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Friday, April 12, 2013

Women To Watch At The Boston Marathon

Distance runner Shalane Flanagan races during the 10,000 meter race in the U.S. track and field championships in Eugene, Ore., Thursday, June, 23, 2011.  Flanagan won with a time of 30 minutes, 59.97 seconds.(Don Ryan/AP)

Distance runner Shalane Flanagan races during the 10,000 meter race in the U.S. track and field championships in Eugene, Ore., June, 23, 2011. Flanagan won with a time of 30 minutes, 59.97 seconds.(Don Ryan/AP)

There will be thousands of runners in Monday’s 117th running of the Boston Marathon, but none of them will be as excited as Shalane Flanagan.

She’s a local girl. Flanagan was a star runner at Marblehead High School. She was an NCAA champion at North Carolina. She won a bronze medal in the 10,000 meters at the Beijing Olympics and last summer she finished 10th in the Olympic Marathon.

I feel like I can win here. I would say that anybody that’s counting me out is going to have a surprise.

– Kara Goucher

Now, the 31-year-old is primed to run Boston Marathon for the first time.

“This something that I have been thinking of for way too long and it’s is really is weird that it’s here, ” Flanagan said at Friday’s press conference. “I used to dream of this moment, what it would be like to be an elite athlete. I was a spectator and a fan and to actually be a part of the race and actually be considered an elite athlete at this race blows my mind. I was a little girl just north of here who dreamed of running this race.”

This will be Flanagan’s fourth marathon overall. I was in Houston in January 2012 when she won the U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon in 2 hours, 25-minutes and 38 seconds – an event record.

She is a gritty, versatile runner.

In February, Flanagan won the USA Cross Country Championships in St. Louis and ran a personal best 1:08:31 in the half marathon in New Orleans.

Then last month, Flanagan left the roads and won a 10K on the track at Stanford University, beating her friend and training partner Kara Goucher in the process, as she ran a qualifying time for this summer’s World Championships in Moscow.

I expect Flanagan to contend in Monday’s race, but it’s important to remember that no American woman has won the Boston Marathon since 1985, and since 1997 there have been just two non-African winners in the race.

The top three women finishers, from left, Desiree Davila, second, Shalane Flanagan, first, and Kara Goucher, second, pose after running in the U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon, Saturday, Jan. 14, 2012, in Houston. (David J. Phillip/AP)

The top three women finishers, from left, Desiree Davila, second, Shalane Flanagan, first, and Kara Goucher, second, pose after running in the U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon, Jan. 14, 2012, in Houston. (David J. Phillip/AP)

Last year’s winner here, Kenya’s Sharon Cherop, has to be the favorite. But Americans have come close in recent years.

In 2011, Michigan’s Desiree Davila finished second and set a course record for a U.S. woman (2:22.38) and in 2009, Goucher ran a gutty race but wound up third.

Davila, who was forced to drop out of last summer’s Olympic Marathon because of an injury, is still hurt, so she’ll miss Monday’s race. But Goucher is back for a third Boston Marathon. She finished 5th in 2011.

“I love this race,” Goucher said. “I feel like I can win here. I would say that anybody that’s counting me out is going to have a surprise.”

Besides Shalane Flanagan and Sharon Cherop, the other top women in the field Monday are Kenyan Rita Jeptoo and Ethiopian Meseret Hailu Debele, who set a course record (2:21:09) in Amsterdam last year.

By the way, the difference between first and second place in the last five Boston Marathon women’s races has been three seconds or less.


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Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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