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Runner's World: Flanagan and Webb Coaching at Portland State
Author: Peter Gambaccini
Posted: September 9, 2013

Read the original article in Runner's World here.

Shalane Flanagan (below), the premier American woman marathoner for the past two years, and U.S. mile record holder Alan Webb have become part of the cross country coaching staff at Portland State University, serving as volunteer assistant coaches. 

"With PSU, it’s literally right down the hill from my house and it’s very convenient,” Flanagan told Runner's World Newswire. “The [distance] coach, Jonathan Marcus, is friends with my husband and has helped me with some workouts before. He’s got good energy and is a fun person to be around.” The idea of her helping at PSU came “from just a random conversation [she and Marcus] were having this summer when I was home for a brief stint before I left for Europe. I didn’t even know that Alan was interested in doing the same thing as well. It was fun to hear that both of us would be helping out with the team.”

“I’m really good friends with Alan and his wife, Julia. I actually coach Julia,” who was ninth in the steeplechase at the 2013 USATF Championships, said Portland State’s Marcus. Julia Webb had become a Bowerman Athletic Club training partner of Marcus’ wife, Kristen Rohde. “Alan’s definitely thinking, when he finishes his running career, he wants to get into coaching and this would be a good snippet for him. Same with Shalane.

“This would give them a chance to be in our environment, to work with athletes at this level and have an impact,” Marcus said. “The idea was to bring them on in the fall, when they’re mostly around Portland” and not off at other training venues.

“Having elite athletes present on staff is something that gets the kids excited," Marcus said. "Some of the best people in the world are telling them how it is done.” Marcus said Flanagan’s and Webb’s presence “right now is for cross country, but it could very well extend to a more permanent thing for indoor and outdoor track as well, based on their training and racing schedule.”

“I have long-term aspirations of coaching, in what capacity and at what level, I’m not sure," Flanagan said. “But any time I can gain knowledge and be around the sport in a different manner, it just makes me a better athlete and a hopefully better coach down the road.” Flanagan had two previous volunteer stints at her alma mater, the University of North Carolina, one right after graduation and another during a return for the fall season after she had relocated to Oregon.

“It’s just fun to be around young people,” said Flanagan, who is 32. “It energizes me and I like to be playing a different role in the sport, being more supportive.”

Portland State is an NCAA Division I team; its rivals include Northern Arizona and Montana. There’s also a rivalry with the University of Portland, where former American 10,000-meter record holder Chris Solinsky has been a volunteer coach.

“Chris has just talking smack to me this morning about recruiting classes," said Flanagan. "We’ve got some competition across the river.” Marcus had been an assistant at the University of Portland and is partly responsible for bringing Solinsky into that program.

Portland State’s women’s cross country squad is a small one, with just ten runners on the roster. The extent of Flanagan’s involvement is still being worked out. After an eighth-place finish in the 10,000 at the world championships in Moscow, Flanagan has taken a break and is “just ramping up my training a little bit. That’s always going to take a priority, but their practices start at 1:00 p.m., which is a perfectly fine time for me to meet them. I’m going to be there as much as I can be as long as it doesn’t compromise the training that I have to get in that day. I envision being there about three days a week.”

Flanagan said her autumn racing plans might include the 5-K that finishes in Central Park on November 2, the day before the New York City Marathon, and the new .US National Road Racing Championships, a 12-K in Alexandria, Virginia, on November 17.