|The Boston Marathon 2003 - Women
by John Elliott
The women's field at Boston is never as deep as the men's field - and the race will usually be won by one of a few women. This year, there were two women who held legitimate claim to the crown: Margaret Okayo was our favorite, having set the course record of 2:20:43 here last year. But Okayo, who won New York 2001 in a course record (2:24:21) was favored to win New York in 2002 but blew up on that day and finished a disappointing 5th in a time of 2:27:46. Svetlana Zakharova (2:21:31-Chicago 2002) is very strong and a legitimate contender. Other women who needed to be watched and would receive top-ten finishes were Joyce Chepchumba, Esther Kiplagat, Lyubov Desinova and Marla Runyan (2:27:10-New York). These women had all seen each other in New York and knew what to expect... [New York 2002-top 6 in order: Chepchumba, Denisova, Jevtic, Kiplagat, Runyan, Okayo; and Zakharova was third to Okayo in New York 2001]
Mile 4 (21:36)- From the beginning, Margaret Okayo has taken control of this race. She is running alone at mile 4, while Marla Runyan who led through the first mile is runing in second place about 20 seconds behind. Ludmila Denisova and Svetlana Zakharova are four or five seconds behind Runyan.
5 miles: Margaret Okayo continues to lead, running through this mark in a time of 27:17, just off her record pace from last year. Lyubov Denisova follows Okayo at 27:24 and Marla Runyan is running in third place at 27:28. Okayo does look strong at this point!
7 miles (38:22): The women have come together and Lyubov Denisova has moved ahead into the lead, running through the mark in 38:22. Okayo is in second and Runyan is looking strong in third. One second separates the women as they move along the course. The pace is well off of Okayo's record mark from last year when she had Catherine Ndereba to pace her...
9 miles (49:36): Lyubov Denisova continues to lead by a step over Marla Runyan, both running in the center of the road... Okayo is about two steps behind, but running by herself on the side of the road, seeming to want to be away from the other runners - interesting.
10 miles (55:22): Svetlana Zakharova has joined the lead pack of women, making up a 70 yard deficit. Marla Runyan leads the pack who are now running together: Margaret Okayo is looking stronger, Denisova looks relaxed and Zakharova also looks strong....
11 miles (1:00:05): Marla Runyan continues to lead at this point, with the three other runners, Okayo, Zakharova and Denisova all together. The women are moving at a pace to finish in 2:25 - well behind Okayo's time of 2:20:43 last year - but perhaps agressive for Runyan, whose PR is 2:27:10 and Denisova whose PR is 2:26:17.
Half-Marathon (1:12:39): Svetlana Zakharova has moved to the front and is pushing the pace. Okayo is sticking with the leader, just a step behind. Denisova and Runyan have dropped back and are now ten seconds behind.
16 miles (1:27:38): This race has been going back and forth between Svetlana Zakharova and Margaret Okayo... Okayo looks strong, but also appears to be sweating quite a bit. Zakharova looks like she's trying to hold on - but doing a great job of it...
19 miles (1:45:8): The race has become a Russian duel as Denisova has moved up to join Zakharova - now about five seconds ahead of Margaret Okayo who seems to be having some trouble. Joyce Chepchumba has moved up into fourth place about twenty seconds behind Okayo. Marla Runyan has slowed considerably and is running about 25 seconds behind Chepchumba.
21 miles (1:57:05): Svetlana Zakharova has pulled away from the rest of the field - looking very, very strong - this will be her race.
24 miles (2:13:15): Zakharova continues to pull away from the rest of the women. This race now really belongs to Zakharova who is speeding up and has just put in a 5:17 mile. Denisova looks comfortable in second place about 40 seconds behind her compatriot.
The Finish: In a surprise, a Russian has won Boston for the first time in 10 years and for the first time in history, Russians have taken the first two spots in the race. Svetlana Zakharova has won the women's division of the Boston Marathon in a time of 2:25:20 - a great race. Lyubov Denisova finishes in second place in 2:26:51, followed by Joyce Chepchumba (2:27:20), Margart Okayo (2:27:39) and Marla Runyan (first American-2:30:28).
After the race Zakharova said that her experience running against Okayo in New York in 2001 helped her alot. She was able to notice that Okayo was not running as she usually did and that gave her the confidence to run away from the pack. Okayo commented that she felt that she went out too fast and that the wind was definitely a factor.