By Chris Lotsbom
BOSTON (13-Apr) -- For Sharon Cherop, returning to Boston is something she does not take for granted. After finishing a heart-wrenching third in 2011 --mistaking how far away from the finish she was-- the mother of one came back to take home the olive wreath in 2012. Twelve months after her successful run through near-record high temperatures, Cherop still wears a proud smile across her face.
"I am so happy to be back again, to be invited to Boston," she told Race Results Weekly here on Friday. "I feel like it has become a home for me. Being here three times, I am so happy."
In 2012, Cherop joined a distinguished list of Kenyan champions who have won Boston --a group that includes four-time winner Catherine Ndereba and course record holder Margaret Okayo.
"Getting a victory," she began, trying to put the title into words. "Very, very special."
Cherop said that her win easily changed her life, and somewhat took her husband, marathoner Mathew Kosgei Bowen, by surprise. At the time of her race, Bowen was in Austria, as he had worked as a pacesetter in the Vienna City Marathon the previous day.
"Everyone was so happy with my winning, it was not only me alone," she remembered. "My husband, he was running the Vienna Marathon, and then it was everyone saying congratulations. He never knew what the congratulations were for [until] he saw and was so happy."
The win even took Cherop, 29, by surprise, as before last year's race she had dealt with a nagging knee injury.
"This year I am feeling so better than last year because last year winning was not even in my mind because of the problems I had in the last two weeks [of training]," she said. "I had a small injury in my knee and I knew Boston was a really tough course, uphill and down, so it is really difficult for someone with a knee problem. This year, no knee problems or injuries."
Preparing over the hills in Marakwet, Cherop specifically focused on the down sections, knowing Boston is a net downhill course, losing 3.23 meters per kilometer from the start in Hopkinton to the finish in Boston.
"Sometimes hills can be so tiring," she said. "It depends when you go down the hills. The problem is down the hills, not even up, because sometimes you can kill yourself when you go faster down."
Come Monday, Cherop is ready to become the first woman to win in consecutive years since Ndereba did so in 2004-2005.
"My goal is to defend my title, but I know it is not going to be so easy," she said. "This race, it favors Kenyans and Ethiopians a lot."
Having completed ten marathons over the course of her career, Cherop knows what she is capable of.
"No time prediction," she said. "But the position is my target, to defend. Defending a marathon is very difficult, it needs hard work. You cannot predict the time of Boston."
PHOTO: Sharon Cherop before the 2013 Boston Marathon; her coach, Gabriele Nicola, is in the reflection (Photo by Chris Lotsbom for Race Results Weekly)