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April 22, 2014

Phil Stacey column: At Boston, something much more important than a win for Flanagan

BOSTON — Success is best determined by the particular mission of the individual.

Shalane Flanagan had just one goal in mind when she toed the line in Hopkinton yesterday morning: win the Boston Marathon. Towards that end, she did not achieve her dream.

But to term Flanagan’s effort, gumption and performance anything less than successful during the 118th running of the Boston Marathon would be farcical.

The 32-year-old Marblehead native went out determined to run her race — and she most definitely considers Boston to be her race — her way. She dictated how it would be run, forced the other elite female racers to accept her challenge and literally gave every ounce of her 106-pound frame, running to the point of near exhaustion and sickness.

While she did not prevail — that honor went to returning champion Rita Jeptoo of Kenya, who won for the third time in a record breaking time of 2:18.57 — Flanagan was a pillar of excellence. She shattered her own personal best in the marathon by more than three-and-a-half minutes, clocking a 2:22.02. Her seventh place finish was the best by an American woman, nearly two full minutes better than 10th place finisher Desiree Linden of Michigan.

And she did it all while emotions erupted inside of her and around her. It was an outpouring of love and warmth, of resilience and strength, on what will go down as the most deeply meaningful day of her professional career.

“It was the most memorable amazing day for the city of Boston and our nation. I wanted to put on the best performance, whatever I had within me,” Flanagan said during the post-race press conference. “I ran as hard as I could.

“The fans were out of this world phenomenal, almost deafening. I felt like my insides were shaking, it was so loud.”

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