In the fall of 2015, Amy Cragg and Shalane Flanagan became training partners at the Nike center in Oregon. Their goal was the same: qualify for the marathon for the 2016 Olympic games in Rio.
Day after day and mile after mile, they ran together with hopes that their punishing training program would eventually help them achieve Olympic glory.
“In competitive environments, it’s cutthroat,” Cragg told Zappos.com in an interview. “Shalane could’ve made it harder on me. Instead, she did everything she possibly could to help me get better.”
Flanagan added. “Seeing her happy and achieving things was really rewarding. When you’re surrounded by greatness, it’s only going to elevate you and make you better.”
The moment of truth for both Flanagan and Cragg came during the 2016 Olympic trials in Los Angeles on a sweltering day to run 26.2 miles. They ran side-by-side for the first 20 miles, then Flanagan started to falter with heat exhaustion and dehydration.
“I was in a really bad place,” Flanagan said. “She stayed with me and was sacrificing her own race and was encouraging me.”
A few miles later, Shalane returned the favor when Amy started to wear down in the heat.
“I said, ‘Amy, I’m not going to leave your side. We are going to get this done together,’ “
With two miles to go, Flanagan encouraged Cragg to run her own race and get to the finish line first. Cragg took first place to secure a spot on the Olympic team. Instead of going off to celebrate and speak with the media, Cragg stayed at the finish line to encourage Flanagan to earn a spot with her on the team.
Flanagan mustered enough strength and energy to get it done. “I kept thinking, “Just get to
Amy, Just get to Amy,” Flanagan said. “It was such a relief when I crossed the finish line and
just collapsed in her arms.”
Craggs and Flanagan, training partners and good friends, finished first and third, respectively, earning tickets to the Olympic games.
“Amy is teammate of the year and friend of the century,” Flanagan said. “She was going to sacrifice the race just for me, which is truly incredible.”
Cragg told Women’s Runner, “It was one of the bravest, most courageous runs I’ve ever seen. I think she had to focus on every step she was taking to get to the finish line and she made it happen.”
That’s great friendship, and great sportsmanship.