BOSTON (AP) Atsede Baysa arrived at the Boston Marathon nearly four years removed from capturing a major marathon title.
She marked her return to the winner's podium with one of the most memorable comebacks in women's race history.
Trailing the lead pack by 37 seconds with less than five miles to go, Baysa won the Boston Marathon women's race on Monday, finishing in 2 hours, 29 minutes, 19 seconds - 44 seconds ahead of fellow Ethiopian Tirfi Tsegaye. Kenya's Joyce Chepkirui was third at 2:30:50.
''I was feeling my own strength,'' the 29-year-old Baysa said afterward through an interpreter. ''I decided a little bit with my level to maintain the pace. After everybody was near to me I moved, and then I pushed the pace in the last part.''
What made her comeback even more impressive is that Baysa said she had to fight through a left hamstring injury, which prevented her from keeping up when the lead pack broke away early in the race.
Baysa led at the 13-mile (20.92-kilometer) mark and then fell to the back of a four-woman group in mile 14 led by fellow Ethiopians Mamitu Daska and Fate Tola, along with Chepkirui.
But she said she never fell off her personal pace and only increased it once she caught them.
Baysa remained a nonfactor until mile 24, when she made her final move on Tsegaye and Chepkirui. She then overtook Tsegaye the next mile and never relinquished the lead.
Baysa's victory was the culmination of a celebration of women at this year's marathon, which marked the 50th anniversary of Bobbi Gibb breaking the gender barrier by sneaking onto the Boston course and running in 1966.
Fifty years later, more than 14,000 women were in Monday's announced field of 27,491 to take on the challenging terrain of the 26.2-mile trek from Hopkinton to Boston's Back Bay. For being the first to reach the Boylston Street finish line in the heart of downtown, Baysa received $150,000 and an olive wreath - the same prize as the men's winner.
It is the third major marathon crown for Baysa after claiming the Chicago Marathon in 2010 and 2012. It also puts her in the mix to earn a spot on Ethiopia's Olympic team.
Several prominent Ethiopians are running in the London Marathon on April 24.
Monday's race field included three of the top Ethiopian women's marathon finishers of all time. So even with her modest time, Baysa said she thinks she's made a good case to be on the team.
''This is a major marathon,'' Baysa said. ''If we remember last year, they selected (the Boston top finishers) for the World Championships. This year we are one group. We are confident they select us.''
Tsegaye also is hopeful her efforts will be good enough to merit a trip to Rio de Janeiro.
''I'm willing to participate to win the Olympics,'' she said through an interpreter. ''But there are four Ethiopians in the field of London in our group. I'm thinking if they run very fast in London, I'm guessing they will select for time.''
Follow Kyle Hightower on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/khightower