Santucci, 31, who now resides and trains in Pittsburgh, won back-to-back titles in 2014 and 2015. Her 2014 winning time of 2 hours, 32 minutes, 25 seconds is the fastest women’s time on the current course. After coming back from a persistent hamstring injury, Santucci wants to be the first person to win the Pittsburgh Marathon three times since it was first contested in 1985.
“When I line up in Pittsburgh, I always feel the power of the people around me,” Santucci said. “I feel a certain level of comfort, dedication, and strength in this race. It’s feeling a connection to it and how much Pittsburgh has meant to me through the years. I felt it was fitting to return to the marathon here, closer to home and closer to those that have been with me through the best and worst.”
To win this year’s race, she’ll need to prove that she can run the Pittsburgh hills faster than a competitive international field. The women’s race includes Serkalem Biset Abrar, who has a marathon PR of 2:31:40, and Askale Merachi, who has a marathon PR of 2:32:00.
Jacob Chemtai, 31, of Kenya, who won the 2017 race in 2:15:25, aims to run even faster this year, but like Santucci, he will face a strong field of contenders.
“Coming to the start line as the defending champion, I will already be motivated, and I will try not to disappoint,” Chemtai said. “I will try to push early while bearing in mind that I am competing against the world's best, so I will have to focus and run my race by not competing with anyone but time.”
Challenging him will be several men who have clocked a marathon under 2:10, including Milton Rotich, who has a marathon PR of 2:08:55; Werkuneh Seyoum Aboye, who has a marathon PR of 2:09:27; and Fikadu Girma Teferi, who sports a marathon PR of 2:09:34.