Santucci repeats as Pittsburgh Marathon winner; Njoroge wins men's race
Two out of three wasn't bad for Pittsburgh Marathon women's winner Clara Santucci on Sunday.
“I had three goals,” said Santucci, a Dilliner native who won for the second year in a row. “I wanted to make everyone who was out there cheering for me proud, I wanted to win again and I wanted to set the course record.
“I didn't get the course record, but I did stick it out for the win.”
Santucci, 28, finished in 2 hours, 34 minutes, 6 seconds, almost 40 seconds ahead of Kenyan Aliphine Tuliamuk-Bolton, 26, whom she caught in the final mile of the race to earn $13,500 in prize money. Tuliamuk-Bolton finished in 2:34:44. Christina Murphy, 34, of Columbus, Ohio, finished third (2:40:29).
Stephen Njoroge, a native of Kenya who was the runner-up in 2013, won the men's race in 2:15:19. Ethiopia's Negash Abebe Duki (2:15:43) was second, and Werkulah Seyoum Aboye, also of Ethiopia, was third (2:17:13). Tyler McCandless, a former Penn State All-American, was fourth overall and the top American male with a time of 2:18:29.
Santucci's time was slower than last year, when she won in 2:32:25, and well off Margaret Groos' 1988 record of 2:29:50. But after trailing Tuliamuk-Bolton for most of the race, Santucci was less worried about breaking records than breaking the tape at the finish line.
“There were times that I couldn't even see her and I just had to run on faith that this is a marathon and things happen in the last few miles,” she said. “I'm not known for my kick in any short races, but I can tough it out pretty good when the going gets hard, so that's what I did and it paid off.”
It made for a bittersweet second place for Tuliamuk-Bolton, who was making her marathon debut.
“I was feeling great, but my legs were just not moving anymore,” said Tuliamuk-Bolton, who is the training partner of 2015 Boston Marathon winner Caroline Rotich. “I think I hit the wall people talk about all the time.”
Tuliamuk-Bolton, who was an All-American at Wichita State and lives in Santa Fe, N.M., said that after Santucci passed her, she knew she didn't have it in her to give chase.
“I was just hoping that, if anything, I could stay in second,” she said. “I had a huge lead at the beginning. I don't know if that was a good thing or not, but at least I was able to maintain second place.”
Santucci had no plans to let up, even if Tuliamuk-Bolton wanted to make it a sprint finish.
“It was just go for it, show her what you got and give her no hope,” said Santucci, her smile and soft-spoken demeanor belying the competitor within. “I'm a pretty smiley, kind person off the course but on the course, I'm willing to go to the death with you if you're anywhere near me.”
The day didn't end as well for the leader of the men's race at the halfway point.
Mulue Andom Berhe, who has a personal record of 2:11:03, was all alone in the lead coming up Forbes Avenue in Oakland with a pair of chasers roughly 15 seconds behind. By the 15-mile mark, Njoroge and Duki had reached Berhe, and the three were running in a pack.
Approaching mile 19, Njoroge made a move to pull ahead. By the time they reached Bloomfield coming up on mile 23, the 25-year-old had a big lead. Berhe dropped out of the race with an ankle injury along North Negley Avenue.
Njoroge had a simple strategy.
“I was planning to win the race,” Njoroge, said.
Duki, who finished sixth in 2014 because of a hamstring issue, began to close the gap late but ran out of road.
“I felt like right at the end I was catching up to him, but the race was almost over,” he said.