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Elk River’s Bates again top American woman in Boston Marathon

When the screaming started, Emma Bates was still a long ways away from the finish line. The Elk River native had about 13 miles left to run in Monday's Boston Marathon, her first 26.2-mile race since a devastating foot injury last fall.

Bates led the women's field into the "scream tunnel" near the Wellesley College campus, reaching out to high-five as many spectators as she could along that noisy section of the course. Though she lost a bit of time — and later, the lead — she still had something to shout about at the end. For the second year in a row, Bates finished as the top American woman in Boston, crossing the line in 12th place.

Her time of 2 hours, 27 minutes, 14 seconds wasn't as fast as she hoped. Bates finished about 4½ minutes behind winner Hellen Obiri of Kenya and about five minutes off her personal best.

Yet she couldn't be disappointed. Once a favorite to make the U.S. team for the Paris Olympics, Bates, 31, had to withdraw from last February's Olympic trials after tearing a plantar fascia during the Chicago Marathon four months earlier. In Boston, she resumed her place among the nation's elite marathoners on a course where she finished fifth last year.

"I wasn't quite sure how I would be able to come off the injury in my recovery process," Bates said in the post-race news conference. "I was just trying to test myself and go after it. I didn't have anything to lose.

"I'm proud of finishing. I'm proud of pushing myself and the efforts I put into it. Finishing 12th isn't quite what I expected or hoped for … I wasn't able to have the wheels at the end."

Bates ran a personal-best time of 2:22:10 last year in Boston, making her the second-fastest U.S. woman in the race's history. She was eager to keep the momentum going at the Chicago Marathon in October.

Midway through that race, Bates stepped in a pothole, injuring her foot. Though she kept going and finished 13th, she was in such pain she left the course in a wheelchair. She was not able to recover in time for the Olympic trials.

After that blow, Bates shifted her focus to Boston. In Monday's 70-degree warmth, she reluctantly found herself in the front as other runners held back. Bates was part of a lead pack of about 20 women at the halfway point and hit the 20-mile mark in first place, with much of that group still intact.

Then the runners tackled Heartbreak Hill. Bates could not keep up, but she wasn't discouraged.

"They threw down a 4:40 mile towards the end, and I'm just not quite there yet," Bates said. "Hopefully, I'll be there in full form next year or the years following. Just coming off this injury, I'm really proud of being where I was and pushing myself."