Shalane Flanagan on elevating other athletes through inspiration and diet

NYC Marathon winner Shalane Flanagan

When Shalane Flanagan won the New York City Marathon last November, the four-time Olympian punctuated the moment with the grit and swagger befitting of the streets she'd just conquered: "F*** yes."

"Did you catch any flak for using that word?" "CBS This Morning" co-host Norah O'Donnell asked her.

"Yes, from my parents, 100 percent. My dad was like, 'What? We don't use that language.' And the next moment I know, he's cursing, so," Flanagan said with a laugh. It was an expression of, "You can't take this away from me. This is my moment," she described.  

NYC Marathon
Shalane Flanagan crosses the finish line first in the women's division of the New York City Marathon in New York, on Sun., Nov. 5, 2017. AP

It was a history making moment as Flanagan, at the age of 36, became the first American woman in 40 years to break the tape in New York. This summer, she announced she's coming back for more.

"It's a magical city for me," Flanagan said. "Every time I come here I sort of, like — the hairs on my arms stand up. I just feel, like, this magical sense. It, like, incites this excitement in me and this passion for running. So I just felt like I had to come back," she said. 

"Do you think you're born an elite runner?" O'Donnell asked.

shalane-flanagan-cookbook-cover.jpg
ctm-0829-norah-odonnell-shalane-flanagan.jpg
"CBS This Morning" co-host Norah O'Donnell and Olympian Shalane Flanagan CBS News

"I always say you make yourself a marathoner or a runner," Flanagan said, adding, "I think you put in the work, you run the race, the clock tells you exactly how good you are … You put in the work and you're rewarded."

Those rewards are hard-earned, and they've required a concentration on diet.

"We grew up in a culture, at least in college back at Carolina, you know, that fat would make you fat. So we were eating everything low fat. And little did we know that we were just eating more sugar and processed foods," Flanagan said.

With the help of her best friend, nutritionist and chef Elyse Kopecky, Flanagan has replaced processed foods with healthy fats. The duo is out with a second cookbook called "Run Fast. Cook Fast. Eat Slow.: Quick-Fix Recipes for Hangry Athletes."

"The Thai quinoa salad is one of my favorites. Which is great, because you can make a huge batch and I can have it for multiple meals, either at lunch or dinner," Flanagan said.

"I genuinely believe the way Elise has taught me to incorporate healthy fats and just a wholesome diet has really extended my career," she added. "I don't think I'd be sitting here, talking to you and running at a high level if it weren't for the fact that I changed my diet."

Flanagan said she hopes her cookbook can help her fellow runners, because marathon training is a solitary sport, she said it's helping other athletes — and especially women — is most rewarding.

"I heard that after you won New York City last year that you actually came back later at night to greet runners who were coming across the finish line," O'Donnell said.

"Coming back to the finish line nearly six, seven, eight hours later and people are still out there running. And just seeing their reaction to seeing all of us there to celebrate their achievement, it really made my day," Flanagan said.

"How does that make you feel, to know that there's so many women who admire you, want to be like you? I mean, you're growing the sport," O'Donnell said.

"That is maybe, you know, the greatest compliment, and, thankfully, the greatest contribution I think I've made," Flanagan responded. "You know, winning is great. But I think having a positive effect around you, the circle in how you affect people. It's great to be a great runner, but it's more important to be a good person. Because if I elevate them, it's going to elevate me."