2011 Elite Women's Race Preview

B.A.A.News
Today Is: November 24th 2017
06 APR 2011
Past champions, Olympians, and Boston veterans heading to Hopkinton

Story by Barbara Huebner

With three past champions and most of the top finishers from 2009 and 2010 coming back, the women’s field for the 115th Boston Marathon is one of the deepest, fastest and most experienced in the race’s history.

All of the top, professional athletes are part of principal sponsor John Hancock Financial’s Elite Athlete program and part of John Hancock’s extensive support of the Boston Marathon.

It is also a field in which a mysterious mixture of age, youth, experience, exuberance, fitness and plain old good fortune could combine for a heady day of racing.

Defending champion Teyba Erkesso of Ethiopia returns, as does last year’s runner-up, Tatyana Pushkareva of Russia. Dire Tune of Ethiopia, the 2008 winner and 2009 runner-up, will again be on the starting line. American Kara Goucher, the third-place finisher in 2009, is hoping to move up the podium steps. “Queen Catherine” Ndereba, of Kenya, the only woman to win Boston four times, will make the trek from Hopkinton to Boylston Street for the seventh spring.

But if these veterans don’t keep their eyes on 24-year-old Kenyan newcomer Florence Kiplagat, they do so at their peril. The 2009 IAAF World Cross Country Champion and 2010 IAAF World Half Marathon Champion will be making her marathon debut here, and it is much anticipated.
“She’s one of the best runners in the world,” declared Toni Reavis, the marathon TV analyst for WBZ.

Also much anticipated is the return of Goucher from a maternity break. Boston will be the 32-year-old’s first marathon since the birth of her son, Colton, last September 24. Two years ago, Goucher came into her Boston debut with the stated intention of no less than victory. Although she was in the hunt until the turn onto Hereford Street, Goucher got outkicked in the homestretch and finished a heartbroken third, only nine seconds back from the champion Salina Kosgei.

“Coach [Alberto Salazar] had drilled into me not to take the lead before a mile to go, and then unleash,” she said, recounting the error. “But then I took the lead with six miles to go and did it hesitantly. It was bad tactics on my part.”

Winning Boston is still one of the major goals of her career, she said, “but I know I just had a baby and that I’m not as great as I possibly could be going in. I’m not going to say to myself that this has to be the year, like I did last time. This year, my goal is to give myself an opportunity to win.”
If her showing at the NYC Half Marathon on March 20 is any indication, she should have it. Her third-place time of 1:09:03 was just 11 seconds behind winner Caroline Rotich – a late entry into Boston – and, more importantly, five minutes faster than a half marathon she ran in January.
Goucher won’t be the only top American woman on the line, come April 18. Desiree Davila, 28, was the fastest female marathoner in the U.S. last year, and Blake Russell, 35, is a 2008 Olympian.

Davila, who trains with the Hansons-Brooks Distance Project, made her marathon debut here at Boston in 2007 and met her goal of qualifying for the Olympic Trials when she ran 2:44:56. She returns in a completely different stratosphere – Davila’s 2:26:20 last fall in the Bank of America Chicago Marathon made her the fourth-fastest American woman of all time, behind only Deena Kastor, Joan Benoit Samuelson and Goucher.
If she’s remained a bit under the radar, that’s fine with her. “It’s nice to come in and surprise people,” she says. Her coach, Kevin Hanson, may have popped the biggest surprise of all, however, when he said in mid-February, “We’re running to win.”

Blake Russell is no stranger to Boston, either, having finished third at the 2008 Olympic Team Trials – Women’s Marathon here to earn her ticket to Beijing. Before that, she lived for several years in Acton, Massachusetts, and is coached by Bob Sevene. A founding member of the famed Greater Boston Track Club, Sevene coached Joan Benoit Samuelson to her Olympic gold medal in 1984.

Russell, too, will be running her first marathon since having a baby. Her son, Quin, was born in the spring of 2009. Last month, she finished 19th in the IAAF World Cross Country Championships, helping the U.S. to a team bronze medal.

Kim Smith offers another compelling New England angle. A New Zealand Olympian, Smith competed collegiately for Providence College and still trains in nearby Rhode Island under coach Ray Treacy. In February, the 29-year-old won the Rock ‘n’ Roll Mardi Gras Half Marathon in a breakout personal best of 1:07:36, the fastest half marathon ever run on U.S. soil.

The last three women’s races in Boston have been settled by a total of six seconds: Tune won by two in 2008, Salina Kosgei of Kenya prevailed by a single second in 2009 (over Tune) and last year Erkesso held off a hard-charging Pushkareva by just three. As sprinters, they will have some company in this field: Last fall, Sharon Cherop outlasted Tirfi Tsegaye by one second to win the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. If the race comes down to the wire again, that’s five women who know what it feels like to sprint for the win after running 26.1 miles.

Taking third in that Toronto race was Merima Mohammed. Just 18yearsold, the Ethiopian prodigy is 20 years younger than Ndereba. But if experience on the course comes into play, Ndereba will have the edge, as will her Boston nemesis Elfenesh Alemu of Ethiopia. Alemu has faced Ndereba three times in Boston, finishing runner-up to her in 2004 and 2005 and third to Ndereba’s second in 2002.Still the second-fastest woman in history, Ndereba leads the field with a PB of 2:18:47, set in 2001, but the speed behind her is formidable as five of the world’s 10 fastest marathoners of 2010 will be chasing the olive wreath: Cherop (2:22:43), Tsegaye (2:22:44), Mohammed (2:23:06), Caroline Kilel (2:23:25) and Tune (2:23:44). Altogether, eight women have personal bests under 2:24.

For more on these top athletes, please go to www.bostonmarathonmediaguide.com
- By Barbara Huebner
- Barbara Huebner has covered the Boston Marathon for the past 19 years, first for the Boston Globe and now as a freelance writer and consultant.

B.A.A. Moment

2011 Elite Women's Race Preview With three past champions and most of the top finishers from 2009 and 2010 coming back, the women’s field for the 115th Boston Marathon is one of the deepest, fastest and most experienced in the race’s history.

All of the top, professional athletes are part of principal sponsor John Hancock Financial’s Elite Athlete program and part of John Hancock’s extensive support of the Boston Marathon.

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