By Odeen Domingo
The Arizona Republic
She was gunning for it. Every step built confidence.
Every step led her to her goal.
Adenech Zekiros of Ethiopia wanted to finish the marathon at Sunday’s P.F. Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Marathon & 1/2 Marathon with her personal-best time – under 2 hours, 27 minutes and 28 seconds.
But almost four minutes had passed that mark before she crossed the finish line. Was she disappointed?
“No,” she said through an interpreter. “I’m still the winner.”
Zekiros, 25, was the first female runner to finish, defending her 2007 title.
Although she didn’t break her personal record, Zekiros did break the course record with a time of 2:31:14, beating the previous record by 19 seconds. Fellow Ethiopian Shitaye Gemechu ran 2:31:33 in 2004.
“The other runners didn’t run fast enough, so I couldn’t make it to 2:27,” said Zekiros, who took the lead after Mile 13 of the 26.2 mile-course.
Zekiros added that the weather helped her break the course record.
She said last year’s race was too cold, but this year the weather was perfect.
It was about 52 degrees at the 7:40 a.m. start time.
Salomie Getnet of Ethiopia was runner-up for the second consecutive year with a time of 2:34:01 – 1:11 better than she ran last year. Fellow countrywoman Asnakech Mengistru was third.
Sunday’s marathon meant a lot more for 39 American women. Each was trying to run under 2:47 to qualify for the U.S. Olympic Trials – the Boston Marathon in April.
But just eight runners were able to do so, led by Linda Sommers Smith of Arroyo Grande, Calif. Smith finished fourth with a time of 2:41:04.
Sally Meyerhoff’s marathon debut was a success. The 24-year-old Tempe native, who ran cross country at Phoenix Mountain Pointe and was an All-American at Duke, finished sixth at 2:42:46.
“I’m just happy (to finish),” said Meyerhoff, who ran 98 seconds faster than the next local finisher, Susan Loken. “I was in a lot of pain in the last couple of miles.”
The other runners who qualified for the U.S. Olympic Trials were Kristen Henehan of Silver Spring, Md., Allison Kerr of Vacaville, Colo., Betsey Keever of San Francisco, Michele Suszek of Aurora, Colo., and Lisa Thomas of Alexandria, Va.