How the Boston Marathon's Runner-Up Shocked the Running World

How the Boston Marathon's Runner-Up Shocked the Running World


It was crazy enough that Desiree Linden on Monday survived sheets of piercing rain to become the first American woman to win the Boston Marathon in 33 years. But Linden’s triumph may not even be the craziest thing that happened in the coldest Boston Marathon in decades, thanks to second-place finisher Sarah Sellers.

Sellers, 26, is a completely unknown, unsponsored, and previously unheralded hobby runner from Arizona.

She was not even listed in the race’s elite field on the website of the Boston Athletic Association, which stages the Boston Marathon. She doesn’t have a profile on the International Association of Athletics Federations, running’s official sport governing body. She crossed the finish line wearing a basic blue tank top, black shorts, and a black baseball cap—no flashy brand logos or custom running shoes.

“I still think I’m going to wake up and it’s going to be a dream, for sure,” Sellers told the popular running website Letsrun.com after the race.

The Boston Marathon is unique among major marathons in that the field—save for some charity runners—is typically required to qualify by time. Even non-elites who contest the race have demonstrated a capacity to run a fast marathon.

Sellers’s finishing time on Monday of 2:44:04 is exceptionally fast for the average hobby runner, but nowhere near world class. The best women’s marathoners in the world can run 2:20 or better, and the world record stands at 2:15:25.

As such, Sellers didn’t exactly put on the performance of her life to upset dozens of pros. Some prominent women, including Ethiopia’s Mamitu Daska, who led for much of Monday’s race, dropped out before the finish amid Monday’s brutal weather conditions. Sellers ran within her means, stayed in control, ran at an average 6:16-minute pace, and slowly picked off dozens of the world’s best runners to score the upset of the day.

Her performance was so surprising that other professional women said they didn’t know what was happening on the course. Shalane Flanagan, the 2017 New York City Marathon winner and a hometown favorite in Boston, finished 6th, but not before being passed by Sellers, who she didn’t know.

“I was like, are they in the same race as me?” she told Letsrun.com. She described Sellers’s run as “incredible.”

A 2013 graduate of Weber State University in Utah, Sellers, nee Callister, was a nine-time Big Sky conference champion in track and field and earned a 4.0 GPA in nursing, according to the school’s website. She is currently a nurse in her home state of Arizona, where she lives with her husband Blake, as she told LetsRun.

She decided to run this year’s Boston Marathon for a simple reason: her brother planned to run the race, so she figured she’d sign up, too. Not as an elite entrant, but a regular average-Joe runner.

“I paid the fee,” she said.

According to the BAA, the entry fee for U.S. runners is $180. It turned out to be a good investment for Sellers: The women’s second-place finisher receives $75,000 in prize money.

Write to Sara Germano at sara.germano@wsj.com



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