley-Yoder USA 32:38.28
27 Dulce María Rodríguez MEX 32:58.04
28 Xiaoqin Dong CHN 33:03.14
29 Isabel Checa ESP 33:17.88
DNF Mestawet Tufa ETH
DNF Asmae Leghzaoui MAR
DNS Nataliya Berkut UKR
Meanwhile, Americans Bernard Lagat, Lopez Lomong and Leo Manzano all advanced in the 1,500-meters, while Jenny Barringer and Anna Willard advanced to the finals in the women's 3,000-meters steeplechase...
The best one? Flotrack went to Michigan to hang with marathoner Brian Sell at The Home Depot. Yes, between his twice-a-day workouts that peak out at 160-miles per week, Sell works in the garden department. Watch it.
Are we a nation of distance runners or what?