Shalane Flanagan’s Legacy will be on Display at the NYC Marathon

The storied runner leaves American distance running a better place.

Editor’s note on November 3, 2019: The following story originally published November 1 ahead of the 2019 New York City Marathon. Today, Joyciline Jepkosgei (25) won the women’s race in her marathon debut while Geoffrey Kipsang Kamworor (26) dominated the men’s event for the second time in three years. Manuela Schär (34) and Daniel Romanchuk (21) were victorious in the women’s and men’s wheelchair divisions. Both Schär and Romanchuk took the women’s and men’s titles in the push-rim divisions of the Boston Marathon this spring.

When Shalane Flanagan won the 2017 New York City Marathon, she was the first American woman to accomplish the feat in 40 years. She neared the finish line pumping her fists and famously swearing in joy, and her win served as notice to the world that American women marathoners had arrived.

Flanagan announced her retirement last week at age 38 to become a coach with the legendary Bowerman Track Club. “Over the last 15 years I found out what I was capable of, and it was more than I ever dreamed possible,” Flanagan said via Instagram. “Now that all is said and done, I am most proud of the consistently high level of running I produced year after year. No matter what I accomplished the year before, it never got any easier. Each season, each race was hard, so hard. But this I know to be true: Hard things are wonderful, beautiful and give meaning to life.”

After her announcement, runners the world over reflected on her achievements, positive attitude and lasting legacy. “In both college and later as a pro, Shalane never shied away from her ambition,” said Lauren Fleshman, a two-time national champion in the 5,000 meters. “It was somewhat jarring at first, but it made the rest of us think, ‘Why can’t I do that?’”

Time and again, Flanagan served as an example and leader for women’s distance running in the United States, winning 16 national titles throughout her career. Over the years, Flanagan demonstrated the importance of persistence. “When she won New York, it was after seven years at the distance,” said Mario Fraioli, author of the Morning Shakeout, a running newsletter. “She was an example of how consistency and long-term work pay off.”

A few months after Flanagan’s win in New York, American runner Des Linden went on to capture the 2018 title at the Boston Marathon. “That sent a message that this current group of American women are a force to be reckoned with,” said Chris Weiller, senior vice president of media for the New York Road Runners, the organization that puts on the New York City Marathon.

A stacked field 

Though Flanagan won’t be running the 2019 New York City Marathon this Sunday, Nov. 3, her legacy will be on display. The event promises to showcase just how deep today’s American women’s marathon field runs. Linden, Sara Hall, Kellyn Taylor and others should be in the mix for top spots.

From Fraioli’s perspective, no one stands out as the obvious choice for a win or podium finish. “You’ve got Des, a Boston winner and consistent player in New York who knows how to race the course,” he said. “Sara Hall is intriguing coming off of a PR in Berlin and a win at the U.S. 10-mile championships right after. If she’s not cooked, she could have a good day in New York.”

Expect Aliphine Tuliamuk to be in the thick of it as well. Allie Kieffer, who placed fifth in the 2017 New York City Marathon, also intends to race and after time off for injury, she may be hungry to prove herself. New Jersey’s Roberta Groner may be a wild card after finishing sixth at the world championships in Doha.

It’s anyone’s guess who will take the top spot at the New York City Marathon. (Photo Courtesy of New York City Marathon)

While the Americans will certainly be in the mix for the podium, their task won’t be made easy by their international competitors. Expect defending and four-time champion Mary Keitany from Kenya to be a heavy favorite, along with this year’s Boston champion, Worknesh Degefa of Ethiopia, among others. 

All of the top women stand to follow in Flanagan’s footsteps at this weekend’s race if they have the right day. Flanagan herself will be providing commentary the day of, adding her wisdom and support to the women’s field. Afterward, she’ll start the next chapter of her life as an elite-level coach.

“Shalane coaching is as good as it gets,” said Fleshman. “She’ll proceed with that same confidence, that same ‘why not me?’ attitude. I’m thrilled she will be on the scene.”

Flanagan won in New York City in 2017, ahead of Kenya's Mary Keitany and Ethiopia’s Mamitu Daska.

Flanagan won in New York City in 2017, ahead of Kenya’s Mary Keitany and Ethiopia’s Mamitu Daska. (Photo Courtesy of New York City Marathon)

On the men’s side, the field is stacked with plenty of strong Americans as well as top runners from other countries. Americans Jared Ward and the three Tylers—McCandless, Pennel and Jermann—all enter the race in good form, according to Weiller. From outside the United States, defending champ from Ethiopia Lelisa Desisa returns, along with fellow countryman Shura Kitata, who placed a close second last year. 

Tune in

To watch this weekend’s New York City Marathon, spectate from the sidelines or stream the live broadcast from wherever you are. The race kicks off at 8:30am ET on Sunday, Nov. 3, with the professional wheelchair divisions, followed by the pro women’s field at 9:10am ET, and the pro men runners at 9:40am ET. 

Race results will be available online as runners come in, or download the New York City Marathon mobile app for up-to-date information and special features like a virtual race that enables anyone to experience the course’s legendary 26.2 miles.

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