13th lucky for Higgins; Top U.S. woman thrilled at her purr-fect finish.


Byline: Jennifer Toland; Ryan O'Hanlon


BOSTON - Paige Higgins had to figure this city would one day hold special meaning to her. After all, she named her cat "Boston."

Knee surgery forced Higgins, a Flagstaff, Ariz. resident, to withdraw from last year's Boston Marathon weeks before the race, but yesterday she was the top American women's performer, her time of 2:36:00 good for 13th place.

"Going in, that was one of my main goals," the 27-year-old Higgins said. "I take great pride in representing the American women's distance movement. It was a wonderful experience to be here."

Higgins, a Colorado native and graduate of the University of Kansas, had to drop out of last month's Los Angeles Marathon after 16 miles. A 30-minute delay at the start of the race caused nutrition issues for her. She became dizzy and weak and had to pull out with about 10 miles left.

"L.A. was obviously a big disappointment," Higgins said. "But (yesterday), it kind of came full circle. It was more than just running the race. It was a year of hard times, coming back (from the knee surgery), and pushing for it. It was wonderful to be here."

Higgins finished fourth at the Houston Marathon in January. She ran a personal-best 2:33:06 at the 2008 Chicago Marathon, where she had a breakthrough performance the year before as the second American finisher, and seventh overall, in record-breaking high temperatures.

Higgins seemed pleased with her performance in her Boston debut.

"I just tried to maintain a strong pace for the first 16 miles," she said, "and get myself up the hills. Once you get past 21, run to that Citgo sign (in Kenmore Square) and sprint in. The crowd really carries you."

First a matter of seconds

The last three women's races have been decided by a grand total of seven seconds.

Yesterday, Russian Tatyana Pushkareva closed what at one point was a two-minute lead by Ethiopia's Teyba Erkesso to make it kind of interesting coming down Boylston Street. Erkesso had enough left to hold off Pushkareva by 3 seconds.

Last year, in the closest finish in race history, Kenyan Salina Kosgei beat Dire Tune of Ethiopia by one second. In 2008, it was Tune who was 2 seconds better that second-place finisher Alevtina Biktimirova of Russia.

Kosgei, who has been battling a knee problem, was third yesterday in 2:28:35, more than four seconds slower than...

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