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January 19, 2022

Ben Flanagan Returns To Ann Arbor To Join The Very Nice Track Club

Before lining up at the Houston Half Marathon, Canadian standout and University of Michigan’s 2018 NCAA 10,000m champion Ben Flanagan announced that he is no longer be competing for the Reebok Boston Track Club. 

Last year was good to Flanagan, as he won his second Falmouth title and took home his first win at the Manchester Road Race. This year he looks to be picking up where he left off. Now competing for On, he ran a personal best of 1:01:38 this past weekend. We were curious what that move looked like and assumed you would be as well, so enjoy our brief conversation:

First off, an obligatory congratulations on your race this weekend! But I am curious because I was used to seeing you in Reebok, when did you first consider exploring other options?

My impending contract expiration date had been on my mind even a year in advance. The stakes were high going into an Olympic year because you not only want to accomplish a major life goal but making a team would be a huge variable factored into any potential signing or re-signing. I started to ponder the idea of other opportunities — probably in the spring — because I wanted to set myself up for the best scenario possible.

It seems like you were happy in Virginia and running well. Was this strictly a financially motivated move?

I had an amazing experience with Reebok. I loved my time with teammates and the coaches — everything was fantastic! I wasn’t dying to get out of the situation. My next step has more to do with my life beyond running. 

I’ve been running for over 10 years at a high level and every step of my life has been dictated by it. I’m reaching an age now where I’m confident enough in my ability, talent, and work ethic that I can shift the focus of where I want to be the next few years beyond just the best running environment. I wanted a bit more autonomy and independence. 

Well, we know you’re representing On, but what’s the whole group and coach setup?

On was an interesting opportunity from the start but I feel like they gained even more credibility among athletes from their investment in OAC and their innovation team. So I asked my agent, Dan Lilot, to get in contact with On. I thought they’d invest in an athlete like me — a Canadian on a second contract whose future is on the road but still likes the track. It was impressive how quickly communication developed and this came to fruition. They made me feel wanted and I didn’t realize how important that was.

Since the beginning, I’ve been in communication with Mason [Ferlic] and Ron [Warhusrt] about moving back to Michigan. Ron’s always been supportive since my Michigan days, but the more we spoke, the more I realized what a great opportunity it was to come back and join the Very Nice Track Club. 

I liked that it’s a group of individuals as opposed to being tied to a brand like most groups. The invitation to join the group was personal. Ron reaching out came from his own interest in me as an athlete with no strings attached. That raw grassroots element appealed to me. 

Was there pressure to join the On Athletics Club? It’s nice to hear there are still options to be independent despite their being a shoe-sponsored group.

I never came up. I made it clear from the beginning that I was looking for an independent situation and that’s why I was looking for a new deal entirely. I reached out to Dathan [Ritzenhein] to let him know that I was signing to see if there’d ever be any chances to come out to Boulder for a camp — he was super inviting. I am actually headed to Florida shortly to visit them and meet the On product team.

Is there anything you’re going to take with you from Coach Fox’s training and alternatively, what are you most excited about to be under Ron?

He is definitely one of the best marathon coaches in the world and that made the decision a challenge since that’s the direction of my career. But I learned you don’t need to overcomplicate things: stay consistent and think big picture. The main thing I’ll take away is that I don’t need as much rest as I thought. He helped coach me until the very end and we did some great things together in that period.

But in college, I enjoyed the high-quality, high-intensity work. I am excited to get back to sharpening up and putting spikes on for Ron’s workouts and just being in Ann Arbor again. And people forget, he’s coached more than middle distance athletes. You know Greg Meyer won Boston, right?

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