By David Monti, @d9monti
(c) 2022 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
BOSTON (18-Apr) — Kenyans Peres Jepchirchir and Evans Chebet won today’s Boston Marathon in 2:21:01 and 2:06:51, respectively, in the race’s first edition on Patriots’ Day in just over three years. Under bright blue skies Jepchirchir won a nail-biting, back-and-forth battle against Ethiopia’s Ababel Yeshaneh which saw the lead change seven times in the final two kilometers, and Chebet blasted away from the field at 35 kilometers to win by 31 seconds over Lawrence Cherono. Both winners won $150,000 in prize money.
CHEBET RUNS RECORD SPLIT
Chebet, who dropped out here in 2018, was content to run with the rest of the leaders for the first half of the race. He said he spoke to some of his competitors on the course, and with a significant headwind they thought it best to stay together.
“We wanted to keep running as a group,” he said.
American C.J. Albertson –whose breakaway attempt last year eventually landed him in tenth place– was the key actor in the first half, taking the lead several times only to be absorbed and re-absorbed by the pack. Twenty men were still in the lead group through halfway (1:03:24) and none of the race favorites had been dropped including Kenya’s Geoffrey Kamworor, Lawrence Cherono and defending champion Benson Kipruto, and Ethiopia’s Lelisa Desisa and Lemi Berhanu.
At 25-K (1:15:25), Albertson made another move and opened up a slight gap over the field. He said later that a “sit and kick” strategy would never bring him a high finish and that he had to be aggressive.
“For me really the only chance to win… is to break some people,” Albertson told reporters. “You kind of have to run like that.”
But within minutes, Albertson was back in the pack and the race seemed to lack leadership. Fifteen men were still in contention at the 30-K mark, and not a single one fell back going up Heartbreak Hill.
Then just before 35-K, Chebet decided to make his move, and it was a big one. He broke into a full sprint and did not let up. Only Tanzania’s Gabriel Geay had the nerve to follow him, but soon he had to drop back. Chebet ran a neck-snapping 13:55 for the 5 kilometers between 35 and 40-K, the fastest 5-kilometer split in the history of the race. In a moment, everyone else was running for second.
“The coaches told me going into the race when you see other people getting closer to you have to shoot (ahead),” he said through a translator. He added: “I knew there were guys behind me who are very strong.”
By the 40-K mark Chebet had 18 seconds on 2019 race champion Cherono, and he wasn’t going to be caught. He admitted he was able to relax a little in the final stretch along Boylston Street and enjoy his victory.
“I was confident that that move would do it,” he said.
Cherono was able to hold on to second place, clocking 2:07:21. Defending champion Kipruto came third in 2:07:27, and an exhausted Geay got fourth in 2:07:53. Kamworor, a five-time world champion in cross country and the half-marathon, faded to 18th in 2:11:49 in his Boston debut.
For the Americans, it wasn’t Albertson who got the top finish spot (he would finish 13th in 2:10:23 as the third American). Instead, Scott Fauble ran identical halves of 1:04:26 and moved from 22nd place at halfway to seventh at the finish in 2:08:52, a 17-second personal best.
“It’s a course that the more times you run it the better you get at it,” said Fauble who has now competed here three times. He added: “There’s really some nuances out there. I think I do really well with hills.”
Elkanah Kibet of the U.S. Army’s World Class Athlete Program was the second American in ninth place in 2:09:07, a personal best by more than two minutes. He will run the World Athletics Championships Marathon in Eugene, Oregon, in July.
JEPCHIRCHIR AND YESHANEH BATTLE RIGHT TO THE END
The women’s race broke up much sooner than the men’s. Between the 10 and 15-K marks Jepchirchir, Yeshaneh and Joyciline Jepkosgei, another Kenyan, ran a blistering 15:49 dropping everyone except for another Ethiopian Degitu Azimeraw. The trio ran nearly as fast over the next five kilometers (16:00) and Azimeraw had to fall back (she would finish eighth). At halfway (1:09:41) the three women had a comfortable 39-second lead over the chase group and were focused on racing each other.
“I can say for me a race is a race,” said Jepchirchir, who won both the Olympic and New York City Marathons last year. “I decide to push the pace. I wanted to run a good time. I want to say thank you to my friends Joyciline and Ababel because we pushed the pace together.”
Spread across the road, instead of bunching up to fight the wind, the three women kept the pace high for the five kilometers through 25-K (16:10) before the race turned tactical. The three went up Heartbreak Hill together, and all of them looked tired; Jepchirchir was visibly bent forward at the waist as she climbed.
