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The 116th Running of the Boston Marathon - The Women's Race
by John Elliott and Sharon Ekstrom
The Weather and Some Drops
The women's race at Boston often starts off slowly, with the real race starting somewhere after the halfway or 20 mile mark. With the weather forecast to be warm, it was a foregone conclusion that the 2012 race would start slowly - but on a day where the thermometer would reach eighty degrees fahrenheit, the slow start might still be a hard run.
With 2012 being an Olympic year, some runners were committed to other races and others were sitting out the Spring Marathon season - the 2012 Boston Marathon field seemed weaker or smaller than in some other years; at the very least it was filled with a group of women who were lesser-known than those who have come to Boston in other years. And in the days before the marathon, there were a number of drops from the field - Buzunesh Deba, second at the New York City Marathon, decided the day before the race that an injury would be too serious to allow her to be competitive; and in the week before, strong competitors Mamitu Daska and Galina Bogomolova scratched and would not start. The women who did not start carried bib numbers 2, 3 and 7 - a measure of their importance to the field and seriousness of their loss to the race.
The Favorites, Too Hot to Run?
Defending champion Caroline Kilel and 2011 New York City Marathon champion Firehwot Dado were the two favorites in the field - and there would be a cast of extras filling in. Besides the runners and the difficulty of any 26.2 mile race, the weather would push the runners - with 80 degree temperatures forecast and realized, race organizers were sending out missives to the general runners encouraging them NOT to run. Of course that message was not going to the elite athletes, but some seemed like they would take the message.
Photo Credit: Victah Sailer/PhotoRun
From the beginning, the marathon started at a pace that was among the slowest on record. The first two miles were passed in 6 minutes 14 each; a pace that can be run by many women marathoners. The leading pack held 15 women for a good portion of the race, but by halfway the field was down to eight women: Caroline Kilel, Firehiwot Dado, Georgina Rono, Jemima Jelegat Sumgong, - and the women went through the first half in 1:17:08 and the pack shrank to eight women, then seven and six and five - as the heat, not the pace, started to take its toll.
Elite athletes pick up their own fluids from a table, whereas the general runner often receives their water cup from a volunteer standing on the side of the road with a cup. On this hot day the elite runners were using every hydration opportunity and at mile 17, they veered to a general field water table to hydrate and unexpected to them, a helpful volunteer stepped out onto the road to hand over a cup and Caroliine Kilel got tangled up. She lost a few steps, but caught back to the field - but it seemed that Kilel was a bit shaken up.
Heading up Heartbreak Hill, however, Caroline Kilel - defending champion and favorite - could not continue and started to walk. After the hill was crested, Firehiwot Dado - the other favorite - started to fade badly. Looking behind to see this, Sharon Cherop looked back and saw Dado dropping and picked up the pace. At that point, Cherop told us, she knew that she would win. "I train with Jelagat and know her, but I was worried about Dado - I saw the videos of her winning the New York Marathon and knew that she was tough." Cherop had set the pace for much of the race, but with a trio of Kenyans remaining; it was to be Cherop's day.
By mile 22, two training partners and friends were running together alone at the front: Sharon Cherop, the third place finisher from 2011 and a woman with a 2:22:39 personal best; and Jemima Jelagat whose best was 2:28:32. Coming down Boylston Street to the finish, Cherop surged again and ran away - Jelagat Sumgong made an effort and seemed to be closing the gap, but there could be no doubt that Cherop would win and she did in 2:31:50 with Jelagat Sumgong finishing two seconds back in 2:31:52 for second place. Many will remember the 2009 Boston Marathon where, inexplicably, the women ran slowly for 20Miles before running at all - excepting that year's 2:32:16 finish, the 2:31:50 of 2012 stands as the slowest finish since 1985 and nearly ten minutes slower than the wind-aided times from 2011.
Photo Credit: Victah Sailer/PhotoRun
1. Sharon Cherop (KEN) 2:31:50 - $150,000
2. Jemima Jelagat Sumgong (KEN) 2:31:52 - $75,000
3. Georgina Rono (KEN) 2:33:09 - $40,000
4. Firehiwot Dado (ETH) 2:34:56 - $25,000
5. Diana Sigei (KEN) 2:35:40 - $15,000
6. Rita Jeptoo (KEN) 2:35:53 - $12,000
7. Mayumi Fujita (JPN) 2:39:11 - $9,000
8. Nadezdha Leonteva (RUS) 2:40:40 - $7,400
9. Svetlana Pretot (FRA) 2:40:50 - $5,700 + $10,000
10. Sheri Piers (USA) 2:41:55 - $4,200 + $5,000
11. Genet Getaneh (ETH) 2:42:11 - $2,600
12. Larisa Zyusko (RUS) 2:47:47 - $2,100 + $2,500
13. Sheila Croft (CAN) 2:48:31 - $1,800
14. Paula Keating (CAN) 2:48:58 - $1,700 + $1,500
15. Hilary Dionne (USA) 2:51:56 - $1,500