, Salem, MA

April 22, 2014

Steve Flanagan reflects on daughter's race

By Alan Burke
Staff Writer

---- — MARBLEHEAD — Steve Flanagan is celebrating an epic Boston Marathon run by daughter Shalane that, while she didn’t win, exceeded expectations.

Shalane finished seventh, according to the Boston Athletic Association. Her time of 2:22.02 made her the top American finisher. Moreover, she led for much of the race.

“She pressed the pace and lasted through 20 miles,” her father said, and she expected to win. “With every professional athlete — if you don’t believe you can win, you won’t.”

But while he watched, hoping to see her pull away from a half-dozen or so runners, there came a moment when, “They all went with her,” he said. Then, “her pace really decreased,” Flanagan said.

The somewhat cool weather likely gave a boost to the times of all the runners, including his daughter’s, Flanagan said. “She was a minute faster than I predicted. ... She did exactly what she wanted to do.” The runners passing her, mainly the favored East Africans, also got that boost.

Flanagan said he’s proud of his daughter’s achievement. “All you can do is your best.”

Flanagan gathered at his Marblehead home with other family members to watch the race on television so that they would be sure to see plenty of footage of Shalane, one of the nation’s premier female marathoners.

“We probably saw more on television than if we’d been at the finish line,” he said.

As she took the lead, her father said he was tense. Then when her pace began to flag slightly, he remembered thinking, “OK, OK, she’s getting tired,” He worried as she fell behind, knowing that it’s almost impossible for runners to recover the lead at that point.

Flanagan planned to talk to his daughter last night, but given all her obligations after the race, he didn’t expect to see her until today. A noted runner himself, he pointed out that she has zeroed in on his own best Boston Marathon times. But he said that’s nothing to be embarrassed about when “my daughter is the best American woman runner and one of the best in the world.”

Although she lives now on the West Coast, Shalane’s links to Marblehead, the town where she grew up, have always been important to her, her dad indicated. For that reason, Marbleheaders root hard for her. “A lot of people enjoy her success,” he said.

The marathon was run in the shadow of last year’s attack, but Flanagan wasn’t fazed by that, nor, he said, was Shalane. He expected security forces to be paying attention, and he didn’t worry about her safety.

“If you thought that way, you’d never come out of your house,” he said.

And he cited his daughter’s recent appearance on TV’s “60 Minutes.”

She ran last year and finished fourth. As she told “60 Minutes” in an interview earlier this month, an interview her dad called “unfiltered,” she said she took the bombing personally. That anger made her run all the harder, her father said.

Alan Burke can be reached at