San Diego

Step For Step: USA Marathon Training Partners Push Each Other Towards Rio

"It has been wonderful having her by my side every mile and leading the way a lot of the time," athlete Amy Cragg said.

The Olympic Marathon might be an individual event, but it has plenty of room for teamwork. Just ask Shalane Flanagan and Amy Cragg.

The two elite distance runners, seemingly joined at the hip for the past year, will make their final push towards the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio De Janeiro next to one another.

"It has been wonderful having her by my side every mile and leading the way a lot of the time," Cragg said.

At February’s marathon trials in Los Angeles, the two women showed off their professional bond by running the bulk of the 26.2 mile course together through searing heat.

But this time it was Cragg who pulled away towards the end of the race, finishing first.

Fifty nine seconds later, Flanagan finished third, securing the final spot on the USA Olympic team as she collapsed into Cragg’s waiting arms.

Flanagan, who turns 35 in July, will be making her fourth trip to the Olympics.

Cragg, now 32, will be heading to her second Olympics.

They’ve always admired each other as worthy opponents, but last year decided to join forces as training partners in an effort to liven up what can be a lonely endeavor.

"I’m very fortunate and lucky to have someone there to get excited and the accountability and motivation, to bring that day in and day out which is necessary," said Flanagan.

"When it’s something you look forward to everyday when you have a friend by your side, it completely changes it, it's something fun, you're uplifted and it helps you run faster on a daily basis," said Cragg.

The pair headlined this year's San Diego Rock 'n' Roll Marathon, calling the 13.1 mile race a good training session.

Not surprisingly, they finished first and second, with a pair of personal bests.

The women, now in the middle of a strategic 16 week build up to the Olympics, taking them from elevation to sea level, and up and down the west coast, spend a lot of time together.

But the relationship doesn’t stop at finish lines they've crossed. The pair has developed a unique friendship as well.

"I'm a big foodie, I'm actually coming out with a cookbook this summer, and I love to experiment and test recipes on Amy," said Flanagan.

The two runners aren’t ready to ink their Olympic marathon race-day strategy just yet, but it will likely include more of the same.

“If we can work together we absolutely will, but not necessarily if it's too hard for someone at some point; the other person probably won't hang back, it's going to be very individualized," said Cragg.

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