"Shalane Flanagan cut such a familiar figure Sunday, running toward the cameras in Central Park at the New York City Marathon, that it seemed odd she hadn't been seen on a marathon course since the 2016 Rio Olympics. With her upright carriage, high cheekbones flushed with exertion, chin tucked, blond ponytail switching back and forth like a metronome, she has been a fixture in big international distance races for 10 years now: always in contention, never quite able to close the last gap. Now she was the one who was accelerating beyond reach."
"The dream was to get around the world in 80 days. To get back here in 78 days and change is an absolute dream come true. When I left here, I felt like a lot of people were excited by the idea but thought it was impossible. The success of cycling around the world in 80 days shows that what seemed impossible is possible and has redefined the limits of endurance sport... I've had the most incredible team. Ten years ago I finished here doing an unsupported race around the world and this time to go with a full support team is a completely different mindset."
Covert use of performance enhancing substances — aka “cheating” — is as old as organized sports. Even the Ancient Greeks are said to have taken “potions" to enhance their athletic prowess. Today, with one drug-cheating revelation after another splashed across the headlines, many people are so fed up they now regard most exceptional performances with skepticism and disbelief.
In order to separate and clarify the elements of breakthrough marathon performance we need to acknowledge some of the most widespread problems. Too much dependency on 'quantitative' long runs and generic tempo runs, for example, rather than 'qualitative' hill workouts, 5K & 10K paced sessions & speed-strength circuits designed to complement those essential longer efforts. By supervising these higher intensity exertions carefully, I see them have a much broader impact on V02 max and lactate threshold, key physiological variables that effect endurance running success.
A recently published report from the website RunRepeat.com found that American road race results are slower than ever before. The report looked at more than 34 million U.S. road race results between 1996 and 2016, the largest analysis of its kind. The only ones not getting slower are the top elite runners.