Clara Santucci, 27, of Dilliner, Greene County, was the female winner in Sunday’s Pittsburgh Marathon. She finished with a time of 2:32:25, beating runner-up Yeshimebet Bifa of White Plains, Md., by more than two minutes.
She is the first American woman to win the race since 2009.
Santucci made her move at the 20-mile mark, pulling away from a pack of runners she had been with for the majority of the race.
As part of her preparation for the marathon, Santucci drove and ran various parts of the course over the last month. The familiarity with the layout paid off in the final six miles.
“It’s just really awesome,” she told reporters. “I’m up here all the time going to Pirates games, and it’s a lot of fun to feel like you’re winning something so close to home.
“I kind of knew what was coming. Just knowing where the tough parts were, and having that mental picture of where I’d have to push and where I could relax and get my energy levels back, really helped.”
When Santucci crossed the finish line, she was met by race director Patrice Matamoros, who draped an American flag around the runner.
Santucci was born in Illinois and grew up in Doddridge County in north-central West Virginia. She spent much of her childhood living in an old one-room schoolhouse. She earned all-state honors in both cross country and track and participated in both sports at West Virginia University, earning All-America honors. Her final season running for the Mountaineers was 2009-10, when she placed fourth in the 10,000 meters at the NCAA Championships.
Santucci is still coached by her college mentor, Sean Cleary, training on trails along the Monongahela River.
Santucci made her marathon debut in Boston in 2011, running 2:29:54. She was the top American female finisher at the Chicago Marathon last October.
At the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials, Santucci placed seventh with a time of 2:30:46. This year, she set a personal half marathon best twice, running 1:12:58 at the USA Championships in Houston and 1:12:21 at the World Half Marathon Championships in Denmark.
Gebo Burka Gemade of Ethiopia was the men’s winner with a time of 2:16:30. Santucci, however, earned the biggest payday, winning $15,000. She won $8,000 for finishing first overall, $4,500 as the first American, $1,500 for earning an Olympic Trials “A” qualifying time and $1,000 for being the top-finishing Pennsylvanian.
Santucci said she’d like to run in Pittsburgh again, though she’s not sure if the marathon is in her plans.
“I really want to be a part of this in the future, even if it’s coming back to be part of the community support or run the half-marathon or something like that,” she said. “Or maybe the marathon, again. It’s been a really great experience.”
A record 23,458 runners participated in the marathon and its various sub-divisions. According to reports, the Pittsburgh Marathon medical team treated 144 runners, and 26 were transported to area hospitals.