Emily Sisson is no stranger to the Tufts Health Plan 10k for Women. The Providence College alumna finished second in the 2015 race with a time of 32 minutes, 18 seconds — nearly a minute behind fellow Providence native Molly Huddle, a four-time winner of the race.
But with Huddle out of the 2016 race, Sisson knew the spotlight was on her. She lived up to the expectations Monday and finished first with a time of 31:47, winning both the 40th Tufts Health Plan race and the USA Track and Field 10k Championship.
Sarah Pagano of Brighton finished second in 32:31, while Monicah Ngige of Lansing, Mich., took third with a time of 32:37.
“I was a little nervous about this one, because it was a little different from previous years where I had people to chase down,” Sisson said. “So running from the front was different.
“I’ve had Molly setting the pace in years previously and other people I’ve been chasing down. So this year I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to be leading it, and I’m not afraid.’ ”
The 6.2-mile race started and ended at Boston Common, going up Massachusetts Avenue, across the Harvard Bridge, wrapping around Memorial Drive, and then back across the bridge.
Sisson began in front of the pack as the women headed down Beacon Street. But she didn’t separate until a few miles in. By the 1-mile mark, Sisson was still bunched up with Pagano, Kim Smith (seventh, 33:18), and Rochelle Kanuho (10th, 33:59).
“I was just running my own race, running the pace [PC coach Ray Tracey] told me to run,” Sisson explained. “I wasn’t too concerned with the other people around. I knew if I could run the pace Ray thought I could, I’d be OK.”
By the time Sisson reached the Harvard Bridge, between the 1- and 2-mile mark, it was just herself and Pagano up front. But at the 2-mile mark, Sisson checked in at 10:11 and was separating herself from Pagano.
With each step, Sisson put more space between herself and the competition. By the time she had turned around and gotten back onto Harvard Bridge, she had nearly 20 seconds between herself and Pagano.
As Sisson stormed back up the bridge, the bulk of the more than 7,000 other runners jogged past in the other direction. She received cheers and congratulations from the masses of runners as she rounded into the home stretch.
“That was incredible,” Sisson said. “They knew my name, it was really nice. I love this race. I’m always pumped for this one.”
The race also served as USA Track and Field’s 10k championship, a yearly race held at different locations around the country.
“I really wanted a title, I haven’t gotten one yet,” Sisson said. “That was really motivating me. It’s nice to have one.”
For Pagano, the plan was to stay with Sisson for as long as she could.
“I know I was feeling fit lately, so I wanted to try and push myself,” said Pagano, who finished 15th in last year’s race. “It ended up being just a couple of us up at the mile, and I was feeling good, so I was like, ‘I’ll just go with Emily for as long as I can.’ ”
Pagano added that while she slowed up around the third mile, Sisson remained strong and never broke her pace.
Running the Tufts 10K in Boston, she said, is always a special event.
“I love coming to this race,” said the Boston Athletic Association member. “I think the Boston running community is awesome. It’s such a great atmosphere, and coming across the bridge you see the whole city and all the runners. I love being here.”