Who Is Shalane Flanagan?

Shalane Flanagan Winning NYC Marathon

She might just become a verb.

Her name might just be describing the ending of a drought or some other stretch of time when an American didn’t’ have success.

After all, Shalane Flanagan, last year, became the first American woman to win an American marathon race – specifically, the New York Marathon – in about 40 years.

She shalaned the drought.

A very American marathon race, once of the largest and most revered distances races in the world, before 2017 had not been won by an American woman since the Carter administration. Achieving that feat by itself is impressive enough – but to realize that it was achieved by a woman who was 36 years old at the time?

Now that takes ageism to a whole other level of absurdity.

Shalane Flanagan has been regarded as one of the best American distance runners for a number of years, even dating back to her days as a standout distance at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She was on the verge of retirement when she won the New York Marathon, and was on the precipice when she finished seventh in her most-beloved race, the Boston Marathon (she grew up in the Boston area and considers the Boston race the one she most wanted to win).

However, she has found new life and is looking forward to defending her New York Marathon title in November. Her guide in this journey is her newly created team of female runners, whom she calls the “Bowerman Babes,” named after the track club where they train. These women are especially recruited by Flanagan and her coach to be training partners – and they are among the best rising stars in distance running in America –and all of them are at least 10 years younger than Flanagan.

And that Boston Marathon? While Flanagan finished seventh, one of her Bowerman Track Club teammates, Des Linden, wound up winning the race – so American marathon dominance remains in the “family,” so to speak. 

A woman, who was so close to hanging up her running shoes for good, is now training as if the best is still yet to come. Could a 37-year-old woman win the New York Marathon? Could an American woman win it for the second straight year – the first time that has happened since Miki Gorman in 1976-77 (the last American woman to win, by the way)?

Now that last year happened, who can say for sure that it’s impossible? Flanagan ran the third-fastest winning time since the course record was broken in 2003. Flanagan’s performance just means that some of us are Flanagan just shalaned any ageist beliefs. No reason to doubt her now.