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Shalane Flanagan to defend New York City Marathon title rather than retire

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Shalane Flanagan considered retirement. The decision? She’s not done racing.

Flanagan will defend her New York City Marathon title on Nov. 4, according to The New York Times.

“When I think about running New York, I get a feeling of ecstasy; my stomach turns,” she said, according to the newspaper. “It’s like if you’re dating someone and it goes well and you want more.”

Last year, Flanagan became the first U.S. female runner to win New York in 40 years. That followed one of the most difficult years (injury, missing world champs) of the four-time Olympian’s elite career that has spanned 16 years.

Flanagan teased possible retirement before and after that victory. But the Massachusetts native signed up for one more Boston Marathon this year, finishing seventh in the dreadful weather and a race won by countrywoman Des Linden.

After, Flanagan said she didn’t know what the future held, only that she had raced Boston for the last time as an elite.

The 37-year-old hasn’t ruled out going for the 2020 Olympics, when she could be the first U.S. distance runner to compete in five Games. She would be the third-oldest female U.S. Olympic runner after marathoners Colleen de Reuck (2004) and Francie Larrieu-Smith (1992), according to Olympic historians.

Flanagan won the 2012 Olympic Trials and has finished first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, ninth and ninth in her major marathon career to go along with her 2008 Olympic 10,000m silver medal.

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F4%k YEAH!!!!!! I’m heading back to NYC 🗽♥️ “When I think about returning to race in New York City, I’m flooded with magical memories. My heart skips a beat, I get butterflies in my stomach, and my palms get sweaty. New York City is incredibly special to me. It’s where I ran my first marathon in 2010, placing second, and of course, my dream come true moment in 2017 when I won the TCS New York City Marathon. I’m thrilled to have the opportunity, support, passion, and health to defend my title in 2018. I hope everyone preparing enjoys their journey to the start line and I look forward to celebrating with all the runners at the finish line on November 4th.” #TCSNYCmarathon #MovedMe 📷 @nyrr

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Shalane Flanagan, after likely last Boston Marathon, looks to future

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Massachusetts native Shalane Flanagan wanted her last Boston Marathon as an elite runner to be memorable. It wasn’t, seventh place in miserable weather, but the four-time Olympian is not changing her mind.

The 36-year-old, four-time Olympian said Friday that her fourth Boston Marathon would likely be her last unless she returns in a non-competitive capacity. She stuck to that statement Monday afternoon.

“I don’t know what’s next, but for sure I think this was my last Boston Marathon,” Flanagan said, according to Runner’s World. “I think that’s it. This course is really hard. The conditions are really hard. And I’m not averse to hard things, but I think I’m good with Boston. I think that was it.”

Flanagan also stuck to her Friday statement that she could run another marathon other than Boston.

“I don’t know,” what my future holds, Flanagan told media after a hot shower and 90 minutes bundled up in her hotel room. “I feel very unsatisfied with that performance, to be honest, because I know different circumstances I’m capable of more, but at the same time, it is what it is. I don’t know.”

BOSTON MARATHON: Results | Finish Line Camera

She could try to become the first U.S. distance runner to compete in five Olympics in 2020. She would be the third-oldest female U.S. Olympic runner after marathoners Colleen de Reuck (2004) and Francie Larrieu-Smith (1992), according to the OlyMADMen.

Flanagan was asked if she might defend her New York City Marathon title in the fall, or chase a fast time in Europe or Chicago in October.

“Maybe neither, actually. The only thing that really motivates me now is maybe trying to train and help the other two women on my Bowerman Track Club team make the next Olympic team,” Flanagan said, likely referring to 2016 Olympic marathoner Amy Cragg and 2016 Olympic triathlon champion Gwen Jorgensen, who converted to running in the last six months. “So I may take a little break and assess what I want to do next. I have to see what motivates me because the training is hard.”

If Boston marked Flanagan’s last marathon as an elite racer, she will retire as the third-fastest American woman all time behind Deena Kastor and Jordan Hasay.

She won the 2012 Olympic Trials and finished first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, ninth and ninth in her major marathon career to go along with her 2008 Olympic 10,000m silver medal.

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Desi Linden is first U.S. woman to win Boston Marathon since 1985

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It was never Desi Linden‘s day.

Not at the California high school state championships, which she never won. Not at Arizona State, where her best NCAA Championships result was 10th. As a professional, Linden had already far exceeded expectations with a pair of Olympic Trials runners-up and a second-place finish at the 2011 Boston Marathon (two seconds behind the winner). But she never broke the tape at a major race.

Then came Monday, the most dreadful Boston Marathon weather in at least 30 years. High 30s at the Hopkinton start. Headwinds of 20 mph. A downpour. “Hypothermia is the key here,” race director Dave McGillivray said on the local TV broadcast.

“Honestly, at mile 2, 3, 4, I didn’t feel like I was even making it to the finish line,” Linden, 34, said. She wasn’t alone.

But this was Linden’s day.

The 5-foot-2, self-described (and labeled by many others) “grinder,” book nerd and Scottish whiskey connoisseur became the first U.S. female runner to win the world’s oldest annual marathon in 33 years. The first in the professional era, since prize money was first awarded and the elite international fields became dominated by East Africans.

