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Rita Jeptoo Wins Second Career Boston Marathon Title

Rita Jeptoo first won Boston in 2006. Today, seven years later, the Kenyan repeated the feat.

American Shalane Flanagan finishes fourth in women’s race.

BOSTON — Around mile 23 of today’s Boston Marathon, the top women contenders were bunched together and getting uneasy. A pair of women—Colombia’s Yolanda Caballero, and then Portugal’s Ana Dulce Felix—had built a substantial lead over the chase pack. By mile 21, Felix, a 2:26 runner, had built a lead of more than a minute and a half. Sharon Cherop, the defending champion, turned to her Kenyan countrywoman Rita Jeptoo. “Let us move forward,” Cherop said. “‘These ladies may end up winning the race. They have already gone far.’ I was so worried.”

“‘I’m not going now,” replied Jeptoo, who won Boston in 2006.

Nearby, Shalane Flanagan, running her first Boston Marathon, was also plotting a move. “I was really antsy,” she said. “I thought for a second, ‘Kara, let’s just go catch the woman that’s out there.'”

RESULTS: 2013 Boston Marathon

But she deferred to the plan she and coach Jerry Schumacher made before the race: Let someone else make the first surge. You go second.

Jeptoo’s restraint didn’t last long. The break came came at 22 miles, hard, with Jeptoo in control. Felix, still in front but visibly laboring with a minute’s advantage on the pack, began looking over her shoulder, her 5:30 miles slowing to 5:45, then 6:00. The pack broke up. “With four miles to go, I couldn’t believe my good fortune,” Goucher said. “And then they took off, and that was the end of that.”

Only four woman survived: Jeptoo, Cherop, Ethiopia’s Meseret Hailu, and Flanagan, who was straining to maintain contact. Coming down Beacon Street, she said, her legs felt like jello. “When she went, I just said, “Keep it close, keep it close, don’t give them too much room. I was suffering, and we still had quite a bit to go,” Flanagan said. “I thought I was going to keep it close and really not let them take too much room from me, but those downhills, that’s where they sealed the deal.”

PHOTOS: 2013 Boston Marathon

Jeptoo is now running under coach Claudio Bernadelli and having a resurgence in her career after taking a leave to give birth in 2010. She was second at October’s Chicago Marathon in a PR 2:22, and said that she had gained confidence for Boston after a strong block of training in Kenya. She opened a gap on Hailu, a young Ethiopian and the 2012 world half-marathon champion, and Cherop coming down Beacon Street into Kendall Square. Flanagan lagged behind that pair, hoping one would falter.

That order would not change by the finish, which Jeptoo reached in 2:26:23. Hailu was second in 2:26:56, and Cherop, who has never failed to reach the podium in three Boston races, was third in 2:26:59. Flanagan, a Massachusetts native who was hoping to become the first American to win at Boston since 1985, fell just short, finishing fourth in 2:27:07. Her training partner Kara Goucher was sixth in 2:28.

Flanagan, running her first Boston, was overcome with emotion after finish “Kara and I just really wanted to win this for everyone,” she said, her voice breaking. “Especially for all of the people who had supported us here. I just wanted to thank them, and I thought a laurel wreath would be a nice way to thank them.”