After weeks of speculation in the distance running community, it’s official: Shalane Flanagan will be competing in the 2018 Boston Marathon.
On Monday morning, race sponsor John Hancock announced the American elite field for the April race, and Flanagan topped the list.
The four-time Olympian and recently crowned New York City Marathon champion grew up in Marblehead and always considered Boston her hometown marathon. As a young girl, she cheered runners toward the Boylston Street finish and dreamed of winning the race.
With her win in New York City, Flanagan, 36, became the first American woman in 40 years to take that race’s title. She could end another drought in Boston: No American woman has won the Boston Marathon since 1985.
The U.S. women’s field for 2018 also includes top marathon runners Desiree Linden, Molly Huddle and Jordan Hasay. Along with Flanagan, they comprise the most talented U.S. women’s field ever assembled for Boston. And given past marathon performances, all four women are strong title contenders.
Flanagan made her Boston Marathon debut in 2013 and placed fourth.
Before that year’s race, she explained how much winning Boston Marathon would mean to her. In an interview with the Boston Globe, she said, “In my heart, I would feel complete winning Boston. I would feel very fulfilled with my career. I would have exceeded all expectations.”
She also half-joked, “You know what would be so cool? You know what would be such a badass move? If I were to win the Boston Marathon and retire the next day.”
Nearly five years later, the Boston Marathon still holds the same special significance for Flanagan. And whether she wins the race or not, it may be her final marathon.
Prior to competing in New York City, Flanagan talked about possibly retiring from marathon competition if she finished first in the five-borough race. But another shot at a Boston Marathon title was too tempting to pass up.
Flanagan planned to compete in the 2017 Boston Marathon, but a fracture in her back forced her to withdraw from the elite field. The lessons learned from that injury and the rest needed to recover helped set the stage for Flanagan’s triumphant run in New York City.
Next April, on Patriots' Day, Flanagan will face tough competition from Linden, Huddle and Hasay, as well as the elite international field.
Earlier this year, Linden, a two-time Olympian, finished fourth in Boston. In 2011, she narrowly missed taking the title after dueling Kenya’s Caroline Kilel down Boylston Street. Huddle made her debut at 26.2 miles at the 2016 New York City Marathon and finished third. In the 2017 Chicago Marathon, Hasay placed third in 2 hours 20 minutes and 57 seconds, the second-best time ever by an American woman. And 44-year-old Deena Kastor, who owns the U.S. women’s record in the marathon -- 2:19:36 set at the 2006 London Marathon -- is also in the elite field.
Flanagan ran a personal best of 2:21:14 seconds at the 2014 Berlin Marathon. But savvy race tactics and course familiarity, not just speed, typically determine who wins in Boston.
Galen Rupp headlines the U.S. men’s elite field. He finished second in the 2017 Boston Marathon, then went on to win the 2017 Chicago Marathon. He was Chicago’s first American male winner since 2002. And he’ll be one of the favorites in his return.
Other U.S. men to watch in next April’s race include Olympians Dathan Ritzenhein and Abdi Abdirahman, as well as Shadrack Biwott, who finished fourth in Boston earlier this year.