Shalane Flanagan, 36, is the first American to win the women’s New York City Marathon since 1977. She is a four-time Olympian, a bronze medalist in the 10,000 meters and the American record-holder in the 3000m, 5000m and 15K road race. She is also the co-author (with her “best friend of 17 years,” chef Elyse Kopecky) of Run Fast. Eat Slow.: Nourishing Recipes for Athletes. We caught up with the 5’5” blonde blur to talk diet, exercise and preventing joint pain as you train.
What dietary changes have you made?
I started incorporating oils like coconut oil and olive oil, good meats, darker meats like chicken thighs and grass-fed beef, and the whole-milk yogurts, and started to steer away from a lot of the processed foods and (energy) bars that I had become reliant upon. With the addition of the healthy fats in my diet I was feeling fuller longer, feeling more nourished. I was seeing better results, which ultimately made me happier.
What can runners eat to minimize joint pain?
Bone broth is really good at replenishing, rehydrating and also good for joints. We have a recipe in our cookbook for bone broth (see page 9). I’m cooking that up once or twice a week and storing it and freezing it and making soups or even sipping on it as a recovery drink. That’s probably my favorite to make sure my joints are feeling good. Obviously antioxidants do wonders to the body, so a lot of fruits and vegetables. Anything that’s chock-full of antioxidants is what I’m looking for, and always eases the aches and pains.
What exercises help with injury prevention?
A lot on hip strength and glute strength. A lot of runners have poor hip mobility and hip flexor strength. We’re doing a lot of walk-over hurdle drills. We’ll do some kettle bell series — weighted and squats. We’re not in there doing a ton of heavy lifting. Every now and then we’ll do some more explosive stuff. Sometimes we’ll do ladders. But mostly we’re striving for injury prevention, rather than good-looking abs.
What are you doing to prolong your running career?
You have to work on recovery a lot harder than you did before. I remember in my 20s, I just bounced out of bed and go run. Now I need a full hour to get that stretch in, I need that coffee, I need a full meal. Things have changed, and I’ve had to adapt and listen to my body. I definitely take the time to do the little things. And that means doing the foam rolling and the stretching, getting a massage once a week, going to see a chiropractor, getting some needling done to promote good overall health.
How old is “too old” to run a marathon?
Never. Never too old. I was in the Phoenix area and this man I met, he and I would meet on the track every Tuesday; I’d be doing my workout, he’d be doing his. He was training for Boston (Marathon) and he was 75. Out there with his wife, doing 200 (meters), doing his speed work on the track. I would tell everyone, “We’re both training for Boston!” He’s like, “Yeah! Damn right we are!” At 75. Amazing.
How do you celebrate winning a marathon?
Anytime you’ve crossed the finish line of a marathon, it’s a reason to celebrate. So my go-to generally is a good burger, fries and a beer.
Run Fast, Eat Slow & Prevent Pain
“Bone broth might be a perfect recovery food for runners,” according to Run Fast. Eat Slow., a book by four-time Olympian Shalane Flanagan and chef Elyse Kopecky. Here’s a great recipe for runners aiming to minimize joint pain.
2-3 lbs. chicken bones
4 quarts cold filtered water
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 yellow onions (unpeeled, cut into quarters)
3 carrots (unpeeled, cut into thirds)
½ bunch celery (cut into thirds)
6 black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1 bunch fresh parsley
Place chicken bones in slow cooker. Add water and vinegar and let stand for 30 minutes. • Rinse vegetables. • Add onions, carrots, celery, peppercorns and bay leaf. • Cook on low for 24 hours. (Ensure bones stay submerged; add water if needed.) • In last 10 minutes, add parsley.
Strain broth through large mesh sieve placed over large heatproof container. • Discard vegetables and bones. • Transfer broth to fridge, skim fat that rises to top. • Add sea salt or miso to taste prior to sipping.