By Gianna Addario
---- — BOSTON — Shalane Flanagan might not have crossed the finish line as the victor at yesterday’s 118th Boston Marathon.
But she did run the race of her career as the beloved hometown favorite.
Flanagan finished in 2:22.02, shaving more than three-and-a-half minutes off of her previous personal best marathon time of 2:25.38. That earned the Marblehead native a seventh place finish overall in her second time running Boston, beating last year’s time (2:27.08) by more than five minutes.
Flanagan’s coach, Jerry Schumacher, told her that if she ran a 2:22 that she’d have a shot at winning. History would tell you that in previous years, that would’ve been true. However, the group of runners Flanagan was going head-to-head with were just as hungry to break away from the pack as she was.
“I ran everything I had out of myself, right until the tape. My coach gave me a primer and said ‘I truly believe you can run 2:22,’ and he nailed it,” said Flanagan in her post Marathon press conference. “I said ‘Are you sure? Do you really think I can run that in Boston?’ That’s a three-minute PR and Boston is hard. It’s not a pancake course; it’s challenging.”
The puzzle pieces didn’t fall exactly how Flanagan would’ve hoped after leading for each of the first 19 miles.
At the Newton hills, Ethopia’s Buzunesh Deba and Mare Dibaba passed Flanagan and traded off as the front-runners before Kenya’s Rita Jeptoo surged ahead in the final four miles of the course. Jeptoo took her second consecutive Boston Marathon title, and third overall, setting a course record of 2:18.57.
Flanagan was the top American woman to finish, followed by Michigan’s Desiree Linden (2:23.41), who came in 10th.
As a little girl, Flanagan cheered on her dad Steve from the marathon crowd on Boylston Street. As a professional runner and three-time Olympian, Flanagan’s dream is to become the first American woman since Lisa Larsen-Weidenbach in 1985 to win the Boston Marathon.
It’s a dream she hopes to accomplish in the near future.
“I can say right now that I’ll be back here until I win it,” said Flanagan. “I’ll be back to challenge Jeptoo.”
Her bright orange sneakers and white compression socks weren’t the only things that separated Flanagan from the pack. She led the group of elite women runners for the first hour-and-a-half. At the midway point, Flanagan checked in at a time of 1:09.25, breaking the previous course record (110:21).
“I used my watch as a gauge, just to see where I was at,” noted Flanagan. “I’m very intuitive with my body and I’m constantly checking how my quads feel, how my calves feel. More than anything, I listen to my body to make sure I can delegate the amount energy you need over the course of a marathon.”
The clock helped her keep running, and his her personal best, even after the other elites made their move going into the hills.
“I used my watch to make sure I wasn’t falling off the pace too much. Especially when I got dropped, I used it as a motivator, saying to myself, ‘You’re still running a 5:30 mile up this massive hill.’ I knew that the Newton Hills were going to throw some splits that were a lot slower than in the early part of the race,” she said. “I knew to expect that having trained on it, but I didn’t want to give up too much time on the hills.”
Flanagan ran the course six other times over a six-month period in preparation for yesterday’s race and knew exactly what every turn, road and mile had to offer.
After last year’s tragedy unfolded, Flanagan was the first elite runner to sign up for this year’s race and felt a sense of pride to represent her city, state and country again.
“It does mean a lot to me to know that my city is proud of me,” said Flanagan.