This past Sunday, Shalane Flanagan became the first American woman in 40 years to win the New York City Marathon. She finished with a personal best time of 2:26:53, surprising the world with her first ever victory in a major world marathon. To do so, she had to upset Kenyan favorite Mary Keitany, who had claimed three straight NYC marathon victories from 2014-2016.
No American female has won the NYC Marathon since 1977, when Miki Gorman took her second consecutive NYC title (first place finisher in 1976 and 1977).
This was only the first time Flanagan competed in the NYC Marathon since 2010, when she finished second. Up until Sunday’s dramatic victory, she had considered the 2010 second place finish as the greatest marathon achievement of her career. In the intervening years, she made two USA Olympic teams, the last being the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, where she finished 6th.
Setbacks to Greatness
But it hasn’t been and easy journey for the US long distance star. In 2006, Flanagan was forced to see over 10 doctors around the nations to troubleshoot a stabbing foot pain that worsened with running, and eventually forced her to suspend training and racing. It turned out to be a medical anomaly… X-rays revealed an extra foot bone, approximately the size of a fingernail, that would have to be surgically removed. She underwent 3 months of intense physical therapy and was running pain-free within a year.
In 2016, while preparing for the Boston Marathon, Flanagan suffered another major setback when her training resulted in a fracture of the iliac bone, part of the pelvis in the lower back. She attributes the injury to a lack of rest, and switching from road training to treadmill sessions. On the latter, she jokes about her father’s warning to “never take a Ferrari off road.”
Not deterred by the back injury, and with the poise of a seasoned long distance champion, Flanagan took 10 weeks off. During that break, Flanagan and her foster daughters vacationed in Hawaii, where she took advantage of the downtime to complete her second cookbook, Run Fast. Eat Slow.
Fulfilling the Dream of a Major Marathon Title
She returned rejuvenated and re-committed to running strong. She told Runner’s World magazine, “I do have a few goals. I still want to get back on the podium at a major marathon. That’s really important to me. To have that moment one more time would be amazing.”
That career-defining moment came Sunday, November 5, 2017. At the age of 36, Shalane Flanagan achieved her dream of winning a major World Marathon to the delight of a home crowd that couldn’t believe it as she came into the finishing chute, almost a minute ahead of second place finisher Keitany. Flanagan’s fist-pumping ecstasy and the emotion on her face reflected the pure joy of capping off the roller-coaster ride she’s endured to triumph in her 10th, and possibly final, marathon.
Flanagan said after the race. “I think it was a blessing that I got injured this past winter, and I came here full of energy and motivation and desire to put on the best performance of my life.”
She delivered this uplifting and inspirational USA victory when New York City residents needed something positive to celebrate. Only 5 days earlier, a terrorist drove a truck through a bike path in lower Manhattan, killing 8. That prompted days of anxiety and tighter security leading up to the NYC Flanagan shows that against all odds, you can achieve your goal if you keep working at it and never give up. She shows that while superstar athletes can also experience unexpected congenital deformities and training injuries, proper medical attention, recovery, and physical therapy can make all the difference between “career-ending” and “just a bump on the road to greatness.”
If you’re experiencing chronic pain or any discomfort that interferes with normal activity – from playing with your grandkids or walking your dog, to training for a marathon PR – call us at (713) 541-3199 to schedule an appointment with podiatrist Gabriel Maislos. He will provide a full evaluation, provide an accurate diagnosis, and can offer a wide range of treatment options. We accept most major medical insurance plans.
Call (713) 541-3199 if you experience:
- chronic foot or ankle pain
- swelling, redness or tenderness
- discomfort with change in activity