Remarkably, they were still together through 35-K (1:56:46), when Jepkosgei –last year’s London Marathon champion– suddenly slowed down. She slid back to the chase pack, then further to eventually finish seventh in 2:24:43.
The battle which ensued between Jepchirchir and Yeshaneh was epic. For most of the race, Yeshaneh ran about half a step behind Jepchirchir to her left side, and the two brushed each other more than once. The two spoke, and even shared a cup of water, a friendly gesture before the fierce battle which was to come.
With the clock showing 2:12:34, Yeshaneh made the first move. She started zig-zagging to get Jepchirchir off of her heels, but the Kenyan would not drop back. Jepchirchir glanced at her watch, and at the 40-K mark she grabbed her last personal drink perhaps hoping for a little extra energy.
Moments later, with the one-mile-to-go sign on her right, Jepchirchir shot ahead in what looked like the final move of the race. She quickly put three or four meters on Yeshaneh. But about a minute later, the Ethiopian had caught up and went back in front. Like Jepchirchir, she also checked her watch.
The pair turned right on to Hereford Street and Jepchirchir again took the lead only to have Yeshaneh overtake her –again– just a few seconds later. On the left turn on to Boylston Street for the final sprint, Jepchirchir again went ahead of her rival, and –again!– Yeshaneh caught up and passed her. Both athletes were running out of time and energy.
“Yes, I can see this is the most difficult race for me,” Jepchirchir said later. “Boston is Boston.”
With about a minute left in their battle, Jepchirchir made her final bid for victory. She went around Yeshaneh on her left, and looked back. This time Yeshaneh had no response. By the time she broke the tape, pointing to the sky with both index fingers, Jepchirchir had a four-second gap on her rival. Victory was hers.
“I was not expecting to win, but I’m feeling grateful,” Jepchirchir said. “Now I can say I believe in myself more. I’m so grateful for today’s victory.”
Two other Kenyans, Mary Ngugi and Edna Kiplagat, battled for third place and Ngugi prevailed in a huge personal best 2:21:32. Kiplagat, who won the race in 2017 and was second last year, took fourth in 2:21:40, smashing the race’s masters (40+) course record.
The top American woman was, like last year, Nell Rojas, who finished tenth in a personal best 2:25:57 (she was sixth last year in 2:27:12). She was satisfied with her result.
“You do it one time you’re, like, that was lucky,” Rojas said of her performance last year. “You’re like, you think it was kind of a fluke. Once you do it more you believe in yourself more.” She continued: “It was exciting. It was special.”
Olympic Marathon bronze medalist Molly Seidel was forced to drop out, recording her last official split at 25-K when she was in 11th place.
In the women’s wheelchair race, Switzerland’s Manuela Schär shot to the lead right from the start and was never challenged. The Boston course record holder successfully defended her 2021 title in 1:41:08, and racked up her fourth Boston win. She now has 15 Abbott World Marathon Majors victories.
“This one feels special,” Schär told reporter Ali Feller in her post-race broadcast interview. “I don’t even know why. I’m so glad to be back here and race on a beautiful day.”
To win today, Schär had to recover from COVID. She wasn’t sure what would happen here today.
“I was a bit more nervous than I usually am,” she said. She continued: “I didn’t know how my body would react on a marathon.”
The men’s wheelchair race got a jolt even before it started when the Boston Athletic Association announced at 6:22 this morning that five-time winner and defending champion Marcel Hug of Switzerland had scratched from the race. On Saturday, he won the B.A.A. 5-K in 10:05. No explanation was given for his withdrawal.
That left the door open for Daniel Romanchuk, the 2019 Boston winner. By the halfway mark Romanchuk had a 28-second lead over fellow American Aaron Pike, and by the 30-K mark his cushion had mushroomed to two minutes and 41 seconds. He went on to win in 1:26:58, his eight Abbott World Marathon Majors victory.
“It’s great to be back in Boston on Patriots’ Day,” Romanchuk said in is post-race broadcast interview. He continued: “I was kind of just expecting to come in here and do a time trial, and kind of went with that.”
Like everyone else, Romanchuk was surprised that Hug had scratched at the last minute.
“First it was kind of a shock,” he said without revealing anything about why Hug had scratched. “Praying for a fast recovery. A lot of things have been happening. I hope he gets back to racing soon.”
Both Schär and Romanchuk won $25,000.
PHOTO: Peres Jepchirchir wins the 2022 Boston Marathon in 2:21:01 (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)