Sarah Nixon, 38, of Medfield, Mass. held off a feisty challenge from Simonetta Piergentili mid-way during the race and successfully defended her B.A.A. title with a time of 1:22:34. In the men’s race, David Hinga, 26, of Lowell, Mass. made his decisive move at the seven-mile mark, and held on for the remaining six miles as he recorded a course record of 1:09:47.
Nixon, who runs for Merrimack Valley Striders and who also trains regularly with the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge team, already has her sights set on running next April’s London Marathon, but was apprehensive about her chances of retaining her half marathon victor’s trophy. A courtesy call from the B.A.A. and Race Director Dave McGillivray, however, convinced her to run. She’s glad she did.
With her first mile run in 6:13, Nixon led Piergentili (6:20), Emily Dranov, of Boston; Lynda Andros, of Hampton Bays, New York; and Caitlin O’Connor, of Somerville, Mass. through Fenway Park. From there, it was a two-woman race to the finish with Nixon (31:17) leading Piergentili (31:30) through five miles. She retained the same margin over Piergentili at the most distant point of the course--approaching seven miles and entering the Franklin Park Zoo--with Dranov still in third. Returning toward the start/finish area at Roberto Clemente Field in the Back Bay Fens, Piergentili caught Nixon at the nine mile mark (56:50), and the pair ran together for a little less than a mile. By 10 miles, Nixon (1:03:10) had begun to pull away again and had opened a five-second lead, which she extended over the remaining 3.1 miles to the finish.
Nixon’s winning time was 39 seconds ahead of runner-up Piergentili (1:23:13), and her time was one minute, 18 seconds off her time at the inaugural B.A.A. Half Marathon in 2001. Lizbie Porter, 28, of Brighton, Mass. surged in the late miles to capture third place in 1:28:55.
“Winning last year's half marathon was one of the greatest running experiences of my life, so I just came out to see what I could do this year,” said Nixon, who works at a bookstore in Wellesley Square and, coincidentally, at the half marathon mark of the Boston Marathon route. “I felt that I wasn’t in as good shape as I was last year at this time, and I really just came to have fun. I’m actually a little surprised I won.”
Piergentili, also 38, of Whirlaway Racing Team, recorded her personal best time by more than two minutes. “My previous best was at the New Bedford Half Marathon [in March], but I felt this was a much more challenging course,” said Piergentili, who recently moved to Wilmington, Mass. and works as a substitute teacher. “Entering Fenway Park, I had goose bumps,” she said. “I even ran over to touch the Green Monster [the historic ballpark’s legendary left-field wall] as I ran through.”
Piergentili, who will run either the Cape Cod Marathon on October 27 or the New York City Marathon on November 3, said that she had her goal split-times written on her hand, but Nixon’s presence ahead caused her to run a more competitive race.
The Boston Athletic Association won both the men’s and women’s open team titles, as well as the men’s masters division team title, for the second consecutive year.