Linden clocked 2:39:54 (slowest winning time since 1978, that weather), crossing 4:10 ahead of unknown American Sarah Sellers, who paid a $185 entry fee and was one of two nurses to finish in the top five. Sellers was a surprise, as was men’s winner Yuki Kawauchi (more on the Japanese here), but as others said, Linden was built for this thinking-person’s race and these conditions.

“I know I’m biased when I say this, but I always feel like she’s the smartest, racer, tactician, whatever you want to call it,” Kevin Hanson, who coaches Linden in Michigan, told media afterward. “Mother Nature threw the big dilemma at everybody, which means that there was a whole additional amount of thinking that had to take place.”

BOSTON MARATHON: Results | Finish-Line Camera

Linden’s thoughts in the first few miles were of quitting. She said as much to Massachusetts native Shalane Flanagan, who on Nov. 5 became the first U.S. female runner to win the New York City Marathon in 40 years. Flanagan finished seventh on Monday in what she expected to be her last Boston Marathon.

“Des came up to me around mile 6 and said, hey, it’s not going to be my day, I think I’m going to drop out,” Flanagan recalled. Flanagan grabbed her rival’s shoulder. Linden continued, “If there’s anything I can do to help you, just let me know.”

“OK, this is weird,” the four-time Olympian Flanagan thought. “I was waiting for her, any second, to drop out.”

A half-hour passed. Linden was still with Flanagan and the leaders at mile 12 or 13. So Flanagan took Linden up on the offer and told her that she needed to stop at an upcoming port-a-potty. Flanagan didn’t say it, but she hoped Linden would look out for her on the return and help pace her back to the pack.

“I was like, basically, asking her like she was my mom,” Flanagan said. “Do you think I can go to the bathroom? She was like, yeah, I got you. I think you’ve got enough time. We’re running slow enough, it’s fine.”

Flanagan veered right and into the second portable bathroom. She spent 14 seconds inside — timed by LetsRun’s Jonathan Gault — and emerged on the wet pavement. Linden drifted to the caboose of the jacketed group of eight, repeatedly looking back for Flanagan.

Linden helped Flanagan to the group. Then she helped Molly Huddle reconnect, too. The two-time Olympian Huddle was, along with Flanagan, Jordan Hasay and Linden, one of four U.S. women who came to Boston with realistic chances of ending the 33-year drought.

Linden received the least pre-race press of the four. Flanagan was coming off her NYC title. Huddle broke the American record in the half marathon in January. Hasay became the second-fastest U.S. female marathoner ever at her last outing in Chicago on Oct. 8 but dropped out of Monday’s race on Sunday night with a heel injury.

Linden chose not to race a fall marathon, then produced her slowest career 13.1-mile time in 17 half marathons in her Boston prep race. That came in 29 degrees on a new course and into a headwind, though.

When Hanson saw the Patriots’ Day forecast, “I thought her chances of victory increased 10-fold,” he said. “She just embraced the weather when other people said we’re going to try to pretend it’s not going on.”

Soon after helping Huddle (who would finish 16th before a Tuesday root canal), Linden found herself in third or fourth place. Linden, who graduated from Arizona State with degrees in religious studies and psychology, did some more thinking.

“And thought I probably shouldn’t drop out,” she said, to press-conference laughter, “so I kept going.”

Ethiopian Mamitu Daska, 34 like Linden and third in New York last fall, moved in the 14th mile. Linden dropped about 30 seconds back with 2017 Boston winner Edna Kiplagat and another Kenyan, Gladys Chesir.

Linden, so tactically proficient that she ran identical 13.1-mile splits in Boston last year (fourth place), was pretty solid this year — 1:19:42 for the first half, 1:20:12 for the second.

The others faded. Linden went from third to first in the 22nd mile. By the turn onto Boylston Street, she led by four minutes. She dared not look back, though.

“2011 put the fear in me,” Linden said.

Of all of Linden’s near misses in major races, the 2011 Boston Marathon stuck with her. She lost a sprint to Kenyan Caroline Kilel by two seconds. That fall and spring was Linden’s coming out.

Desi Davila, before she married pro runner and triathlete Ryan Linden, ran a personal best by five minutes at the October 2010 Chicago Marathon and finished second. Then she ran nearly four minutes faster than that in Boston six months later.

This for a woman who didn’t break 16 minutes for 5000m in college and ran 2:44:56 in her marathon debut in Boston in 2007. She was 18th then. Monday marked the 11th anniversary.

“In 2007, no one believed I would be sitting here, that’s for sure,” Linden said at Monday’s winners’ press conference, gold wreath resting on her head. “The [Boston Athletic Association] treated us like rock stars. They came in, showed us their history and museum. Hey, these are so-and-so’s shoes. You could have your stuff in here one day. They just treated us like we belonged. That made me want to be a marathoner.”

Linden, in a black-and-lime green jacket with a No. 8 bib pinned on its side, raised her arms in her final strides. She blew a kiss with her black gloves just before crossing the blue tape. She was enveloped by an American flag and loved ones.

“It hurts right now,” she said in a finish-line TV interview, “but it’s a perfect day for me.”

The World Marathon Majors season continues with the London Marathon on Sunday, live at 3:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold.

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