Shalane Flanagan has had quite the February. Earlier this week, she announced her split with coach John Cook , citing “personal and professional” differences. On Saturday, she toed the line at the Reebok Boston Indoor Games with the intent to break Marla Runyan’s indoor 5000m American Record.
With Marina Muncan setting an even pace as the rabbit, Flanagan found herself seven seconds under pace for the American record in the 5,000-meter run with a handful of laps remaining and Sentayehu Ejigu from Ethiopia lurking just two steps back looking strong and ready to pounce.
Flanagan remained calm and continued to push the pace, taking on the brunt of the work both mentally and physically as the front runner. But her intent was to get that record, so she was willing to make the sacrifice. With four laps remaining she accelerated even more but Ejigu remained just a couple of strides behind.
Running all out around the final corner, the two crossed the line together, but it was Ejigu who got the win ahead of Flanagan, literally by a nose (the difference was 0.005 seconds). Flanagan got her record though in 14 minutes, 47.61 seconds, around 20 seconds faster than the previous record.
The next day (Sunday), the Washington Post posted an interview with John Cook, Flanagan’s now former coach, about his split with both Flanagan and fellow Olympian and longtime friend Erin Donohue. Cook had some honest and blunt words about the split, saying “[Flanagan's husband Steve Edwards] has always had insidious intent to coach. I was warned by a North Carolina coach to keep an eye on him. Of course, it is hard to hide workouts when you are intimately involved with athletes. [Edwards] has made his job his wife — period. He even films [workouts]. I was too trusting and they had a plan – learn, copy, use all my training system and then take over.”
Apparently Cook and Donohue disagreed over her longterm goals. Donohue wants to go after a medal at the 2012 Games and break 4:00 in the 1500m in the process. Cook’s response was, “The fact [is] that Erin does not make it with Shannon [Rowbury, Donohue's training partner and fellow Olympian]. It is not Shannon’s fault. [Shannon] is a really nice person. Erin needs to know she is only as good as she is. There will be not 4:00. That is a dream.”
Good for Donohue for knowing when it’s time to move on. Your coach has to believe in you. Best of luck to these women in finding a new coach and better training situation.