Sunday morning, former Tar Heel Shalane Flanagan won the New York City Marathon. The win was her first World Major win and represented the first win by an American woman at the event since 1977, when Miki Gorman took first place. She finished in a time of 2:26:53 finishing just one minute off of Kara Goucher’s American course record of 2:25:53.
In her time at UNC, the Marblehead, Massachusetts native was the 2002 and 2003 NCAA cross country individual champion —the first, and only—individual Tar Heel national champion. She was also proficient on the track, leading her to turn pro in 2004 in pursuit of qualifying for the Athens Olympics in the 5000 meters.
That summer she not only qualified for the Olympics but made it to the Olympic final in the event. In 2008, despite battling illness, Flanagan took home the silver medal in the 10,000 meter in the Beijing Olympics (originally bronze but upgraded due to another athlete using illegal substances).
Flanagan has also had success on the cross country course since her time in Carolina blue. In 2004 and 2005 she was the short course USA cross country champion, and in 2008 she was the long course champion as well. Later that year came her debut at 10,000 meters in which she broke the American record in 30:34. This led to national and Olympic success for the former Tar Heel in the time before she took to the roads.
Finally, in 2010 Shalane Flanagan made her debut in the Marathon. Coming off of several successful half-marathon,s Flanagan went the full 26.2 at the first time at the New York City Marathon. In that race she finished second place, which was until Sunday the best finish for an American woman in 20 years.
In both 2012 and 2016 Flanagan qualified for the Olympics in the marathon (winning the trials in 2012). She finished those races in 10th and 6th places, respectively. Flanagan also has several other top 10 finishes at World Major races (including 3rd in Boston in 2014 with a personal best of 2:21:14) to her name and has represented the best of United States distance running for women for several years now. She has had such success and has become so revered that in the running community she, like Meb Keflezighi, has come to be known by a single name: Shalane.
In the 13 years since she left North Carolina, Shalane Flanagan has reached rock star status and has become an ambassador of the running community. In 2016 she, and friend and former teammate Elyse Kopecky wrote the cookbook Run Fast, Eat Slow, which gives healthy and filling recipes specifically for runners. On her tour for that book she made a stop in Carrboro and hosted a fun run around UNC’s campus. The tour was a great opportunity for runners both young and old to be inspired by an iconic member of the running community.
Flanagan has said that if she won Sunday it would be her last marathon. With her presumptive retirement, the running community loses not only one of its best runners but one of the best representatives of the sport. Even if she isn’t competing for Major wins, one thing is certain: Shalane Flanagan will continue to be a fantastic representative for the sport of running, the United States, and UNC.
Photo Copyright © 2013 Sonia Su