Rita Jeptoo Repeats At Boston Marathon In Course-Record Time

Rita Jeptoo repeated as Boston Marathon champion Monday. Photo: www.photorun.net

Top-three women all break previous course record; Shalane Flanagan finishes seventh in 2:22:02, a personal best. 

Reigning Boston Marathon champion Rita Jeptoo of Kenya said it took her almost 16 miles to start feeling good at Monday’s Boston Marathon—and when she did, those behind her almost immediately began to feel terrible.

At 23 miles, Jeptoo stepped on the accelerator for the final time, running low 5-minute miles and covering the last 2400m in a blistering 6:51 to shatter the course record in 2 hours, 18 minutes and 57 seconds.

The victory was Jeptoo’s third at Boston; she also won in 2006. Ethiopian Buzunesh Deba was second (2:19:59) in Monday’s race, while her countrywomen Mare Dibaba placed third in 2:20:35. Deba and Dibaba also ran under the Margaret Okayo’s previous course record of 2:20:43, as the top 10-women all ran under 2:24.

“I was not expecting to run fast like today,” Jeptoo said at the post-race press conference. “Today the race was like fire when we were starting. I’ve never started like that.”

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American Shalane Flanagan, who set a scorching pace from start—covering the first mile in 5:11, 10K in 32:32 and the first 13.1 in 1:09:27—took seventh, crossing the finish line in a personal best 2:22:02. Flanagan, who finished fourth here last year in 2:27:08, took over three minutes off of her previous personal best set at the 2012 Olympic Marathon Trials where she won in 2:25:38.

“I literally ran as hard as I could,” said Flanagan with visible emotion on her face in the post-race press conference. “I feel pretty ill right now … I will take away a 3-minute PR and more. I’m proud of how I ran. I don’t wish it were easier, but I wish I were better.”

From the get-go, the aggressive Flanagan clicked off consistently quick splits, only relinquishing her lead for a few seconds while grabbing her bottles from the elite fluid stations along the course. Deba, a bold racer with two runner-up finishes at the New York City Marathon to her credit, ran relaxed on her left shoulder for much of the race, while Jeptoo flanked her right. A pack of seven pursuers seemed content to lead for as long as possible heading into the Newton hills just past mile 17. Showing her first signs of strain heading into 30K, Flanagan fell off the pace briefly before quickly regaining contact. Approaching the 21-mile mark, the 24-year-old Dibaba took her first turn at the front, throwing in a surge that everyone except Flanagan was able to match.

At mile 22 Jeptoo began to make her intentions clear, opening up a small gap that she gradually extended with a couple sub-5 minute splits over the race’s final 4 miles to break the tape on Boylston Street with her index finger pointed at the clock. The soft-spoken Jeptoo, who also won in Chicago last fall in 2:19:57, expressed pride in dedicating her victory in support of the people of Boston.

“For me, I’m happy,” Jeptoo said in the post-race press conference. “I decided to come here to support the people of Boston and show the people of Boston we are together.”

Flanagan, a native of Marblehead Mass., who was the first elite to commit to this years race—she said she waited until three days after last year’s race to contact John Hancock elite athlete coordinator Maty Kate Shea—expressed her intentions for returning to her hometown race once again and making another go at the top spot on the podium.

VIDEO: Shalane Flanagan Post-Race Interview

“I will be back here until I win it,” she said. “I’ll be back to challenge Jeptoo.”

American Desiree Linden, second here in 2011, was tenth in 2:23:54. In all, 12 women broke the 2:30 barrier, making this year’s race the deepest in Boston Marathon history.

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