Shalane Flanagan had done everything she could to keep her emotions in check.
In the 118th running of the Boston Marathon Monday, Flanagan was locked in on winning her first laurel wreath, hoping to deliver the ultimate tribute to a city eager to leave last year’s tragedy in the rearview mirror.
But as the Marblehead High graduate traversed the last mile, making the final turn onto Boylston Street, she could not contain her feelings.
“I was so excited to be a part of this city and to feel the love I felt,” Flanagan said. “I felt like my insides were shaking — it was so loud my ears almost hurt. It was one of the most memorable, amazing days for the city of Boston and our nation. I just wanted to put on the best performance and whatever I had in me to be poured out on to the streets.”
Flanagan finished seventh in 2 hours, 22 minutes, 2 seconds, which broke her personal record of 2:25:38 and is the fastest time ever run by an American woman on the Boston course.
Immediately after she crossed the finish line, she was overcome with emotions and couldn’t fight back her tears.
“I love Boston so much, I really wanted to do it for my city,” she said in an interview with WBZ-TV.
In the postrace news conference, she said, “I don’t wish it were easier, I just wish I were better. It was a really heartfelt performance today.”
Flanagan certainly had nothing to hang her head about.
From the starting line in Hopkinton, Flanagan pushed a ferocious pace for Kenyan winner Rita Jeptoo, who won her second consecutive and third overall Boston Marathon, beating the course record of 2:20:43 with a 2:18:57 performance.
The second- and third-place finishers, Buzunesh Deba and Mare Dibaba, also finished ahead of the previous record with times of 2:19:59 and 2:20:35.
Flanagan led the elite pack for the first 19 miles, falling behind briefly at various water stops, only to make an assertive statement by sprinting back to the front of the pack. With the exception of the first and third miles, she surpassed the record pace every time until she finally lost the lead.
It was an aggressive approach, but Flanagan, who frequently returned from her home in Portland, Ore., to train on the Boston course, was confident and trusted herself.
She felt her goal of 2 hours and 22 minutes would be fast enough to win.
“I had fallen in love with this course,” Flanagan said. “I wanted to use it as an advantage and that’s why I attacked the course. I wanted to give it everything I had.
“I knew the tangents. I knew every little divot in the road. I knew where every Dunkin’ Donuts was, or every Wendy’s was. I have some great memories on this course. I made six trips out here this past six months and it had been a really enjoyable process. I just had a fun time preparing and it’s been an amazing journey.”
Flanagan ran the race for the first time last year, finishing fourth with a time of 2:27:08.
Just three days after the bombings, Flanagan was the first to submit her entry for this year when she called Mary Kate Shea, who helps assemble the John Hancock Elite Field, to promise she would be back.
“I just wanted to send the message I was not afraid to be back here and wanted so much to be part of this day,” Flanagan said.
From that moment, Flanagan was determined to come back even stronger.
“I think when you feel a great sense of purpose, that there’s meaning behind everything that you do. Every pushup that I did. Every crunch that I did. Every little shake-out run. Every stride. There was a purpose to everything I did,” Flanagan said. “I was preparing, not just for my city or my family, but my nation and there’s really no better motivation than to prepare for something like that.”
This year, she didn’t need three days to decide if she would be back next year.
“I can say right now, I’ll be back here until I win it,” Flanagan said. “I’ll be back to challenge Jeptoo.”
More from the 2014 Boston Marathon — Cullen: Just like the days we used to know | Gasper: Boston reclaims its Marathon | Photos: Marathon scenes | The ‘Scream Tunnel’ and Heartbreak Hill | The elite runners | Boylston Street | Videos from the Marathon | Full coverage