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Shalane Flanagan celebrates winning the 2017 NYC Marathon | © AP/REX/Shutterstock
Shalane Flanagan celebrates winning the 2017 NYC Marathon | © AP/REX/Shutterstock

Shalane Flanagan is First American Woman to Win NYC Marathon in 40 Years

Picture of Michael LoRé
Sports Editor
Updated: 6 November 2017

Americans dominated the New York City Marathon women’s open division following its inception in 1972, winning the first six races. Unfortunately, the trend was discontinued after 1977 and there hadn’t been a female American winner since. That is, until Shalane Flanagan’s victory at the 2017 NYC Marathon on Nov. 5.

Flanagan’s unofficial time of 2:26:53 gives the United States its first women’s open division winner at the NYC Marathon in 40 years.

“About nine months ago I was heartbroken over not getting the opportunity to race the Boston Marathon,” said Flanagan, who was sidelined in the spring with a lower-back fracture. “It really hurt quite a bit. I just kept telling myself that there’s going to be delayed gratification and a moment down the road that would make up for it. And I’ve dreamed of a moment like this since I was a little girl. So this means a lot to me, to my family, and hopefully inspires the next generation of American women to just be patient.”

The New York City Marathon began in 1970, with just 55 out of the 127 entrants completing the race, which was held entirely in Central Park. The lone female competitor dropped out as well. It wasn’t until two years later that the women’s open division was officially added.

Nina Kuscsik won in 1972 with a time of 3:08:41 before besting her own record with 2:57:07 a year later. Kathrine Switzer won in ’74 (3:07:29) and Kim Merritt took first-place honors in ’75 at 2:46:14. Gorman had consecutive NYC Marathon victories in ’76 (2:39:11) and ’77 (2:43:10), then came Grete Waitz of Norway. Waitz won the following three races (1978–80) and nine of the next 11 from ’78–’88.

Female runners from Kenya have reigned supreme over the NYC Marathon in recent years, with Mary Keitany having won three straight from 2014–16. She finished second in 2017.

“It’s too long. That’s what it is. It’s way too long,” Flanagan, 36, said. “But I knew that it was possible. I believe in amazing things, and I believe amazing things can happen. My coaches told me that it was possible. The training that I put in was the best I’ve ever had. They made me believe that today it could happen if I just ran a tactically sound race and was patient. These are the moments that we dream of as athletes, and this is going to feel good for a really long time.”

NYC Marathon American Winners

1972—Nina Kuscsik, 3:08:41

1973—Nina Kuscsik, 2:57:07

1974—Kathrine Switzer, 3:07:29

1975—Kim Merritt, 2:46:14

1976—Miki Gorman, 2:39:11

1977—Miki Gorman, 2:43:10

2017—Shalane Flanagan, 2:26:53