Shalane Flanagan may need surgery as she sits out Boston Marathon

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BOSTON — Shalane Flanagan, a four-time Olympian and 2017 New York City Marathon champion, said Saturday that she may need surgery to alleviate knee pain that kept her from running for a long stretch in the last five months.

“My knees are not doing so well,” Flanagan said at a Q&A at a Heartbreak Hill Running Company store in Boston. “They’ve been hurting. So I have to figure that out. I may need surgery. I’m not sure. That’s kind of scary. But I know that it’s going to pass. I’m going to be better for it. And I’m going to appreciate my health when I can do a lot of running.”

Flanagan, a Boston-area native, commentated at Monday’s Boston Marathon for CBS Boston. On the broadcast, she said she would assess her future once healthy and that racing Boston, New York City and/or the Olympic Trials are options.

It’s not known if or when she will next race at the elite level. What’s clear is that Flanagan is transitioning within her Bowerman Track Club group in Oregon.

“There’s not, that I know of, any female coaches at the Olympic level, professional level, and so I’d love to be the first at that level,” she said Saturday. “My clock for 10,000 hours has started while I’m still trying to get myself healthy and back to running and competing. If the running thing doesn’t work out anymore, coaching.”

Flanagan announced on Jan. 4 via Instagram that she had not run for a month due to patella tendon tears. She almost withdrew before her New York City Marathon defense on Nov. 4 because of the missed training and intense pain.

“I’m at the point where I’m grateful if I can run one day and then sometimes I have to take the next day off,” Flanagan said, according to a Women’s Running Q&A published March 26. “It makes me appreciate my running and that even if I don’t run at a high level anymore — who knows if I will? — I just want to get to a point where I can run an hour a day or warm up and cool down with my team and help them. I’m a little scared because I just want to get back to running for my life and health, so I’m trying to be cautious. I don’t want to ruin my chances of long-term running.”

She attended the World Cross-Country Championships in Denmark on March 30 as a coach for three fellow Bowerman runners.

“I’m looking to become a full-time coach, transitioning out of athletics, personally, from my competition level,” she said on an IAAF podcast from that event.

Last year, Flanagan said before and after a sixth-place Boston Marathon finish that it would her last time racing the world’s oldest annual marathon as an elite.

Then she was third in her New York defense on Nov. 4, mouthing “I love you” and waving her right hand to the Central Park finish-line crowd.

“I just thought [in the final miles] if this truly is going to be my last race, a podium spot really would be special,” Flanagan said that day.

Flanagan could try to become the first U.S. distance runner to compete in five Olympics in 2020. At 39, she would be the third-oldest female U.S. Olympic runner after marathoners Colleen de Reuck (2004) and Francie Larrieu-Smith (1992), according to the OlyMADMen.

But Flanagan, the 2008 Olympic 10,000m silver medalist, hasn’t said whether she will enter the Tokyo trials on Feb. 29 in Atlanta.

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Thank you to the unknown stranger who placed this note on the pool deck this morning while I was aqua jogging. This note is extremely appreciated right now and gave me the biggest smile 😊. I’ve not been able to run the last month due to tears in my patella tendons. I had been experiencing lots of pain in my knees this fall and didn’t know why (figured it was old age 👵🏼🤷🏼‍♀️). In fact, I almost pulled out of the NYC Marathon because I had to miss some training and I was in so much pain…..but very happy I didn’t. I’m currently letting the tendons heal up and fingers crossed I will be back running with my Bowerman teammates ❤️ in a few weeks. Injuries are never easy and I really really miss running. I’m going to keep this note close, as a reminder to do good and to take time to tell people I appreciate their efforts, kindness and work. Thank you kind stranger for the kind note. #payitforward

A post shared by Shalane Flanagan (@shalaneflanagan) on