The camera caught it.
As Shalane Flanagan approached the finish line of November’s New York City Marathon, the first American woman to do so in first place since 1977, she let out an ecstatic expletive.
“I wish we could have a PG-version out there for kids,” she laughed, in an interview with Runner’s World. “You never know how you’re going to react in any moment you’re excited. I just never thought in a million years the camera would’ve been that close on my face to capture that.”
The camera will be back on Flanagan again on April 16 for the 122nd running of the Boston Marathon. She wasn’t sure she wanted to continue her running career after winning her first major marathon, but she did, and now she’ll arrive in Hopkinton with another decades-long American marathon drought on the line.
Here’s what you need to know about Flanagan, the two-time national champion at the University of North Carolina, three-time state champion at Marblehead High, and four-time Olympian:
Flanagan tried to overcome her shoe obsession on Dr. Sole’s couch.
In a recently released advertisement, the New York City champion shared the credit for her victory with the shoes she wore that day. Flanagan, lying on Dr. Sole’s couch, doesn’t see a problem with wearing her Nike Vaporfly 4% sneakers at all times.
“Why would I take them off?” she asks. “I like being fast.”
Draymond Green and Richard Sherman also make cameos in the spot as fellow shoe obsessives.
It took a week for the high of that New York City win to fade.
After Flanagan broke the tape in New York City in 2 hours, 26 minutes, she was euphoric.
“I was in a state of such overwhelming happiness, a state of bliss,” she told Boston.com. “It felt better than I ever dreamed it feel. But when I came down a little bit a week later, my head hurt and my teeth hurt from constant smiling. I just had never experienced such elation to that degree and for that long, so when I finally came back to a little bit of normalcy, I felt like I had been raging.”
When the high eventually faded, Flanagan had a decision to make. Would she end her career on top or press on in search of another laurel wreath? The opportunity to stand on the starting line on Patriot’s Day proved too tempting to walk away from, especially after the taste her last Boston Marathon — ninth place in 2015 — left behind.
“I was pretty devastated after, because I haven’t had many bad races and it was, by far, one of the bigger stinkers that I’ve laid,” she said. “I don’t want to end my career having that be the representation and the feelings associated with Boston. So I just thought, At least let’s end on a higher note than that.”
The ‘Shalane Flanagan Effect’ is real.
Every single one of Flanagan’s training partners has made it to the Olympics while training with her. The New York Times dubbed this track record the ‘Shalane Flanagan Effect.’ The group dynamic began when she joined the Bowerman Track Club in Portland, Ore. She was the team’s lone woman at the start but worked with the coach, Jerry Schumacher, to build a group of professional female distance runner who would push each other to individual and collective success.
“I thoroughly enjoy working with other women,” Flanagan told The Times. “I think it makes me a better athlete and person. It allows me to have more passion toward my training and racing. When we achieve great things on our own, it doesn’t feel nearly as special.”
In 2016, the support system she’d built to help other runners returned the favor. At the Olympic trials in Los Angeles, Flanagan was wilting towards the end of the race in the blistering heat. Amy Cragg, her teammate and training partner, slowed down to run beside Flanagan, fetching her water and pacing her to the finish and a spot on the Olympic team. Flanagan went on to become the top American finisher in the marathon in Rio.
She returned home to Marblehead for a race three weeks after winning in New York City.
Flanagan, 36, was born in Boulder, Colo. and attended high school in Marblehead, Mass. Her father, Steve, was a member of three U.S. World Cross Country teams in the 1970s, while her mother, Cheryl, ran for four. Cheryl also set the American record in the marathon in 1971. When she was growing up, Shalane “just thought they were runners — no one told me how good they were.”
Flanagan won the New York City Marathon wearing a red and black uniform — the colors of her Marblehead Magicians. At Marblehead High School, she was a member of the cross-country and track teams, of course, picking up three state titles, but also played soccer, swam, and painted in the school’s art major program. After Flanagan’s victory in New York, according to the Marblehead Reporter, her father stepped outside to a sign on his front porch that read, “It’s a Proud Day to be a Flanagan! XO.”
Three weeks later, she returned to her hometown for the Back The Track 5K. This time, instead of a Staten Island to Central Park route, the course weaved from the town’s post office to the Marblehead Community Center. Flanagan was on hand to cheer on the runners and hand out medals.
She wrote one running cookbook and has another on the way.
In Run Fast, Eat Slow, Flanagan and her UNC teammate Elyse Kopecky shared more than 100 recipes— including the Can’t Beet Me Smoothie and High-Altitude Bison Meatballs — that have served them well in their careers on the road. The pair, who cooked together as roommates in college, advise runners that counting calories and honing to a restrictive diet will do more harm than good.
“I deal with numbers all day: miles, splits. It’s so nice not to have to look at food anymore,” Flanagan told Outside Online.
Instead of tracking calories, she eats intuitively, avoiding processed foods and added sugars. She told Boston.com that her typical lunch consists of eggs, chicken, and a salad, with veggis and protein on the grill for dinner. On August 14, Flanagan and Kopecky will release Run Fast, Cook Fast, Eat Slow, a second cookbook with simpler, quick-fix recipes that follow the same philosophy.