Lagat notches Grandma's Marathon women's title
By: Jon Nowacki, Duluth News Tribune
Usually a marathon is effectively over when an elite runner has a minute lead with three miles to go, but Everlyne Lagat had reasons to be optimistic today as she trailed Mulu Seboka in the Grandma’s Marathon women’s race.
With each stride, Lagat was closing in, and with it came an incredible adrenaline rush as she realized she could win it.
Lagat had come close before, only to lose, but not this time. This race was hers.
Lagat blew past Seboka and cruised to victory, covering the 26.2 miles in 2 hours, 33 minutes, 14 seconds for her first Grandma’s Marathon victory after finishing third in 2010 and second last year.
“I felt like a shark,” said the 31-year-old Kenya native who trains out of Albuquerque, N.M. “I knew I didn’t have much time to wait, so I just started pushing and pushing. My body must have been feeling good at that point. There was a lot of crowd, and that kept me going. Then, at about Mile 22, (Seboka) hit the wall. Nothing is impossible. I believed I could do it.”
Seboka held on for second in 2:34:54 but not without cost. She was carted off in a wheelchair and received extended treatment in the medical tent.
“I was in the lead, but I got nauseous and dizzy,” Seboka said through an interpreter. “If I had a long way to go, I wouldn’t have finished it, but since it was only two kilometers to go I had to do it.”
Lagat and Seboka were part of a pack of five runners who broke away early in the race and eventually thinned out, with Seboka leading the way.
The 27-year-old Seboka had the fastest personal record of the group, a 2:25:45 set at the Dubai Marathon in January, but she couldn’t hold the pace. Lagat, meanwhile, closed with sub-6-minute miles to overtake her and earn the $10,000 top prize. She crossed the finish line and immediately grabbed her legs as her hamstrings were cramping up.
“I never lost sight of (Seboka), so I knew she was there,” Lagat said. “She was the one with the fastest PR, so she went out with confidence. I wouldn’t let (quitting) get in my mind, because once you do that, it shuts everything else down in your body.”
Last year’s champion, Yihunlish Delelecha, an Ethiopian who lives in Washington, D.C., took third in 2:35:42. She won the 2011 Grandma’s in 2:30:39, with Lagat second in 2:31:32 on a cool and cloudy day with a slight tailwind. The top six runners all set PRs, and 10 runners broke 2:38.
This year’s race wasn’t as fast, but conditions were close to ideal as the temperatures dropped from the upper 60s in the morning to the mid-50s in the afternoon. That was a welcome relief after Friday’s temperature topped out at about 80.
“I was nervous on Friday because I thought the race would be really warm, and I don’t do well in warm conditions,” Lagat said.
Lagat has trained in New Mexico for seven years and hopes to become a naturalized U.S. citizen. She said Duluth is starting to feel like home to her, and with 3-2-1 finishes the past three years, who knows what next year might bring. A repeat, perhaps?
“This feels good,” Lagat said. “After last year, I felt like I was going to keep coming back until I won this, and now I have to come back to defend it.”
Then she smiled and said, “This has been a good marathon for me.”