With Late Surge, Sharon Cherop Claims 2012 Boston Marathon Title

By David Monti
(c) 2012 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

BOSTON (16-Apr) -- The sun was hot, and Kenya's Sharon Cherop's face was beaded with sweat, her red adidas uniform completely soaked.  She and compatriot Jemima Jelagat Sumgong (Nike) had managed to shed all of their other rivals in one of the hottest editions of the Boston Marathon on record, and Cherop knew she had both her training and experience on her side.

"It's my second time being here in Boston," said Cherop who finished third here last year in a three-way sprint finish.  She continued: "I saw how the weather was.  I'm not going to do anything until the half-marathon and see how hot it's going to feel.  It's not my first time running in the hot and humid.  Also, I was in Korea (where she won the bronze medal in the marathon at the IAAF World Championships last summer), and in Korea it was more humid than Boston."

More than two hours earlier, she had set off from the start in Hopkinton with the other elite women at a dawdling pace.  Through ten mostly downhill kilometers, the lead pack of 13 women was only going at a speed which would generate a 2:37 finish time.  Given the 70 degree (21C) temperature at the start, that suited Cherop just fine.

"One advantage was where we started slowly," Cherop said.  "We did not start faster like last year."

The lead pack --which included Firehiwot Dado, the ING New York City Marathon champion; Caroline Kilel, the defending Boston champion; Georgina Rono; Diana Sigei; Rita Jeptoo; Ashu Kasim and others-- continued their eastbound trudge to Boston's Back Bay.  The half-marathon was reached in a lackluster 1:17:00, and it wasn't until 25-K (1:30:59) that the race began to pick up.  Seven women were now in contention: Kilel, Rono, Cherop, Sumgong, Genet Getanah, Sigei and Kasim.

Past 30 kilometers (1:48:48), disaster struck for Kilel.  A young women --who may not have been an official volunteer because she was not wearing the organizer's uniform-- stepped into the lead pack to hand out cups of water, and collided with Kilel.  Stunned, she fell back, worked to catch up, but would eventually drop out.

One by one, the other women slipped back leaving Cherop and Sumgong to fight for victory.  They ran the 23rd mile in a steady, but not fast, 5:31.  The 24th mile was nearly the same (5:32), and the 25th mile was sluggish (5:49).  Both women were gathering all of their energy for the final sprint.

Just as the duo made the final turn onto Boyleston Street, Cherop put in a mighty surge. Sumgong did not react immediately, and it looked like Cherop had locked up the win.

"Until 38, 40 kilometers I was with my friend Sharon," said Sumgong.  "We kept on coming until 300 meters to go when she was coming home.  It was very difficult for me to come with her."

Cherop did her best to keep up her speed, but Sumgong hadn't given up.  In the final meters, Sumgong was able to close the gap, but just ran out of time.  Cherop hit the tape in 2:31:50, with Sumgong just two seconds behind her.

"I feel so happy," said Cherop, who won $150,000 in prize money.

According to her coach, Gabriele Nicola, Cherop divided her training time between Marakwet which is hilly, and Iten, which is flat.  In Iten, she trained with reigning Virgin London Marathon champion Mary Keitany, who had run the first half of last November's ING New York City Marathon in 1:07:59 before fading to finish third.  Nicola said that today's performance by Cherop partially made up for that.

"We got back what we left in New York," he said.

Nicola said that a problem with Cherop's right leg between the hip and the knee almost kept her out of Boston.  The problem cropped up just two weeks before the race after nearly all of the training had been completed.  Nicola, an Italian, took quick action.

"We had three hours a day of therapy," Nicola said.  He also said that a physiotherapist in Boston had kept up the therapy sessions here.

Rono, who ran 2:24:33 in Eindhoven last October, rounded out the podium in 2:33:09, while Dado got fourth (2:34:56), and Sigei fifth (2:35:40).  France's Svetlana Pretot, 40, finished ninth in 2:40:50 and was the masters champion, and Sheri Piers, 40, of Falmouth, Me., was the top American, finishing tenth in 2:41:55.  The top Americans stayed away from Boston this year because they ran the USA Olympic Marathon Trials last January in Houston.

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Out of the 26,716 athletes who entered the race, 22,853 picked up their numbers, and 22,426 started, organizers said.  That meant that only a maximum of 427 runners took advantage of the Boston Athletic Association's program to defer their entry until next year.  The number finishers is not yet known; the race will be going for another two hours.  Temperatures hit a high of 89 degrees (32C) during the race, organizers said.

Top Results (gun times):
WOMEN -
 1. Sharon Cherop, 28, KEN, 2:31:50
 2. Jemima Jelagat Sumgong, 27, KEN, 2:31:52
 3. Georgina Rono, 31, KEN, 2:33:09
 4. Firehiwot Dado, 28, ETH, 2:34:56
 5. Diana Sigei, 24, KEN, 2:35:40
 6. Rita Jeptoo, 31, KEN, 2:35:53
 7. Mayumi Fujita, 28, JPN, 2:39:11
 8. Nadezhda Leonteva, 27, RUS, 2:40:40
 9. Svetlana Pretot, 40, FRA, 2:40:50
10. Sheri Piers, 40, Falmouth, ME, 2:41:55
11. Genet Getaneh, 26, ETH, 2:42:11
12. Larisa Zyusko, 42, RUS, 2:47:47

More Boston: *Video highlights here.
*Women's Top Finishers With Splits
Men's Recap: Wesley Korir Prevails in Heat at Boston Marathon
*Winners photo gallery here.

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