"Congrats on finishing marathon 34!! Did you hear yet?!?! Shalane won!!!"
I had heard. The news had trickled back to those of us still on course, making the vibe in the air feel electrifying. All of us, every single finisher, had become a part of history that day. Shalane Flanagan had won the women's race, the first American to do so in 40 years, longer than my lifetime.
At the finish, I snapped a selfie. When Shalane crossed, photographers mobbed her, captured her joy. For me, and so many others, there was fanfare, no photographers in my face, but I felt elated just the same. My selfie documented my happiness in the moment. Any marathoner can attest to feeling like a champion after crossing the finish line of 26.2 miles, whether they finish in the top 10 or in the back of the pack. I posted my post-race selfie and spent a few moments scrolling through Instagram. I was inundated immediately with image after image of Shalane. From major news outlets to friends on the sidelines volunteering--everyone it seemed was collectively celebrating her victory.
Shalane's victory cry—F*CK yeah--in an instant became a mantra for millions of women around the world—the epitome of what it feels like to do something you KNEW you could do, but something others doubted was possible.
It doesn't matter if something is viewed as overly ambitious. Ambition makes everything possible.Growing up I wasn't a runner, let alone athletic. My parents had told me I could be anything I wanted in life, but athletics simply weren't a focus. An old soul for my age, my dad would joke that one day I'd grow up to be the editor in chief of Modern Maturity Magazine. I dreamed about one day becoming a lawyer. The first step of many to my ultimate dream of becoming a Supreme Court Justice.
As a child family members and friends applauded my goals. At some point though, those who had cheered me on in my youthful dreams suggested that my pursuits were too big—unrealistic they said, impossible and overly ambitious. Nothing about who I was had changed, I had simply gotten older.
Impressionable, I added that negative adjective to my list and gave up on some of my goals.
Sunday morning Shalane Flanagan was already a heroine to the running community. She didn't need a win to be a part of the record books, but being first in New York, after the tragic events that unfolded earlier in the week, took her from someone well-known in the running community to a household name.
In the days that have followed the New York Marathon, my friends and family haven't asked me much about my race. What they have asked is, did you see an American won? When I am old and grey, I do not doubt that runners will still be talking about the time Shalane won New York.
That moment defined what it means to persevere against the odds, to never give up, to practice patience, and to believe in the beauty of your dreams.