ShareThis Page
Other Local

Pa. resident Santucci's 1st marathon victory 'a good place to start'

| Sunday, May 4, 2014, 3:00 p.m.
Clara Santucci, 27, of Dilliner, Greene County, celebrates being the first woman to cross the finish line on Sunday, May 4, 2014, at the Pittsburgh Marathon.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Clara Santucci, 27, of Dilliner, Greene County, celebrates being the first woman to cross the finish line on Sunday, May 4, 2014, at the Pittsburgh Marathon.

Clara Santucci was the first American woman to cross the finish line at the Chicago Marathon last fall, but never had she been the first woman to cross a marathon finish line, period.

That changed Sunday.

Santucci broke away from her closest competitors with about six miles left in the Pittsburgh Marathon.

While she still felt good — and they seemed to be struggling — Santucci knew she had to finish strong.

The Dilliner, Greene County, resident earned her first marathon win, finishing in 2 hours, 32 minutes, 25 seconds, more than two minutes faster than second-place Yeshimebet Bifa of Ethiopia.

She joined men's champion Gebo Burka of Ethiopia, who won in his first time racing in Pittsburgh in 2:16:30.

“I just wanted to know what winning felt like,” said Santucci, who draped an American flag over her shoulders after crossing the finish line. “I think, sometimes, you have to practice that, and this is a good place to start.

“My parents are here, my friends are here and a lot of my friends and people I work with. I'm up here all the time going to Pirates games, and it's a lot of fun to win something so close to home.”

Dilliner is about 70 miles south of downtown near the West Virginia border, so Santucci's trips to Pittsburgh to watch baseball over the last month doubled as chances to scout the course. It's strategic, she said, and it helps to know about the hills and how to approach them.

“I kind of knew what was coming,” she said. “Just knowing where the tough parts were and having that mental picture of where I'd have to push and where I could relax and get my energy levels back really helped.”

In the men's race, Burka was alone from the time the full and half-marathon courses split in the South Side with the light rain subsiding but temperatures remaining cool.

He reached the midpoint of the 26.2-mile race in 1:05:37. Burka, 26, who won the L.A. Marathon in 2:10:37 on March 9, said he was trying for the Pittsburgh course record of 2:10:24 before he started having stomach and muscle cramps.

“I tried,” Burka said. “It became a little difficult.”

Burka's pace started to slow around Mile 19, and shortly after, he began checking over his shoulder to see who was chasing.

Fidele Jefferson, who was born in Burundi but is a U.S. citizen, was alone in second place.

“I'm pretty good running up hills, but the downhills kill my quads,” Jefferson said. “We went so fast for the half, which was uphill, then comes downhill and I'm like, ‘Oh, man.' (Burka) was on a pace to halfway and I kind of followed him, but he was way ahead.”

Jefferson was second overall and the first American for the men at 2:17:37, enough to earn him a “B” qualifying standard for the U.S. Olympic Trials but still shy of his goal of a sub-2:15 “A” standard.

Two-time defending champion James Kirwa dropped out of the race after the 10K mark because of his muscles locking up.

The men's and women's winners got $8,000 each, but Santucci scored the biggest payday. The 27-year-old former West Virginia runner earned $8,000 for being first overall, $4,500 as the first American, $1,500 for earning an Olympic Trials “A” qualifying time and $1,000 for being the top Pennsylvanian.

This is the first year the marathon has offered additional prize money to U.S. runners as part of its American development program.

Santucci also was the first American woman to win the Pittsburgh Marathon since Kristen Price in 2009, the first year the marathon returned after a five-year absence.

“I really want to be a part of this in the future, even if it's coming back to be part of the community support or run the half-marathon or something like that,” she said. “Or maybe the marathon again. It's been a really great experience.”

Karen Price is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach her at or via Twitter @KarenPrice_Trib.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me