The two-time runner-up in New York is ready for her Boston debut.
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BOSTON — She has twice finished second at the New York City Marathon—the world’s largest—but Buzunesh Deba has never attempted the uniquely hilly 42.195 kilometers from Hopkinton to Boston. Deba, an Ethiopian who lives in the Bronx section of New York City, said she is completely prepared for Monday’s 118th Boston Marathon after a four-month training stint in Albuquerque which included an incredible long run.
“I was in Albuquerque four months for training and it was good,” she told Race Results Weekly in English. “I’m in good shape.”
Deba, 26, sits on the cusp of greatness. Under the coaching of her husband Worku Beyi, she has quickly moved up from the sport’s second tier—in 2010 she ran five marathons because she needed the money—to become a player in the World Marathon Majors, the premier league of global marathons of which Boston is a member.
Deba earned an invitation to New York in 2011 after winning both the Los Angeles and San Diego Marathons earlier that year. Surprising nearly everyone, she landed a second place finish after battling with compatriot Firehiwot Dado in the final kilometers, losing by only four seconds in a personal best 2:23:19. Two years later, she nearly stole the New York title by breaking away from the field early and building up a massive 3 minute, 23-second lead at the half way mark. She was eventually overtaken by Kenya’s Priscah Jeptoo, unable to keep up after feeling sick. She finished second in 2:25:56.
“I tried to, but I was sick badly, a cramp,” Deba said after the New York race last year.
But her second podium finish in New York caught the attention of Mary Kate Shea, the elite athletes coordinator for the Boston Marathon who invited Deba to Boston for the first time. Deba said she was determined to make the most of the opportunity. She’s particularly excited by Boston’s challenging course, and did extensive hill training in Albuquerque to get ready.
“I like hills, up and down,” she said. “I’m not worried about the course. Maybe I’m worried about wind. Sometimes, people told me, sometimes windy, sometimes hot. We’ll see.”
To make sure she could be competitive with Kenyan athletes like Rita Jeptoo and Sharon Cherop, but previous Boston champions who are again entered this year, Beyi had his wife do an incredible long run of 26 miles (42 kilometers) at almost race pace. Most coaches would see that workout as too long, too fast, and too risky.
“After New York City Half Marathon (on March 16th where she finished second), she’s in great shape,” Beyi told Race Results Weekly. “She did 26 miles on the road. She did the same thing she does, up and down here. She did 2:28:32.”
Beyi had to repeat the time for a reporter because he thought he had misheard it.
“Two twenty-eight, thirty-two,” he repeated, a time which would win many high level marathons.
Beyi explained that prior to last November’s New York City Marathon, Deba did a similar workout: 26 miles with 400-meter repeats at the end in two hours, 29 minutes.
“This one is very unique to do 2:28 at altitude,” he said smiling at his wife, who looked a little embarrassed.
Deba is only ranked ninth on time in the Boston field. But, grinding out races in the second tier several years earlier have made her tough, and she’s learned how to run for victory. She’s won more marathons (8) and made more podiums (11) than any other woman in the field. She said that she’ll push the pace on Monday if the race goes out slowly like it did here last year.
“I’m focusing on my training,” Deba said. “Maybe if the pace is slow, I’m going to do it myself.”
Beyi showed a reporter photos of several homes they were looking to buy. The couple knows that a win here on Monday would be completely life-changing.
“You know, everybody is so strong,” Deba said seriously. “It’s a tough race, I think, Boston. I’m focusing to win.”
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