Last Sunday, Shalane Flanagan became the first American woman to win the New York City Marathon in 40 years. "I’ve been dreaming of a moment like this since I was a little girl," she said at the time. "It means a lot to me, to my family. Hopefully it inspires the next generation of women to just be patient. It took me seven years to do this. A lot of work went into this one moment."
Her hope of inspiring the next generation of women wasn't just a nice thing to say. Quite the opposite, in fact: Flanagan's success as a runner can be attributed in part to her mission of elevating other women.
Elite running is typically a competitive industry in which female runners are either isolated or too invested in their team, putting the team's win above individual success. But when Flanagan created her own team of professional distance runners in 2009, she managed to strike a unique balance: She and her teammates were competitive, but they also lifted one another up by pushing one another to work harder and break their own records.
Over time, Flanagan's team came to be one of the most well-respected running groups in the United States. "I thoroughly enjoy working with other women," she told a New York Times reporter. "I think it makes me a better athlete and person. It allows me to have more passion toward my training and racing. When we achieve great things on our own, it doesn’t feel nearly as special."
If there was ever a case for empowering other women, Flanagan's is about as strong as it gets.
Want to learn more about Flanagan? Here are seven things you might not know about her.