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Marblehead Native Shalane Flanagan Wins NYC Marathon

Shalane Flanagan of the United States poses for pictures after crossing the finish line first in the women's division of the New York City Marathon in New York, Sunday, Nov. 5, 2017. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Shalane Flanagan of the United States poses for pictures after crossing the finish line first in the women's division of the New York City Marathon in New York, Sunday, Nov. 5, 2017. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
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Shalane Flanagan, a 36-year-old native of Marblehead, won the New York City Marathon on Sunday. She is the first American to win the women's race in 40 years.

The last American to hold the honor was Miki Gorman, who won consecutive titles in 1976 and 1977.

Now, Flanagan has done it after having just run her first-ever marathon in 2010 and finishing in second then in what was an outstanding debut.

Between then and now, there were thousands of miles and plenty of ups and downs. Flanagan made four Olympic teams, earning a medal in the 10,000 meters and finishing in the top 10 in two marathons.

She missed this year's Boston Marathon, her hometown race, with an injury. That was the event she wanted to win more than any other because, as a child growing up, she had watched her dad run it. But in three tenacious attempts, she just couldn't get it done.

Shalane ran New York with all of this in her mind, and a career's worth of experience that finally paid off. She added inspiration from Meb Keflezighi, her friend who famously won the 2014 Boston Marathon, a year after the marathon bombings.

Sunday's race was run five days after the bike path terror attack in lower Manhattan that killed eight people.

Keflezighi also ran New York on Sunday. It was his 26th and final competitive marathon. He finished 11th.

"I was thinking of Meb, and I was thinking of how I wanted to make him proud," Flanagan said after her New York win.

"It's indescribable. It's a moment I'm trying to soak up and savor."

Shalane Flanagan

Flanagan made him proud by breaking away from Kenyan Mary Keitany around the 23-mile mark. Keitany had won this race the last three years.

She cried and yelled as she approached the finish line in Central Park. She was alone with no other runner in sight.

"It's indescribable," Flanagan said. "It's a moment I'm trying to soak up and savor."

There has never been any question about Flanagan's talent and toughness. She has been a consistently excellent runner for many years, on the track and on the roads. The issue for Flanagan, especially in the 26.2-mile race, has been the strength to hold on until the end and win. As she went stride-for-stride with Keitany in the middle miles of Sunday's New York Marathon, Flanagan still wasn't sure what she'd have for the final stretch.

"There's always creeping doubts of whether I was going to have enough to beat the best in the world," she said.

On the podium, she cried again and put her hands over face.

"This is the moment I've dreamed of since I was a little girl," Flanagan said. "This means a lot to me, to my family. And hopefully inspires the next generation of American women to just be patient."

Flanagan's New York win caps an incredible autumn for U.S. marathoning as Galen Rupp won October's Chicago Marathon. He is the first American-born runner to do that in 35 years.

Kenyan Geoffrey Kamworor beat countryman Wilson Kipsang by just three seconds to win the men's race in New York on Sunday. But the crowd favorite was Keflezighi.

He blew kisses to the fans down the homestretch. He called it a "beautiful victory lap."

Now, his friend Flanagan will be able to say the same thing.

Earlier:

Alex Ashlock Twitter Producer, Here & Now
Alex Ashlock has been a producer for Here & Now since 2005. He started his WBUR career as senior producer of Morning Edition in 1998.

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