Triumph Amidst Tragedy: Former Tar Heel Finishes 4th in the Boston Marathon

The Boston Marathon symbolizes some of our country’s greatest virtues like endurance, perseverance and camaraderie. Running a marathon is not a spontaneous or casual endeavor. No one woke up last Monday and just decided that they were going to run in the Boston Marathon. Running 26.2 miles straight requires dedication, willpower and stamina of epic proportions. Some people train for weeks, but most runners spend months or even years preparing for a race. Finishing a marathon is one of the most rewarding, individual achievements in all of sports. And for runners, the Boston Marathon is the Super Bowl of all races. But as we all know, last week an event that was supposed to end with smiles and celebration turned into fear and chaos as terror struck American soil once again.

Obviously, this past week our thoughts have been with the friends and families of the three people killed and the hundreds injured as a result of the Boston Marathon bombings. But, amidst all the sadness surrounding the senseless tragedy, let’s not forget the triumphs. Before the race was suspended, over 17,000 people had crossed the finish line and reached a personal goal that few people will ever accomplish. Shalane Flanagan was one of those runners as she finished 4th on Monday.

In case you’ve never heard the name before, Flanagan is one of the premier female runners in the United States. Flanagan’s also a former Tar Heel, and in 2002 she became UNC’s first individual champion when she won the cross country title. Her success continued beyond Chapel Hill as she took bronze at the 2008 Beijing Olympics becoming only the second American woman ever to medal in the 10,000 meters.

Despite her success as a distance runner, Flanagan did not run her first marathon until 2010 when she finished 2nd in the New York City Marathon. This was her first time running the Boston Marathon, and it was a homecoming for Flanagan who grew up in nearby Marblehead, Mass. Flanagan was one of the favorites to win on Monday, and the local crowd was ready to cheer on one of their own. Though bested by three runners from Kenya and Ethiopia, Flanagan finished 1st among American runners, so don’t be surprised if you see her competing for the US in the 2012 London games.

Congratulations to UNC alumna, Shalane Flanagan, and every runner who crossed the finish line at the 2013 Boston Marathon. And for those who didn’t get to finish because of the bombings, here’s hoping they will be back in Boston to try again next year.  In our country’s ongoing fight against terror, violence and radicalism, we could learn a lot from distance runners like Shalane Flanagan. Keep your head up, and keep going. Otherwise, the terrorists win.

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