Editor’s note: In honor of the University’s 225th anniversary, we will be sharing profiles throughout the academic year of some of the many Tar Heels who have left their heelprint on the campus, their communities, the state, the nation and the world.
When Shalane Flanagan won the 2017 New York City Marathon in a stunning two hours and 26 minutes, she was not only the first woman to cross the line that day, but she was also the first American woman in 40 years to accomplish that feat.
Flanagan was used to making history. Fifteen years prior, she became the first Tar Heel ever to bring home the individual NCAA championship in cross country, a victory she repeated in 2003. She consistently broke meet records and won the ACC tournament three years in a row, setting the stage for an impressive professional career.
After graduating from Carolina in 2005, Flanagan continued her race to the top, collecting multiple accolades along the way. She has since repeatedly won national championships in both outdoor and indoor track, as well as short-course and long-course cross country. She won a silver medal and broke her own record in the 10,000 meters at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing and has qualified for Team USA in every Summer Olympic Games since 2004. In 2012, she broke the Olympic Trials’ marathon record in what was only her second attempt at the 26.2-miler. The rise of her career can be marked by shattered records in a variety of distances, two of which she still holds — she ran the fastest 15,000 meters in 2014 and 10K in 2016.
Flanagan’s impact on Carolina continues as campus athletes find inspiration in sharing Tar Heel ties with one of the most accomplished runners of their time. In 2017, the Daily Tar Heel reported on two members of the UNC Marathon Team who also competed in Flanagan’s winning marathon and how following her lead fueled them to push harder.
In 2016, Flanagan and former teammate Elyse Kopecky published Run Fast Eat Slow: Nourishing Recipes for Athletes out of a desire to see young runners make healthy nutritional choices. The book reached the New York Times bestseller list and was followed by Run Fast. Cook Fast. Eat Slow.: Quick-Fix Recipes for Hangry Athletes in 2018.
When the two visited Chapel Hill on their book tour, they invited the community to join them on a run. Three hundred people laced up to run with a legend.