Watch CBS News

What it takes to win a marathon

How marathon champs train
What it takes to win a marathon 05:03

On Sunday, 36-year-old Shalane Flanagan won the New York City Marathon, edging out three-time defending champion Mary Keitany of Kenya by 1:01. It was the first time an American woman won the race in 40 years.

In 2014, correspondent Anderson Cooper spoke with Flanagan as she prepared for that year's Boston Marathon. While talking about her marathon strategy, Cooper found a woman who had the sport of running steeped in her DNA, a woman who accepted the sport's physical -- and mental -- struggles.

"When I start to feel fairly uncomfortable, it's all about embracing it and realizing it's inevitable," she tells Cooper in the video excerpted above.

"Embracing the pain?" Cooper asks.

"Embracing it, yes," she says. "So if I'm uncomfortable, I usually know my competitors are uncomfortable. If they're straggling behind, that's kind of the time when I say I'm going to put the screw in. I can tell that they're either struggling mentally or physically. So I'm going to just push it and just see if I can break them."

Shalane Flanagan CBS News

She almost broke all her competitors in her very first marathon -- New York City in 2010. Remarkably, she came in second place, just 20 seconds behind Kenyan Edna Kiplagat, and completed the 26.2 miles in 2:28:40. It was the best finish by an American woman in New York in 20 years.

But Flanagan comes from a family of impressive race times -- both of her parents were accomplished marathon runners. Her father ran 11 minutes off world record pace at the Boston Marathon in 1980, and her mother set a women's world marathon record in 1971.

"I thought everyone's parents ran," she tells Cooper. "I thought everyone got up and went to the, you know, Sunday long run."

Shalane Flanagan CBS News

A champion cross-country runner in college, Flanagan won a bronze medal in the 10,000 meter race at the Beijing Olympics. But it wasn't until 2009, when she was 28, that she began training for a marathon.

As Cooper reported in 2014, her marathon training is rigorous. She often runs twice a day, up to a 120 miles a week. In addition to lifting weights, she rigorously monitors everything she eats. Food is fuel, but she doesn't want to gain any extra weight she'll have to carry during the race.

Watching her compete, it's easy to forget just how fast -- and far -- she's running. In the video above, Cooper attempts to keep up with her, running a quarter mile -- or about 400 meters -- at her marathon pace. He quickly falls behind his laughing competitor.

Shalane Flanagan and Anderson Cooper CBS News

"Did you hear those giggles?" Flanagan asks Cooper, who finishes the run doubled over and panting. "That was pure joy."

If there's joy in running, there's elation in victory. And her coach, Jerry Schumacher, has known for years that a marathon win was within her grasp.

"She can run the 26 miles," he told Cooper in 2014. "She can do the training for it. And in the right kind of race, she's going to be definitely dangerous."

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.