BOSTON — Shalane Flanagan grew up in Marblehead watching her father run the Boston Marathon. Her mother was a marathoner, too, setting the women’s world record in 1971.
But Flanagan never ran her hometown race even as she was building a celebrated cross-country career that took her to three Olympics. Now, as the 31-year-old local favorite prepares to make her Boston debut, she gives the United States its best chance in years for a hometown victory.
“It’s a huge honor to be an American in this race,” Flanagan said this week as she prepared for Monday’s 117th edition of the Boston Marathon. “I feel almost sentimental about it because this is my city, in a way. This is my home course. It’s nice having the expectation to perform well.”
It’s been 30 years since Greg Meyer won the Boston Marathon, the last U.S. man to take the title at the longest-running long run in the world. Lisa Larsen-Weidenbach won the women’s race two years later, and since then it’s been a quarter-century of East Africans claiming the olive wreath in Copley Square.
Kenyans and Ethiopians have won the men’s race 23 times in the past 25 years, and on the women’s side they have won 14 of the last 16 titles.
In last year’s race, Wesley Korir and Sharon Cherop took the titles and Kenya swept the men’s and women’s podiums. Some years, the African dominance runs 10 deep. (From 1994-2001, there were no U.S. men in the top 10 at all.)
Kenyan runners say the deep talent pool in their country gives them an advantage, allowing them to train together and then work together on race day.
But this year the Americans have a tag-team of their own. Flanagan has been training with Kara Goucher, a fellow Olympian who finished third here in 2009 and fifth in ‘11.