Looking across the podium at Flanagan after the race, Jeptoo said simply, “She was tough.”
While admittedly surprised by how many of the elite pack stayed with her, Flanagan was on a 5:20 pace with a quarter of the race to go, still leading at 1:41.11. She felt that a 2:22 finish (which Schumacher told her she’d achieve) would be enough to win.
Then came the vicious hills in Newton.
“I remember seeing the women that pulled away from me. It was about four of them, maybe five,” she said. “I could still see them and so I stayed really positive, kept my head down, keep digging, you never know what could happen.
“Then we turned the bend and I couldn’t see them; I was literally in disbelief. I thought, ‘I’m either blowing up, or they’re having the race of their lives -- and I wasn’t blowing up.”
Flanagan never caught Jeptoo, second place finisher Buzunesh Deba of Ethiopia or the others that passed her. But she kept digging, running with a purpose, and over the last mile or two the emotions that she had tried to keep bottled up all day and focus on her task at hand finally bubbled to the surface.
“I was almost hyperventilating the last few miles,” Flanagan said. “To be part of this city and feel the love I felt ... it’s a moment I’ll treasure forever.”
If strength is measured in mental fortitude and refusal to ever quit, then Shalane Flanagan is one of the world’s mightiest warriors. Her time and finish were not what she dreamed of, but admitted it’s a step in the right direction. She’ll happily take a new PR. She said she’ll use 38-year-old men’s champion Meb Keflezighi as inspiration to keep chasing her dream of Boylston Street glory.
And you’d better believe she’ll be back in 2015.
“I will be back here,” she said emphatically, “until I win it.”
Phil Stacey is the sports editor of The Salem News. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 978-338-2650, and follow him on Twitter @PhilStacey_SN.