The Associated Press NEW YORK (AP) — Shalane Flanagan thought about the seven years building to this race, possibly her last. She thought about the running star striding next to her. She thought about her family. She thought about Meb.
With one hellacious holler at the finish, it all poured out.
Flanagan dethroned Mary Keitany on Sunday and became the first American woman to win the New York City Marathon since 1977, potentially ending her decorated career with her first major marathon victory.
Flanagan’s breakthrough came in the last career race for American great Meb Keflezighi. The 2009 New York winner collapsed at the finish line, his 42-year-old body pushed to its limit in his 26th marathon. Keflezighi finished 11th, about five minutes behind 24-year-old men’s winner Geoffrey Kamworor of Kenya.
This may have been Flanagan’s final race, too, although the four-time Olympian wasn’t ready to commit. But she likes the idea of her and Keflezighi going out together.
“I was thinking of Meb, and I was thinking of how I wanted to make him proud,” Flanagan said.
Her win came five days after the bike path terror attack in lower Manhattan killed eight and raised questions about security for Sunday. That hit home for Flanagan, a Massachusetts native who completed the 2013 Boston Marathon shortly before a bomb went off at the finish line, killing three and wounding more than 260 others.
“It’s been a tough week for New Yorkers, and a tough week for our nation,” Flanagan said. “I thought of, ‘What a better gift than to make Americans smile today?’”
Flanagan ended a dominant stretch in New York by Keitany, a Kenyan runner who had won here three straight years. Flanagan stalked Keitany most of the way, hovering behind her during an unusually slow first 32 kilometers by the lead women.
Flanagan, Keitany and third-place finisher Mamitu Daska of Ethiopia broke from the pack in the 33rd kilometer, and with about five kilometers left, Flanagan hit the jets. She finished in 2 hours 26 minutes 53 seconds, about a minute faster than Keitany.
Flanagan cried and yelled as she approached the finish line without another runner in sight.
“It’s indescribable,” said the 36-year-old, who was running her first marathon since finishing sixth at the Rio Olympics. “It’s a moment I’m trying to soak up and savor.”
The last American woman to win New York was Miki Gorman, who took consecutive titles in 1976-77.
Kamworor beat countryman Wilson Kipsang by three seconds, winning with a time of 2:10:53. Kamworor separated from the pack late and seemed like he would cruise to his first major marathon victory, but Kipsang sneaked up on him at the very end. Kamworor was surprised to see the 2014 New York winner behind him on a large video board located near the finish line.
“I look at the camera, I saw someone was coming, which was Wilson,” Kamworor said. “And I had to believe in myself because I was holding out for the finish.”
Kamworor kissed the pavement right after crossing the finish, then turned to embrace Kipsang. Ethiopia’s Lelisa Desisa finished third.
A few minutes later, the Central Park crowd gave perhaps its loudest cheers of the day to Keflezighi. He waved and blew kisses to the grandstands through the home stretch, then had to be carried away after crumbling at the finish line.