KIPLAGAT, KIRUI PREVAIL IN BOSTON MARATHON DEBUTS
By David Monti, @d9monti
(c) 2017 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
BOSTON (17-Apr) — Making their first appearances at the Boston Marathon, Kenya’s Edna Kiplagat and Geoffrey Kirui ran to victory today in the 121st edition of America’s oldest marathon, covering the 26 miles, 385 yards from Hopkinton Back Bay in 2:21:52 and 2:09:37, respectively. It was the first time since 2011 that Kenyan athletes claimed victory here in both the men’s and women’s races. Each athlete won $150,000 in prize money courtesy of John Hancock Financial.
Kiplagat, 38, twice the IAAF world marathon champion and a winner of both the New York and London Marathons, ran a perfectly executed race. On a warm, sunny and windy day, she followed the early pace set by American Olympian Desiree Linden, going through halfway in a pack of eight women in 1:12:33. Joining Kiplagat and Linden at the front were Kenyans Brigid Kosgei, Gladys Cherono and Valentine Kipketer; Ethiopian Ruti Aga; Bahraini Rose Chelimo; and the American debutante Jordan Hasay of Portland, Ore.. Defending champion Atsede Baysa and course record holder Buzunesh Deba, both of Ethiopia, were already well off the pace and out of contention.
Kiplagat had said before the race that she planned to wait at least until 35 kilometers before making a big move, but she changed her mind when she saw that the lead pack was down to only five at 30-K (Chelimo, Kiplagat, Cherono, Hasay and Kipketer) and that she was feeling good, despite the warm temperatures. She won both of her world titles in hot and sunny conditions.
“I broke away in 30 kilometers,” Kiplagat said in the post-race press conference. “I was feeling very good and my body reacted.”
Covering the five kilometers from 30 to 35-K in a swift 16:01 –which included a sub-5:00 mile up Heart Break Hill– Kiplagat put the race out of reach in just a matter of seconds. By the 35-K mark, she had 34 seconds on Chelimo, her nearest rival, and another 11 seconds on Hasay who was running well within herself and was having a record-breaking marathon debut.
Despite grabbing the wrong personal bottle at one of the fluid stations and having to go back to replace it, Kiplagat still covered the next 5-K nearly as fast in 16:02. She was not to be touched today, building a 59-second cushion over Chelimo by the finish line in Boylston Street. Hers was the fastest winning time here since Buzunesh Deba ran the course record of 2:19:59 in 2014.
“I’m feeling very happy coming to Boston for the first time,” said Kiplagat who had traveled to Boston with her son, Carlos (13) and her daughter, Wendy (9). “Winning is something which is really great for me.” She added: “In every race you have to know the course. You have to know what you’re expecting.”
Chelimo finished a clear second in 2:22:51, a personal best, while Hasay ran the fastest-ever debut by an American woman by nearly three minutes: 2:23:00. Covering the second half of the course in 1:10:27, Hasay said that her performance was near the upper end of what she and coaches Alberto Salazar and Pete Julian had expected. She said that she was helped by the slow early pace.
“It was nice to have that first early mile that was around 5:50, like you’re walking,” Hasay told the media. She continued: “I was excited because if it was going to be a 2:19, 2:20 race I wasn’t going to go with the leaders. So, that was nice to just be able to sit in that pack.”
But when Kiplagat made her big move, Hasay knew the smart thing was to hold back and not risk her entire race.
“When she did go, she went so hard,” Hasay recalled. “I said I just don’t think I can go with this.”
Further down the finish order, Deba would finish seventh in 2:30:58, while defending champion Atsede Baysa finished 22nd in 2:40:07. Another American debutante, Liz Costello of Boston, finished 18th in 2:38:21. Dot McMahan of Oakland Township, Mich., won the masters (over-40) title in 2:36:38. She was 14th overall and the sixth American.
The men’s race was see-sawing affair, in which the pack repeatedly sped up only to slow down again. A quick 12th mile by Kenya’s Emmanuel Mutai (4:47) winnowed the pack to an even dozen by halfway. All of the key contenders, including defending champion Lemi Berhanu and American Olympic medalist Galen Rupp, were still in the hunt.
For Kirui, 24, this was only his third marathon. Yet his coach, Italy’s Renato Canova, is one of the most experienced coaches in the marathon world. Kirui said he felt very ready to run well.
“To come here to Boston I knew that I’m coming to run (hard),” Kirui said, picking his words carefully. “I knew I’m coming to face my colleagues who have run mostly, many times in Boston.” He added: “I was not aware that I was going to win. But according to my training, I knew also that I would challenge.”
Kirui stayed near the front of the lead pack, running close to Rupp, an athlete Kirui later admitted he did not know.
By 30-K, Mutai –who would become the first-ever athlete to complete all eight Abbott World Marathon Majors races– was out of contention. That would also be the last split recorded by Berhanu who would soon drop out. Kirui was biding his time, waiting for the right moment to strike. He made his first move after 30-K, dropping the pace to 15:18 for that 5-kilometer segment which dropped everybody but Rupp. He surged again in the 24th mile, running sub-4:30, dropping Rupp.
“He ran incredibly over the last part of the race,” Rupp said of Kirui. “You’ve got to start by saying that.”
Kirui’s 5-kilometer segment through 40-K was easily the fastest of the race: 14:34. He had a 21-second margin on Rupp who now had to worry about his own Nike Oregon Project teammate, Suguru Osako, who was only another 24 seconds behind.
But in the final kilometers, the finish order would not change. Kirui had time to wave to the crowd on Boylston Street before finishing and getting his gold-dipped laurel wreath. Rupp finished second –his third marathon podium finish in three tries– in 2:09:58. Osako got third in 2:10:28 becoming the first Japanese man to make the podium here since Toshihiko Seko won the race in 1981.
“I was very nervous and I was very grateful for the experience,” said Osako.
The minor places went to Shadrack Biwott of Mammoth Lakes, Calif., in fourth (2:12:08), Wilson Chebet of Kenya in fifth (2:12:35) and Abdi Abdirahman of Tucson, Ariz., in sixth (2:12:45). Abdirahman, 40, was also the race’s masters champion.
In all, 30,153 runners entered the race (16,439 men and 13,714 women), including 23,919 from the United States. A total of 99 nations were represented in the field, organizers said.