Nell Rojas stepped up to the stage inside the Fairmont Copley Plaza to join her fellow top Americans from Monday’s Boston Marathon, and let out a sigh of relief.
Another 26.2-mile journey was complete, but she was even more satisfied to know that she belonged up on that stage.
Six months after being the top American in October’s marathon — when she finished sixth overall — the Boulder native returned to Boston and finished as the top American again on Monday, crossing the line on Boylston Street 10th overall with a personal best to boot, an impressive 2 hours, 25 minutes and 57 seconds.
“I think you do it one time and you’re like OK, that was lucky,” Rojas said. “And you think it was kind of a fluke, and then once you do it more, you believe in yourself more and you kind of realize like, you can actually compete with these people and you’re one of them. It was exciting and special.”
The top three American women in Monday’s race continued to prove that age is just a number. Three months after 37-year-old Keira D’Amato broke the American women’s marathon record in Houston, the top three Monday in Boston were the 34-year-old Rojas, 38-year-old Stephanie Bruce (12th overall, 2:28:02) and 38-year-old Des Linden (13th overall, 2:28:47).
Molly Seidel — the former Boston resident who was considered the American favorite after winning bronze at last summer’s Olympics — did not finish. She kept up with the lead pack before falling back at around the eight-mile mark, and she dropped out at the 25K mark due to a hip injury.
Linden, a fan favorite in Boston after winning in 2018, completed her ninth Boston. And it sounds like she’s willing to come back to make it 10.
“If they keep inviting me, I’ll keep showing up,” Linden said.
“It’s so fun to be out there. It’s so fun to feel the energy from the city.”
For Bruce, Monday marked her final Boston, which she ran with her husband Ben. The Arizona native and popular runner announced in January that she will retire at the end of 2022, which made Monday extra meaningful.
“It was really special,” Bruce said. “I ran here in 2013 and I remembered how hard it was, and then today I was like, ‘I forgot how hard it was.’ It’s a really brutal course. It helps you if you know the hills really well and you know how to run the downs.
“The distance running world is just so deep right now. … It’s crazy to think that the times that we ran were 12th and 13th. … I’m glad to make it to the start line, make it to the finish line one last time here.”
Monday marked the 50th anniversary of the Boston Marathon’s first official women’s race, which eight women ran. The meaning of that wasn’t lost on any of the top American women.
“The older you get, the more you realize how important it is to be a good role model for other women, and how important it was that those women did what they did, and carry on the tradition, and how special it is to be where we are,” Rojas said.
Bruce is the mother of two boys, and that made running Monday’s marathon that much more special.
“It’s actually really cool for them to see, ‘Oh, someone cares about my mom’s sport and what she does,’ and not just men’s sports,” Bruce said. “It’s special for us to be showcased up here.”
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