It should come as no surprise that Caroline Kilel is already hoping she gets a chance to run the Boston Marathon for a second time next year.
After all, the Kenyan's debut here couldn't have gone any better. Kilel fended off Desiree Davila of the United States to win the women's race today with an official time of 2 hours 22 minutes 36 seconds.
"I'm happy because I won a close one," said Kilel. "I love Boston. I would love to run here many times if they invite me. I feel very happy."
Kilel wasn't exaggerating when she called it close. She edged Davila, a Michigan native who was urged along by chants of "USA, USA," and at one point briefly raised her arms to encourage the crowd, by just two seconds.
"It was just a perfect day for me . . . other than not winning," said Davila, who set a new standard for US women in the Boston race.
The Arizona State product led for much of the latter half of the race. She swapped leads with Kilel twice in the final minutes, first turning on to Hereford Street, and again during the final stretch, leading with roughly 200 yards to go.
But Kilel, who said her legs felt great even with 100 meters to go, kicked past her and held on to win her second marathon this year, the first coming in Frankfurt.
Davila said she had nothing left in the tank by the end.
"At the end it was just about trying to keep contact," Davila said. "If I could keep contact I thought I could give myself a shot down the last straightaway. Before that, I felt like the [lead pack] would pull away and then I didn't do anything special to catch up. The main thing was to let it settle and don't let it get too slow so that hopefully when we went down the last stretch everybody would be on dead legs."
Davila said she felt like she had a chance of winning right up until the final strides.
"I thought maybe there was a little more left in my legs, but I just couldn't pull it off in the last couple seconds of the race. My legs were just shot. That was all I had and [Kilel] was just better today."
Sharon Cherop was third, falling behind Kilel and Davila with a mile to go.
Kim Smith, a New Zealand native who now lives in Providence, set a rapid pace from the start, and led by 50 seconds at the halfway point. She was still ahead with a time of 1:38:14 at mile 18, but suffered a calf cramp not long after that marker. The pack of elite runners that trailed her quickly made up the deficit, though she did run with them for a while. Smith dropped out of the race with several miles remaining.
"I though during the race that there was . . . a lot of emotional running, I guess," Davila said when asked about Smith's early pace.
Kara Goucher of the US, who finished fifth in 2:24:52, said that for her, Boston is always an emotional experience. She was third in Boston two years ago but did not run here last year after giving birth to a son, Colt.
She said after the race that she will not run any marathons in the near future, instead focusing on the 10,000-meter race, but said she will dearly miss Boston.
"They make you feel like a rock star here," Goucher said. "They do it for all the US athletes. I love it here. I love the culture, I love Patriots Day, I love the atmosphere here. It's awesome."
- Matt Pepin, Boston.com sports editor
- Steve Silva, Boston.com senior producer, two-time Boston Marathon sub-four hour runner.
- Ty Velde is a 15-time Boston qualifier who's completed 11 consecutive Boston Marathons and 23 marathons overall. Ty is now training for his 12th Boston run and will provide training tips for those who train solo and outside, no matter what temperature it is.
- Rich 'Shifter' Horgan is a 19-time Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge team member who runs in honor of his father, who died of colon cancer. He will provide updates on local running events with a focus on the charitable organizations that provide Boston Marathon entries for their organization's fund raising purposes