This past Sunday, former Tar Heel Shalane Flanagan became the first American woman to win the New York City Marathon in 40 years. She finished the marathon with a time of 2:26:53, upsetting the favored Mary Keitany of Kenya by over one minute.
Crossing the finish line, Flanagan yelled in celebration during her final strides before covering her mouth and shedding tears of joy at the end.
Flanagan grew up in Marblehead, Mass., where she was a three-time All-State cross country performer in high school. Her accomplishments carried her to North Carolina where Flanagan began running as a Tar Heel in 2000.
In track and field, her greatest success was winning the 3,000-meter race at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships in 2003. Crowning achievements also came in cross country as she won the NCAA Cross Country Championships in back-to-back years in 2002 and 2003.
Flanagan’s ability as an athlete has made her well known in the national running community and beyond.
After turning pro, Flanagan quickly became one of the top long-distance runners in the U.S. Flanagan also had the opportunity to compete in the 2008 Beijing Olympics for Team USA. She won the bronze medal in the 10,000m (later upgraded to silver).
Flanagan’s effort in New York was also poignant coming after the terrorist attack in the city only a week prior. Her status as the first American woman to win made her a rallying point for fans along the course.
Without a doubt, her role as an athlete has made a difference in the running community. However, after Sunday, Flanagan’s influence looms much larger in the hearts and minds of Americans across the country.