Nine-year-old Shea McDonough came to the Back The Track 5K road race Saturday morning in Marblehead, Massachusetts, to see her hero: Shalane Flanagan.
"I'm really happy because I really look up to her," Shea says, "because I like to run, too."
Shea wasn't alone. More than 1,000 runners, young and old, came to see and run with their hometown hero.
Flanagan is three weeks removed from probably the biggest accomplishment of her world-class career: winning the New York City Marathon. She was the first American woman to do that in 40 years.
Flanagan was already scheduled to be part of Saturday's local race to support the Marblehead Track Association, but her victory in New York added serious star power to the event — and the sport itself.
"People who don't know anything about running became very aware when she won New York," says Doug Williams, a member of the track association's board of advisers. "We're focused on building our running community and she just allows us to do that in an even bigger way."
Flanagan ran Saturday's race alongside young girls like Shea McDonough.
"That means a lot to me, because I've had some great mentors and role models growing up in New England," Flanagan says. "I think it's important to create something that people want to strive to be like, so that really means a lot to me that they think that way."
Mary Wittenberg used to be president of the New York Road Runners, which oversees the New York City Marathon. She was in Marblehead on Saturday to support the first U.S. woman to win that race since 1977.
"What a great opportunity to come out here and see a community so uplifted by one of their own," Wittenberg says. "Shalane is such a giver and to see her out here hugging every single person, and I'm looking at these kids and it's so exciting because they know they can grow up and they can be Shalane, too, in their own world. Shalane's a good example, just keep going. Find your thing and keep working hard."
A little girl at the finish line asked Flanagan if she is going to run next year's Boston Marathon. Flanagan said she's not sure yet, but added, "If I run, will you go?"
The little girl nodded yes.
This article was originally published on November 27, 2017.
This segment aired on November 27, 2017.