Along with Meb Keflezighi, Shalane Flanagan is one of my favorite elite runners. She’s personable, hard-working, and resilient. She handles race losses and missed goals with grace and she upholds a clean sport, without the controversy that surrounds some other top American marathoners. When Shalane crossed the finish line to claim her victory at the New York City Marathon this weekend, she did more become the first American woman in 40 years to win NYCM – she cemented her place in American marathoning as one of our nation’s most talented runners.
As Mario Fraioli described it in his Morning Shakeout newsletter, “That one moment, I believe, will go down as one of the most important that American distance running has ever seen, right up there with Meb Keflezighi’s historic 2014 Boston victory.” For runners everywhere – especially female runners – Shalane’s historic win at the New York City Marathon is nothing short of inspiring. These are some of the important lessons we can take from Shalane’s historic victory.
Finishing Strong Takes Toughness – and Passion:
“All runners are tough. Everyone has to have a little fire in them, that even in tough times, can’t be turned off.”
In her post-race interview on Live with Kelly and Ryan, Shalane described how she was in “a lot of pain” at the end of the marathon. Anyone who has run a marathon can attest to just how much those final miles hurt, even if you are having a good race. Yet from looking at her splits, you would not have guessed that Shalane was in pain; she ran sub-5:20 minute miles at the last 5 miles of the marathon. Mentally tough runners can push hard through physical discomfort because of that fire, the innate desire to succeed and push themselves to their limits. Shalane’ strong finish showed us more than how much smart pacing at the start of the race pays off – she showed us just how hard you can run, even on fatigued legs, when you have that spark within you to run your best.
Great Things Take Time:
“It took me seven years to do this. A lot of work went into this one moment.” (source)
Runners know that you can expect to devote at several weeks, if not months, of training for a single race. But breakthroughs in racing and achieving your goals do not perfectly follow the train-race-PR formula. Training cycles build upon each other, as do races. Maybe you have been training for years to qualify for Boston, but have yet to race your qualifying time. As Shalane’s career teaches us, big running goals take time.
Shalane certainly was an accomplished runner – Olympic silver medalist, third fastest female American marathoner, and holder of several American records – but it took her seven years of racing marathons to win. She never gave up on her hard work but rather kept investing in her goals – and clearly, such patience and hard work paid off.
On the Gift of Setbacks:
“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.” (source)
We all have setbacks in our running: injury, illness, surgery, or intensely busy times at work. Such setbacks can easily cause despair and whittle away motivation. But Shalane showed us how setbacks can be a gift. She did not win Boston when she attempted to in the past couple years. This year, she was derailed from months of training and racing the Boston Marathon due to a stress fracture.
Those setbacks could discourage a person or, in the case of Shalane, ignite a fire to work harder and give everything. Shalane changed her training, logging 130-mile weeks. “The training I put in was the best I’ve ever put in,” she said. Her setback motivated her to train harder and treat this race like it could be her final professional marathon – and it paid off.
(I have to thank Meredith for the idea behind this post!)
Did Shalane’s win inspire you? What was most inspiring to you about it?
What big goals are you working hard towards?