By David Monti, @d9monti
(c) 2021 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
BOSTON (11-Oct) — Kenyans Benson Kipruto and Diana Kipyokei won today’s first fall edition of the Boston Marathon here this morning, breaking away in the latter stages of the race to each pocket $150,000 in prize money, the largest first prize in global marathon running this year. Kipruto, 30, from the village of Kapsabet, covered the five kilometers between the 35 and 40-K marks in a blistering 14:06 to put the race away in 2:09:51. Kipyokei, 27, from Iten, fended off late race challenges from two former world champions, Kenya’s Edna Kiplagat and Ethiopia’s Netsanet Gudeta, to win in 2:24:45. Today’s race, on the traditional course from Hopkinton to Boston, featured just under 16,000 starters.
EARLY BREAK BY ALBERTSON SURPRISES THE MEN’S FIELD
C.J. Albertson, a 28 year-old from Fresno, Calif., shot away from the field at the start, running the downhill first mile in a blazing 4:32. Albertson, best known as the holder of the unofficial world best time for 50,000m on the track, said later that he wasn’t trying to break away from the field, but rather wanted to make full use of the downhill to save time and energy. Like Bill Rodgers, he said downhill running was one of his strengths.
“I just wanted to run the downhills at the pace I was comfortable with,” Albertson said later. “I thought everyone would reel me in.”
Little did he know at the time, Albertson would run alone for over 20 miles (32 kilometers). The 2:11:18 marathoner averaged 3:02 per kilometer through halfway (1:04:08) and built up an improbable lead of two minutes and 13 seconds. There was no response from the main pack of 25 men, including Kipruto who later admitted that he didn’t know that there was another athlete ahead of the pack.
“I didn’t know that somebody was ahead,” he told reporters, looking a little embarrassed.
At 25-K, Albertson’s lead was still fat at one minute and 41 seconds, but it fell sharply by 30-K to 54 seconds. He was still ahead at the 20-mile mark (32 km) by 23 seconds, but just three minutes later he was caught. Remarkably, Albertson was able to tuck into the pack, find some additional energy, and ended up finishing tenth in 2:11:44.
“That was the most fun race I ever ran,” he said. “Definitely didn’t expect that to happen.”
Soon, Kipruto decided to test the pack. He covered the 23rd mile in 4:29, then really stepped on the gas and ran mile 24 in 4:25. By 40-K he had built up a lead of 37 seconds, and it was still growing. He was not going to be caught.
“After finishing a couple of years ago in position ten, today I tried to push at 35 (kilometers) to see if today was my day,” Kipruto said.
His lead grew to 46 seconds at the tape, beating a pair of seasoned Ethiopians: 2016 Boston champion Lemi Berhanu (2:10:37) and 58:33 half-marathoner Jemal Yimer (2:10:38). Colin Bennie, who runs for the Reebok Boston Track Club, was the first American, finishing seventh in 2:11:26. Remarkably, Bennie was only in 12th place at the 40-K mark.
“I’m thrilled,” said Bennie who grew up in nearby Princeton, Mass. “I really couldn’t imagine a better first Boston.”
WOMEN START CAUTIOUSLY, FINISH FAST
The women decided to start slowly, and a lead pack of 15 was together through halfway (1:14:14). Dakota Lindwurm of Minnesota Distance Elite did most of the leading in the first half, and the pace was gentle enough so that nearly all of the contenders remained in contention. However, Americans Desiree Linden, the 2018 Boston champion, and Jordan Hasay, who had run 2:23:00 in her marathon debut in Boston in 2017, were not among the leaders. Linden, who was 48 seconds back at halfway, ended up 17th in 2:35:25. Hasay, who was 26th at halfway and 3:27 back, finished 31st in the elite race (35th overall) in 2:41:43.
The pace of the women’s race see-sawed a bit, and it was clear that nobody wanted to lead. American Nell Rojas had hoped to run in the back of the pack, but found herself in front, instead. Given all the downhills, she thought the early pace would be fast.
“I didn’t do my strategy at all,” Rojas said. “I did just the opposite of my strategy.” She joked: “They made me lead.”
Kipyokei stayed patient, but soon started to up her pace. Between 25 and 30-K, she gained 10 seconds on the field and was running alone. It looked like she might run away with the race, but Netsanet Gudeta –the 2018 World Athletics Half-Marathon champion– gave chase and reeled her in at the 34-K mark. The two women ran together for a few minutes, then Kipyokei surged again and Guedeta could not hold on. From there Kipyokei focused on getting to the finish. She covered the net-uphill second half in a very fast 1:10:31.
“The hills were not easy,” she said later.
Behind her, Kiplagat –twice the world marathon champion who won in Boston in 2017 and was second in 2019– had caught and passed Gudeta and was trying to catch Kipyokei. But by the finish line, Kipyokei had a comfortable 24 seconds on the 41 year-old Kiplagat, 2:24:45 to 2:25:09. Gudeta got third in 2:25:20, while Rojas finished as top American in sixth place in 2:27:12.
“My training was good,” said Kiplagat who lives with her husband and two children in Boulder, Colo. “I did enough strength (in training) and everything went at planned, so I am grateful for second place today.” She added: “I think this is a big present for me.”
Rojas was thrilled with her sixth place finish.
“Definitely I would say this is the biggest running accomplishment that I have done,” she said.
SWISS ATHLETES DOMINATE WHEELCHAIR RACES
In the wheelchair races, Switzerland’s Marcel Hüg was a runaway winner in the men’s division in 1:18:11, but because he missed a turn late in the race and had to turn around and go back, he missed the course record –and a $50,000 bonus– by just seven seconds.
“The last two or three kilometers I realized I was very close to the record,” Hüg said at the post-race press conference. So, I went as fast as possible, the head down and put everything into it. I went straight behind the lead car instead of turning right. It shouldn’t have happened. It’s my fault.”
Another Swiss athlete, Manuela Schär, was a runaway winner in the women’s race in 1:35:21. Her nearest challenger, American Tatyana McFadden, was nearly 15 minutes behind.
“Yeah, it was pretty much a race against the clock,” Schär told the media. “Too bad there wasn’t a tail wind this year. It would have been nice to go for that course record.”
Both wheelchair winners earned $25,000.
PHOTO: Benson Kipruto wins the 2021 Boston Marathon (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)
PHOTO: Diana Kipyokei wins the 2021 Boston Marathon (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)PHOTO: The wheelchair division winners of the 2021 Boston Marathon, Manuela Schär and Marcel Hüg (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)