Been sitting on this, but it feels like we can use a little positive feminism right now. From the NYTimes, “How the ‘Shalane Flanagan Effect’ Works”:
When Shalane Flanagan won the New York City Marathon [November 5th], her victory was about more than just an athletic achievement. Of course, it’s a remarkable one: She’s the first American woman to win in 40 years, and she did so in a blistering 2 hours 26 minutes.
But perhaps Flanagan’s bigger accomplishment lies in nurturing and promoting the rising talent around her, a rare quality in the cutthroat world of elite sports. Every single one of her training partners — 11 women in total — has made it to the Olympics while training with her, an extraordinary feat. Call it the Shalane Effect: You serve as a rocket booster for the careers of the women who work alongside you, while catapulting forward yourself…
Here’s how it worked until Flanagan burst onto the scene. After college, promising female distance athletes would generally embark on aggressive training until they broke down. Few of them developed the staying power required to dominate the global stage. And they didn’t have much of a community to support them; domestic women’s distance running was fractious and atrophied. In 2000, for example, only one American woman qualified for the Olympic marathon, after training alone in her Anchorage home on a treadmill.
But things changed after 2009, when Flanagan joined Jerry Schumacher’s fledgling running group in Portland, Ore., called the Bowerman Track Club. She was the team’s lone woman, and worked with him to create something new: a team of professional female distance runners who would train together and push one another to striking collective success. They were coached by a man and surrounded mostly by male runners, but over time Flanagan and her teammates outperformed the men in the national and global arenas.
Instead of being threatened by her teammates’ growing accomplishments, Flanagan embraced them, and brought in more women, elevating them to her level until they become the most formidable group of distance athletes in the nation. National championships, world championships, Olympics: They became some of the best runners in the world…
To be sure, Flanagan’s unapologetic competitiveness is not universally popular, but she is respected for it. Flanagan boldly acknowledged the work she put into her marathon training and was unabashed about wanting to win before the race. Her victory in New York involved fist-pumping and profanity-laced affirmations as she crossed the finish line in front of millions of viewers.
We usually see competitive women, particularly athletically excellent women, only in one of two ways: either competing to defeat one another, or all about team over self. But that’s a flawed, limiting paradigm. The Shalane Effect dismantles it: She is extraordinarily competitive, but not petty; team-oriented, but not deferential. Elevating other women is actually an act of self-interest: It’s not so lonely at the top if you bring others along…
Apart from remembering that teamwork is good for all participants (not least during the countdown to Thanksgiving) what’s on the agenda for the day?