The 2008 Olympic 10,000m silver medallist and former New York Marathon champion becomes first person in history to run six major marathons over 42 days
Shalane Flanagan has become the first person in history to complete all six major marathons in as many weeks after finishing the New York City Marathon on Sunday (Nov 7).
The 40-year-old, who is now retired and decided to attempt this feat off the back of two reconstructive knee surgeries, completed the course in 2:33:32, quicker than any of her times at the previous five major marathons.
For the first time in history, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, all six major marathons were scheduled in the autumn and in close proximity to one another.
Shalane Flanagan has done it
6⃣ out of 6⃣ and all in under three hours.
Tokyo (virtual): 2:35:14
New York: 2:33:32 pic.twitter.com/YL4vQ1IGVJ
— AW (@AthleticsWeekly) November 7, 2021
Nicknamed “Project Eclipse”, this historic effort began back on September 29 in Berlin when Flanagan clocked 2:38:32 in the German capital, where she finished third in 2014.
Next up was London, which is moving back to its usual spring slot in 2023, where the American recorded 2:35:04. This was even more impressive by the fact that her 18-month-old son Jack got a cold during her European leg which meant that Flanagan herself felt unwell going into London, experiencing “brutal” pain in her legs towards the finish.
Boston and Chicago followed and this is where the schedule posed a problem as Boston, which like London traditionally takes place in April, was moved to the same weekend as Chicago.
This meant that Flanagan had two marathons in as many days but the six-time US cross country champion had trained for this and clocked 2:46:39 in Chicago and then 2:40:34 in Boston.
Just two to go.
Tokyo went ahead with the Olympic marathon and indeed the 2020 edition, which was just restricted to elite runners, but due to a state of emergency because of Covid they took the decision to scrap the 2021 event, meaning that Flanagan had to run it virtually.
So she took to her training course in Portland, Oregon, and got a time 2:35:14, the second quickest out of the five behind London.
That was until she got to New York.
Flanagan has a rich history in the Big Apple where she became champion 2017 and became the first US woman since Miki Gorman in 1977 to take the title in New York. Her personal best of 2:26:22 came just a year later and in 2010 – on her debut – she finished runner-up to two-time marathon world champion Edna Kiplagat.
It’s no surprise then that the 40-year-old’s quickest time over the six marathons came in New York as she clocked 2:33:32 and created history in the process.
With Tokyo moving back to its usual March date and Boston in April, this may well be the only time in history that an athlete has finished all of the major marathons in such a small period. They’re spaced out for a reason after all.
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Flanagan said on her Instagram: “I knew going in that today [New York] was going to be my favourite, but I had no idea just how much it would fill my heart. From the moment Frank Sinatra wished me well over the Verrazano, I was completely encapsulated by the energy and passion of the city and the fans.
“For 26.2 miles, every hair on my arms stood up. I had chills with every step. Not because I was cold but because of the deafening and overwhelming love and cheering from everyone on the sidelines. My legs may have kept me moving forward, but the city made me fly.
“For the past seven weeks, I have fallen back in love with running, with racing, and with the marathon but nothing could have prepared me for what I felt today. It was my fastest. It was my funnest. It was my favorite. Which is exactly what I wanted. Delivering on all of your goals in a marathon is never guaranteed but today, I made myself proud.
“I have so many more things to say, I have so many more people to thank, and I have so many more feels to share but for now I’m making room for champagne and fries. Just as I have always said, I love you New York.”
Flanagan doesn’t have any plans to run for a month but just see how long that lasts. The American has captured the hearts and minds of a running generation and will have no doubt inspired many to take up challenges that in their head seemed difficult but in reality may be possible.
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