Shalane Flanagan, a cross country star at UNC in the early 2000s, became the first American woman to win the New York City Marathon in 40 years when she claimed a dominant victory over Kenyan three-times champion Mary Keitany on Sunday.
The men’s title went to Kenyan Geoffrey Kamworor, who held off countryman Wilson Kipsang.
Flanagan, who had never won a major marathon, clocked two hours, 26 minutes 53 seconds for the stunning victory at the age of 36 in what could be her last competitive marathon. Flanagan won two national cross country titles as a runner at North Carolina in 2002 and 2003.
Keitany struggled home in 2:27:54 for second with Ethiopia’s Mamitu Daska third in 2:28:08.
“This is the moment I have dreamed off since I was a little girl,” Flanagan said after the race, tears streaming down her face.
“It’s been a tough week for New Yorkers and a tough week for our nation and I thought of what a better gift than to make Americans smile today,” she said, referring to Tuesday’s truck-ramming attack that killed eight in what authorities described as a terrorist act. Thousands of police lined the course as part of heightened security because of the incident.
“So I was thinking of other people when it started to hurt,” said Flanagan, the 2008 Olympic 10,000 meters silver medalist.
American women had not won in New York since Miki Gorman claimed her second consecutive title in 1977.
Keitany, winner of this year’s London Marathon and the fastest ever in a women’s only marathon, had been expected to run away with the race but a slow pace allowed Flanagan and others to stay with her early.
When crunch time came it was Flanagan, not Keitany, who dominated, impressively leading the final three miles.
Whether she runs another major marathon is likely to be decided in the coming days.
She said after the race she would meet with her coach, Jerry Schumacher, to discuss her running future.
“I think I will sit with my coach tonight and I think we will have some decisions to make,” Flanagan told a news conference.
While Flanagan was an overwhelming winner, Kamworor was not assured of his first major victory until the closing meters.
After taking the lead in the 23rd mile, the 24-year-old 2015 New York runner-up had to contend with Kipsang, whose final push brought him ever so close to his countryman.
But in the end it was Kamworor who won by three seconds in 2:10:53 with Ethiopia’s Lelisa Desisa third in 2:11:32.
“This is fantastic for me for this is my first victory in (a major) marathon,” said Kamworor, who was running his fifth marathon.
Former winner Meb Keflezighi, who was running his final competitive marathon at age 42, finished 11th in 2:15:29, collapsing at the finish.
Swiss athletes swept the wheelchair titles.
Manuela Schaer stunned five-times champion Tatyana McFadden in the women’s race, defeating the American by almost three minutes in 1:48.09.
McFadden clocked 1:51:01 and third went to compatriot Amanda McGrory in 1:53.11.
Repeat winner Marcel Hug gave Switzerland the men’s title in equally dominant fashion, defending his championship in 1:37:21, more than two minutes ahead of British runner-up John Charles Smith. The title was Hug’s third in New York City.
Japan’s Sho Watanabe took third in 1:39:51.