By Shannon Ryan, Tribune reporter
7:53 PM EDT, October 7, 2012
Rita Jeptoo raised her arms in celebration as she crossed the finish line of the Chicago Marathon, yet the Kenyan said she knew she had been edged by a woman she repeatedly called her friend.
In a battle to the finish that tied the closest finish in women's Chicago Marathon history, Ethiopia's Atsede Baysa won the 26.2-mile event on a chilly Sunday morning in 2 hours, 22 minutes, 3 seconds. Despite the rare near-photo finish, Baysa was just as confident in the result as she battled back during the final stretch for a one-second advantage.
"I knew she was just behind me," Baysa, 25, said. "I knew that I won the race."
It was not so clear to spectators who would win the race as the runners calculated their final moves.
The Chicago Marathon lists a one-second difference only occurring previously in 1999, but this race appeared to be decided in the narrowest of margins.
The two runners separated themselves in the final 5 kilometers from a pack that had included about six runners for much of the race.
Baysa had cracked a smile in the last mile, a few paces ahead of Jeptoo, but Jeptoo challenged and briefly took a lead as they turned into Grant Park. Baysa answered by regaining the lead and the two sprinted for the finish line.
Jeptoo's official time was a second behind, but it looked as close as a 100-meter finish.
"I was happy because I was second," said Jeptoo, who bested her personal record by more than a second. Her most recent best finish was her 2006 Boston Marathon victory. "The race is the race. I finished pretty fast and I'm happy."
Baysa said she learned her lesson in 2010 when she lost a 28-second lead to Liliya Shobukhova to finish second.
"In 2010, (I) made a mistake by going too fast the first half," she said through an interpreter. "This year (I) was the whole time running to win the race. At the last minute, there was a competitor. (I) was thinking just to win the race."
The victory was her first marathon win since achieving back-to-back first-place finishes at the Paris Marathon and the Xiamen International Marathon in 2010.
Baysa's victory ended a streak of three straight wins for Russian Shobukhova, who finished fourth in 2:22:59.
Shobukhova said the right hamstring injury which forced her to drop out of the London Olympics did not bother her on Sunday.
"I believe my life is not over today," Shobukhova said. "I believe I will have victories in the future. It gives me some perspective."
Kenyan Lucy Kabuu, a pre-race favorite, was pleased to finish third in 2:22:41 after dealing with an Achilles injury that affected her training.
Renee Metivier Baillie was the first American finisher in 2:27:17 for eighth place in her marathon debut.
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