Going the Distance
longest race of
her life brings
Shalane Flanagan ’05 has always been around
marathons. Her parents were accomplished marathoners and,
growing up in Massachusetts, Flanagan witnessed several
Yet somehow Flanagan managed to become a distance
runner herself — with a successful track career at UNC and
a bronze medal in the 10,000 meters at the 2008 Olympics
in Beijing — without ever running a marathon. She had
never, not even in the course of all her training, covered
26. 2 miles in a single stretch.
“The longest I had ever run
was 22 miles,” Flanagan says.
Shalane Flanagan ’05,
above left with
Kenya’s Edna Kiplagat
— the eventual winner — and Mary
Keitany, keeps the
pace at the 2:14: 18
mark in the 2010
New York City
Marathon. Running in
her first marathon,
Flanagan finished second with a time of
2:28: 40, the highest
finish for an American
woman since 1990.
So it was a bit of a surprise-when last fall she ran in her first,
the 2010 New York City
Marathon, and finished second.
She was the first American finisher,
just 20 seconds behind Kenyan
Edna Kiplagat, and it was the best
finish in the New York race by an
American woman in 20 years.
Flanagan’s performance was so
strong that she is now considering
competing in the marathon in the
2012 Olympics in London.
“I always knew that one day I
would want to run one,” Flanagan
says. “I didn’t know if I would be competitive. It’s a very
arduous event. It’s really the last frontier in distance running.”
Jerry Schumacher, Flanagan’s coach, knew she would run
a strong race even if it was an unfamiliar distance.
“If it’s a race, she’s going to compete,” Schumacher says.
“She’s a competitor. That’s always going to serve her well in
anything she does. She was very diligent in her preparation.”
Flanagan, who lives in Pittsboro when she is not training
in Portland, Ore., says her goal was to stay with the leading
women runners for as long as she could. With about five
miles to go, Flanagan found herself in the lead pack with
three other women. It was unlike anything she had experi-
enced, even competing in the Olympics.
“It was just intense,” she says. “The fans were just insane.
To have an American woman in there, the fans were going
nuts. In the Olympics, you don’t really have a hometown
crowd. But New York felt like home turf. People were
cheering my name.”
Flanagan plans to keep her options open for the 2012
Olympics, including the possibility of competing in both the
10,000 meters and the marathon. It would be a challenging
combination, even for a runner of Flanagan’s ability.
“What’s nice about how well it went is it creates an
opportunity for her in another event,” Schumacher says.
“She certainly has created more options for herself, and
that’s never a bad thing.”