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Kenya’s Rita Jeptoo wins women’s side of Chicago Marathon in personal best

Updated: October 13, 2013 8:22PM

Rita Jeptoo ran into space Sunday at the 36th Bank of America Chicago Marathon.

She not only posted her personal best of 2:19:57 and, more importantly, separated from the rest of the field. For busting the 2:20 barrier, she added a $40,000 bonus to her $100,000 payday.

“The race was very, very nice,’’ the 32-year-old Kenyan said. “Weather was good. Today I am happy to be in Chicago again. I was feeling around 2:20 or 2:21. Today I am happy because I am running my best time.’’

And happy it was not a repeat of last year.

Last year, Ethiopia’s Atsede Baysa and Jeptoo ran to the closest finish in race history (a one-second victory in 2:22:03 by Baysa). That was Jeptoo’s previous best time.

“Last year I was maybe not ready,’’ Jeptoo said. “This year I was really really ready. Today I was with my friends.’’

It was not close at the end. In the final miles, fellow Kenyan Jemima Jelagat Sumgong and Jeptoo separated from the field. Then, between 35 and 40 kilometers, Jeptoo put space between her and Jelagat Sumgong convincingly.

Jelagat Sumgong finished second in 2:20:48, easily the 28-year-old’s personal best. Her previous best (2:23:37) was on April 14 when she won Rotterdam.

“Today was very good for me,’’ she said. “I am not disappointed. I am very satisfied.’’

So was Jeptoo, who also ran the fastest women’s marathon of 2013.

And she was right about the weather.

Conditions were nearly ideal as they ever were for the Chicago Marathon, whose 26.2-mile course winds through 29 Chicago neighborhoods. It begins and ends in Grant Park, going as far north as Addison, as far west as Damen and as far south as 35th.

It was 53 degrees at the 7:30 a.m. start for the elite runners. There was a breeze of 5-10 mph from the northwest, different than the anticipated light breezes from the north-northeast.

Executive race director Carey Pinkowski was worried about the high humidity through the night, but then the humidity and temperatures dropped before the start.

“Mother Nature cooperated,’’ he said.

Cooperated enough that Jeptoo could make and erase history; and remember the sheer joy of her last major title at the Boston Marathon in 2006.

Early on, Russian Maria Konovalova and Baysa set a hot pace.

Konovalova posted her personal best time (2:22:46) and her best finish at third, topping the her previous best time (2:23:50) in finishing fourth in Chicago in 2010.

“I was running aggressively and I did not feel any pain,’’ she said.

Neither did Jeptoo.

In the 23rd mile, she built a seven second lead and ran away from any repeat of last year.

“I was feeling strong when I went to go,’’ she said. “I am confident going and good.’’

Unlike the men’s side, neither the women’s course or world records were in any danger. The women’s course record (2:17:18) was set by Great Britain’s Paula Radcliffe in 2002. Radcliffe set the world record (2:15:25) in London in 2003.

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