By: Mizuno Race Team Member, Lindsay Flanagan
This past July, I competed in the women’s marathon at the Pan American Games in Toronto. As a professional runner, representing your country at an international competition is one of the highest honors you can achieve. Therefore, when offered the spot in early spring, I gladly accepted and got to work. With the Olympic Trials marathon quickly approaching, February of 2016, my coach and I decided that The Games would be an excellent opportunity to practice tactical, championship style racing, where place, not time, is of utmost importance.
I left several days before the race, which took place on July 18. Lucky for me, Canada is very close to Washington DC and I only had to endure a one-hour plane ride; I’m slightly terrified of flying so this was fantastic. After landing, and making my way through an extremely decorated airport welcoming athletes to the games, I was quickly picked up by the US Olympic Committee and taken to team processing. There, I received even more Team USA gear, in addition to the massive suitcase that was already sent to me, was sized for Podium apparel, in case I placed in the top 3, and was photographed. Next stop, the Pan Am Athlete Village!
The Athlete Village was incredible, with individuals from an array of sports and countries filling its interior. Each country was given its own dormitory-style building as a residence while competing. One of the best parts of the village, by far, was the Dining Hall. Enclosed in an enormous tent, the dining hall offered any food item you could possibly want- and I mean anything. There was endless sushi, burgers, stir fry, pasta, a massive salad and fruit bar, dessert, and so much more. Thankfully, I used my upcoming marathon as an excuse to try just about everything…
The day before the race, I went on a course tour with the Team USA staff. I was told the course would be comprised of four, 10k loops with a 2k extension at the beginning; simple, right? As soon as the tour began, however, I knew I was going to be in for a treat the next day. The first few miles were slightly rolling, nothing too crazy, but the real fun began at mile 3, when you entered ‘High Park’. The park’s name was more than fitting as it was extremely, extremely hilly-did I mention it was hilly? You essentially went straight up hill for over a mile, made a tight hair pin turn, only to go straight back down. While a long downhill may seem nice, when you are running a marathon, and your quads are already toast, it can be a bit of a challenge. I walked away from the tour nervous, but I also knew I was ready to compete.
My alarm clock went off at 4 AM on race day and I quickly downed some breakfast before hopping on the bus at 5:15. As soon as I walked outside, I found the temperature was already in the 70s with nearly 100% humidity. I knew this was going to make the race even more challenging but I reminded myself that place, not time, was important. I would need to run smart if I wanted to place in the top 3 and receive a coveted medal.
When the gun finally went off, I settled in with the lead pack for a slow first 10k. The pack was pretty bunched until mile 12, when two Peruvian women and I began to break away. I was unable to stick with the leader and ran the next eight miles solo, still in second. However, with 10k to go, I developed a terrible side cramp and was passed by the defending champion from Argentina. I had to dig very deep that last 10k; with lactic acid seething through my veins, my body was telling me to stop but my mind said no. My entire family, along with my coach, was out on the course and I used their energy to propel me forward. I knew I was representing something much larger than myself and I wanted to bring home a medal for Team USA. I had to keep pushing forward.
I don’t remember the final miles, but I do remember seeing the finish line and hearing the roar of the crowd. I crossed the line and was immediately greeted by Team USA officials who told me I finished 3rd! I was absolutely thrilled by this news; it made the most painful race I have ever run all worth it. I spent the rest of the day with my family; I ordered two meals at brunch and celebrated with even more food and drink later in the evening, it was a great day!
I recently received news that, after failing a drug test, the winner of the marathon will be returning her medal and I will now be receiving Silver-Crazy! This shows that taking short cuts is never the way to go; honesty and hard work always win in the end. I will never forget my experience at the Pan Am Games and I hope to represent Team USA again in the future. I will continue to chase my dreams and never settle.
Lindsay is a native of Arlington Heights, Ill., where she was a four-time prep All-American in cross country and track and field while attending Lake Park High School. After high school Lindsay attended the University of Washington where she majored in Nutrition and Public Health. During her time at UW, Lindsay was an All-American at 10,000m, a four-time NCAA XC Nationals participant and ran a 2016 Olympic Marathon Trials Qualifying time of 1:13:56 in the Big Sur Half-Marathon. Most recently, Lindsay placed 3rd at the Pan-Am Games in Toronto in the Marathon in 2:36:30. Lindsay joins Serena Burla and Sheree Shea in Washington, DC under the guidance of Isaya Okwiya.