Winning breeds confidence, wrote Hall of Fame golfer Hubert Green, and confidence breeds winning.
Enter, Caroline Rotich.
In her decade-long career, the 31-year-old Kenyan has certainly known winning, including victories in the Prague Marathon in 2013 and the Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon in 2009. Yet when she stood on a starting line, few considered her a favorite. Even she might have had some doubts.
But when she won the 119th Boston Marathon this spring, in a kick down Boylston Street that vanquished a woman with a personal best three and a half minutes faster than her own, a new world opened up.
“Winning Boston,” she said the next day, “makes me feel like one of the big runners.”
Her coach, Ryan Bolton, said recently that Rotich has a “new swagger” after her major triumph over 26.2 miles: “Caro certainly is a more confident person and runner in general, post-Boston.”
Rotich, who lives and trains in Santa Fe, NM, will return to the TCS New York City Marathon having finished seventh in her two previous attempts, in 2010 and 2011. Should she prevail next Sunday, she would take the lead in the Abbott World Marathon Majors standings, putting her in line for half of the $1 million prize with only one race remaining, the 2016 Tokyo Marathon.
She would also become the first woman since the legendary Ingrid Kristiansen in 1989 to win Boston and New York in the same year. Asked what that would mean to her, Rotich bursts into a smile even brighter than usual.
“Everything,” she says. “It would mean everything I’ve been training for and waiting for has come to this point. I can’t even explain it.”
New York has already played a crucial role in Rotich’s career. Not only has she twice won the NYC Half, in 2011 and 2013, but her first New York City Marathon, in 2010, “was my biggest race ever. I was like, ‘Wow, this is how it feels.’ It was painful and hard, but it was good experience.” When she finished seventh again the next year, on the heels of a fourth-place finish in Boston, she said she thought, “Maybe I’ve got this.”
But it would be three and a half years before she wore the olive wreath of Boston. “The marathon is not something you’re going to run one day and it just happens,” Rotich says. “I learned that it takes time.”
November 1 is another step on what feels like a new ladder, but not one without the specter of a misstep.
“She’s very aware that she can compete with anyone, and she knows that now more than ever,” says Bolton. “We’ve had many talks about how it can be a very good thing to be confident, but getting over-confident and not remembering how much work and effort and ‘want’ it takes to get you to the top can be very detrimental. We’ve been working on balancing that newfound confidence with staying grounded and committed to hard training. I’ve been very impressed with how she’s handled everything, and I think she’s found the balance perfectly.”
The day after her Boston victory, Rotich said she doubted that her life would change. “This morning, I wake up like normal me,” she said. But she has since reconsidered.
“It’s changed a lot, even not just for myself. In the community of Santa Fe, when I go for a run now people are saying ‘You’re great!’ and stopping to say ‘hi’ to me [when they are] outside running."
On her return from Boston, Rotich was treated to a hometown hero’s welcome featuring a parade and colorful ceremony over which Santa Fe’s mayor presided. Might there be a repeat after New York? Rotich wouldn’t speculate on a celebration, beyond saying that the people of Santa Fe are looking forward to the race. She wouldn’t predict the outcome, either, but said she knows more than she did on her last trip here.
“I can do this!”
By Barbara Huebner
Watch the 2015 TCS New York City Marathon on November 1 on WABC-TV, Channel 7, in the New York tri-state area from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. EST and watch it across the country on ESPN2 from 9:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. EST.
Enter to win guaranteed non-complimentary entry to the 2016 TCS New York City Marathon now.