On Monday, Shalane Flanagan announced her retirement from professional running. The former NCAA champion, American record-holder (5,000m and 10,000m) and Olympic silver medallist has been a staple on the American running scene for nearly two decades. She’s closing out one of the most impressive and consistent running careers ever by an American woman.
Flanagan’s presence will be missed on the track and roads, but she’s not going far, as she also announced on Monday that she’s accepted a position as a Bowerman Track Club coach. This new role means that Flanagan’s influence on the running community is far from over, it has just shifted. As one of the running greats closes out her professional career, here’s a look back at all the times Flanagan made you scream, F**K YEAH!
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With happy tears I announce today that I am retiring from professional running. From 2004 to 2019 I’ve given everything that’s within me to this sport and wow it’s been an incredible ride! I’ve broken bones, torn tendons, and lost too many toenails to count. I've experienced otherworldly highs and abysmal lows. I've loved (and learned from) it all. Over the last 15 years I found out what I was capable of, and it was more than I ever dreamed possible. Now that all is said and done, I am most proud of the consistently high level of running I produced year after year. No matter what I accomplished the year before, it never got any easier. Each season, each race was hard, so hard. But this I know to be true: hard things are wonderful, beautiful, and give meaning to life. I’ve loved having an intense sense of purpose. For 15 years I've woken up every day knowing I was exactly where I needed to be. The feeling of pressing the threshold of my mental and physical limits has been bliss. I've gone to bed with a giant tired smile on my face and woken up with the same smile. My obsession to put one foot in front of the other, as quickly as I can, has given me so much joy. However, I have felt my North Star shifting, my passion and purpose is no longer about MY running; it's more and more about those around me. All I’ve ever known, in my approach to anything, is going ALL IN. So I’m carrying this to coaching. I want to be consumed with serving others the way I have been consumed with being the best athlete I can be. I am privileged to announce I am now a professional coach of the Nike Bowerman Track Club. This amazing opportunity in front of me, to give back to the sport, that gave me so much, is not lost on me. I’ve pinched myself numerous times to make sure this is real. I am well aware that retirement for professional athletes can be an extremely hard transition. I am lucky, as I know already, that coaching will bring me as much joy and heartache that my own running career gave me. I believe we are meant to inspire one another, we are meant to learn from one another. Sharing everything I’ve learned about and from running is what I’m meant to do now.(1/2)
Flanagan, who was then 36, had a stress fracture in her back in early 2017, which forced her to withdraw from the Boston Marathon. She came back that fall to win the NYC Marathon in a 2:26:53 to defeat Mary Keitany (the women–only world record-holder), who clocked a 2:27:54 that day. Flanagan ended Keitany’s three-year winning streak in what was a slow and tactical affair for much of the race before the action heightened in Manhattan. It was the first American win by a woman at a World Marathon Major since Deena Kastor won the London Marathon in 2006.
When Flanagan crossed the marathon finish line in 2017, she pumped her first and screamed a triumphant, “F**k yeah!”
Following her 2017 NYC Marathon win, Flanagan was featured in a Michelob Ultra Superbowl commercial. Flanagan, who grew up in Marblehead, Mass., was cheering for the Patriots, who would go on to win. (Marblehead is less than an hour’s drive from where the Patriots play home games.) The runner was featured alongside actor Chris Pratt, golfer Brooks Koepka and surfer Kelly Slater.
Flanagan is a longtime idol for runners everywhere, but especially after her New York performance. Many kids dress up as their favourite superheroes for Halloween, and last year, some dressed up like Flanagan.
When she made four Olympic teams
Flanagan made four Olympic teams, a feat that few people accomplish. Her first was in 2004 for the 5,000m, her second in 2008 for the 5,000m and 10,000m, her third in 2012 for the marathon and her fourth in 2016, when she raced the marathon again in Rio.
When she became an Olympic medallist
In 2008 at her second Olympics, Flanagan became an Olympic 10,000m silver medallist. She ran the race of her life to secure Olympic silver, finishing in 30:22.22, which is still the second-fastest 10,000m run by an American woman. Molly Huddle now own the American record at 30:13.17.