Shalane Flanagan will return to the New York City Marathon course on November 4 to defend her championship title.

Shalane Flanagan To Defend Her NYC Title

We suspected, and so did you (probably). But it wasn’t official until today: Shalane Flanagan announced through the New York Times that she will return to the New York City Marathon this fall to defend her championship title.

In late June, we spoke with Flanagan about her likelihood of racing. “It’s really enticing, the idea of coming back as the defending champion,” Flanagan told Women’s Running. “I’m just making sure that, if I do it, I’m very motivated and I have the same excitement and passion I’ve always had.”

When Flanagan declared seven weeks ago that she would coach 95 runners for Michelob Ultra’s Team Ultra campaign, all her fans knew for certain was that she’d be on the New York City route—even if she wasn’t racing the marathon herself. Days after Flanagan’s Team Ultra announcement, Boston Marathon champion Des Linden made an announcement of her own: She wanted to race New York City, too. If Flanagan decided to join her at the starting line, it was sure to inspire debate about how each American champion would perform on the largest marathon stage in the world. Now that Linden and Flanagan have confirmed their intentions to race (both before the official pro athlete field announcement), the debate surrounding an American champion matchup has already begun and will likely continue until race day.

Both Flanagan’s marathon win and Linden’s were surprising in their own right. In Flanagan’s case, it had been 40 years since an American woman placed first at New York City—and only two American women have earned consecutive wins since the women’s division opened in the early 1970s. (Nina Kuscsik was first, winning the inaugural women’s division in 1972 and defending her title in 1973, and Miki Gorman was the last American woman to win two years in a row in 1976 and 1977.) Linden faced a similar years-long drought on a stormy day that turned out to be perfect for ending a dry spell, becoming the first American woman in 33 years to nab the Boston Marathon title.

So what does this mean? First and foremost, it means that the competition heading into New York City is already intense, and we’re still potentially weeks away from learning who else the pro fields will include. Second, the inevitable match race between Flanagan and Linden means that there will be tons of attention focused on this year’s NYC Marathon, regardless of who else throws their running shoes into the ring. Finally, today’s announcement means very little, in the end. It’s exciting that both of America’s recent female champions will tackle the same revered course this November 4, but they’ll both be racing against other professional runners who have similarly put in the training, planned for the inevitable “what ifs” of race day and want to win more than anything. If we learned anything from this year’s Boston Marathon, it’s that anything can happen on race day—and New York City is still more than 12 weeks away.