With ‘happy tears’ in her eyes, Shalane Flanagan’s pro running career reaches the end of the road

Shalane Flanagan ran the Boston Marathon four times.
Shalane Flanagan ran the Boston Marathon four times.John Tlumacki/File/Globe staff

Shalane Flanagan is calling it a career. The Marblehead native who became the first American woman to win the New York City Marathon in 40 years in 2017 announced on Instagram that she was retiring from professional running.

“With happy tears I announce today that I am retiring from professional running,” Flanagan began her post. “From 2004 to 2019 I’ve given everything that’s within me to this sport and wow it’s been an incredible ride!”

Flanagan, 38, attended Marblehead High School, where she was named to the Globe All-Scholastic team before going on to star at the University of North Carolina, winning national cross country titles in 2002 and 2003.


Related: No matter where she finishes in Boston, Shalane Flanagan has changed running for American women

She took silver in the 10,000 meters at the 2018 Beijing Olympics, second place in her debut at 26.2 miles at the 2010 New York City Marathon, and bronze at the 2011 World Cross Country Championships, where she became the first non-African to medal at the event in eight years.

She ran the Boston Marathon four times (2013-15, 2018), with her best finish coming in her first race when she took fourth. After finishing seventh in 2018, Flanagan said it was her last time running Boston competitively, although she may return to run in a charity capacity.

Related: For Shalane Flanagan, this wasn’t the finish she wanted

Within her retirement announcement, Flanagan said she will serve as a coach of the Nike Bowerman Track Club.

View this post on Instagram

With happy tears I announce today that I am retiring from professional running. From 2004 to 2019 I’ve given everything that’s within me to this sport and wow it’s been an incredible ride! I’ve broken bones, torn tendons, and lost too many toenails to count. I've experienced otherworldly highs and abysmal lows. I've loved (and learned from) it all. Over the last 15 years I found out what I was capable of, and it was more than I ever dreamed possible. Now that all is said and done, I am most proud of the consistently high level of running I produced year after year. No matter what I accomplished the year before, it never got any easier. Each season, each race was hard, so hard. But this I know to be true: hard things are wonderful, beautiful, and give meaning to life. I’ve loved having an intense sense of purpose. For 15 years I've woken up every day knowing I was exactly where I needed to be. The feeling of pressing the threshold of my mental and physical limits has been bliss. I've gone to bed with a giant tired smile on my face and woken up with the same smile. My obsession to put one foot in front of the other, as quickly as I can, has given me so much joy. However, I have felt my North Star shifting, my passion and purpose is no longer about MY running; it's more and more about those around me. All I’ve ever known, in my approach to anything, is going ALL IN. So I’m carrying this to coaching. I want to be consumed with serving others the way I have been consumed with being the best athlete I can be. I am privileged to announce I am now a professional coach of the Nike Bowerman Track Club. This amazing opportunity in front of me, to give back to the sport, that gave me so much, is not lost on me. I’ve pinched myself numerous times to make sure this is real. I am well aware that retirement for professional athletes can be an extremely hard transition. I am lucky, as I know already, that coaching will bring me as much joy and heartache that my own running career gave me. I believe we are meant to inspire one another, we are meant to learn from one another. Sharing everything I’ve learned about and from running is what I’m meant to do now.(1/2)

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