-- First, her feet started to act up. Then it was her hamstrings, glutes and lower back. By the time Deena Kastor crossed the finish line Sunday in the Chicago Marathon, she was a wreck.
She was also the winner.
Kastor, the 2004 Olympic bronze medalist, finished in 2 hours 21 minutes 25 seconds for a rare victory by an American and her first marathon win. She held off a late push by defending champion Constantina Tomescu-Dita of Romania.
"There's nothing I can think of that parallels what that feels like," Kastor said about the pain she felt the last few miles. "Still, right now, I would say I would never run another marathon. . . . These marathons are unkind. When they're unkind, they're extraordinarily harsh. And this was a harsh one.
"The fact that I won makes it a little sweeter."
Kastor, running her sixth marathon, finished five seconds ahead of Tomescu-Dita. Masako Chiba of Japan (2:26:00) was third, followed by American Colleen De Reuck (2:28:40) and Eri Hayakawa of Japan (2:28:50).
Kenyans occupied the top 10 spots among the men, with Felix Limo leading the way at 2:07:02 -- the fastest time in the world this year. It was his third victory in four marathons.
Benjamin Maiyo was second at 2:07:09, and Daniel Njenga third at 2:07:14. Two-time defending champion Evans Rutto finished fourth (2:07:29), with Patrick Ivuti fifth (2:07:46).
Before this race, the fastest time this year was 2:07:26 by Martin Lel of Kenya in London.
Rutto, running in a pack of about 15, moved to the front in the 12th mile but didn't stay there. He seemed perfectly content to let others set the pace. The pack thinned to six on the 20th mile, with Limo, Sammy Korir and Rutto in the top three spots.
Maiyo led after 22 miles at 1:46:40, with Njenga, Limo, Rutto and Ivuti right behind him.
Limo, who won the Rotterdam and Berlin marathons in 2004, led after 24 miles at 1:56:24 -- a second ahead of Benjamin and two ahead of Njenga. Rutto was fourth at 1:56:27 and continued to lose ground.
Running step by step with Maiyo and Njenga, Limo pulled ahead as they turned into a hill on the 25th mile. He led Maiyo by about 10 yards as they neared the finish line.
"I looked at the faces of everybody, and I was feeling strong so I started moving," Limo said. "I realized this is my game, I'm going to win. . . . I knew there was a little bit of a hill, so I sprinted from there. When I looked behind, I saw the guys struggling and I knew this is my game."