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From also-ran to Boston runner-up: Sarah Sellers shocks field in just her second marathon

When Sarah Sellers runs, it’s usually dark out. Occupied during daytime hours as an anesthesiologist, the 26-year-old from Tucson has to get creative to carve out chunks of training time. On some days, Sellers rises at 4 in the morning to get in her miles; on others, her run has to wait until 7 p.m.

Largely unheralded, Sellers’s second-place finish at the Boston Marathon on Monday came as a shock to both the running world at large and to the runner herself.

“Some of the women I was passing, I was in complete disbelief,” Sellers said. “I have the utmost respect for who they are as athletes and as people.”

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Sellers ran her only other marathon in 2017, winning the Huntsville Marathon in Utah in 2 hours, 44 minutes, and 27 seconds. Using that as a baseline, Sellers came into Monday hoping to finish in the top 15 of the women’s elite field. She didn’t know she had won until after she crossed the finish line and was informed of the result.

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Sellers ran at Weber State from 2009-12 as Sarah Callister and the Utah native won nine titles in the Big Sky Conference and earned all-conference honors 15 times between cross-country and track and field, all while maintaining a 4.0 GPA in nursing.

But Sellers’s college career was cut short her senior year because of a navicular stress fracture in her foot.

“I feel like I never reached my potential in college,” said Sellers. “When I went to grad school, I wasn’t really able to train a lot then. This is my first training block since coming back from injury in college.”

Peak training for her second marathon consisted of 100 miles per week, with coach Paul Pilkington, a Weber State employee, and husband Blake, an orthopedic resident, with her many steps of the way. In selecting a wardrobe for Monday’s wretched conditions, Sellers took a minimalist approach.

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“My goal was just to stay dry for the first couple of miles as I got warmed up,” Sellers said. “Then I had just one layer on after that.”

Sarah Sellers (right) stayed in the pack for the majority of Monday’s race before surging into second place down the homestretch.
Getty Images
Sarah Sellers (right) stayed in the pack for the majority of Monday’s race before surging into second place down the homestretch.

Sellers finished the 26.2-mile trek in 2:44:04, more than four minutes behind winner Desiree Linden and 16 seconds clear of third-place Krista Duchene of Canada.

The woman aiming for “the B standard” got an A result. Hanging in the pack for the majority of the race, Sellers didn’t surge into the top 10 until after the 21-mile mark, just a few miles from Boylston Street’s famed homestretch. Asserting her will at every bend, Sellers accelerated into second place with a mile remaining and never gave up the position.

Following the race, Sellers appeared as composed as could be for pocketing $75,000 in prize money. Or maybe it was a case of sustained shock that serves as reasoning for Sellers’s humble demeanor. Whatever the reason, she isn’t about to relinquish this feeling any time soon.

“I don’t know,” said Sellers when asked what will come next in her suddenly revitalized athletic career.

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“Training for another marathon? I haven’t even thought beyond Boston. I’m in shock.”

Owen Pence can be reached at owen.pence@globe.com.