BOSTON – A pair of Kenyans swept the 2017 Boston Marathon on Monday for the first time since 2012.
Geoffrey Kirui won the men’s race in 2:09:37 after surging away from U.S. Olympic medalist Galen Rupp in the final four miles of the race. Edna Kiplagat, a two-time world champion and mother five children (two biological and three adopted) took advantage of Heartbreak Hill after 20 miles to open up a gap and win in 2:21:52.
Here are five takeaways from the 121st running of the Boston Marathon:
How the Kenyans won
Kirui made a break from Rupp with about five miles remaining in the race. Kirui’s winning blow came at the 24th mile, when he dropped a 4:27 mile to give himself room against Rupp. He pumped his arms and blew kisses to the crowd as he turned onto Boylston Street and ended the short Kenyan drought.
It was a breakthrough race for the 24-year-old—in his Boston Marathon debut, Kirui captured his first career marathon victory.
On the women’s side, Kiplagat, 37, secured herself $500,000 as the winner of the World Marathon Majors series. After two-time Olympian Desiree Linden led the first half of the race, the rolling Hills in Newton slowly started claiming their victims until Kiplagat was alone at the crest of Heartbreak Hill. No one would come close to catching Kiplagat, as Bahrain’s Rose Chelimo finished 59 seconds behind her for second place.
This was Kiplagat’s first major marathon victory since the 2014 London Marathon.
A great American showing from the Nike Oregon Project
Rupp and 25-year-old Jordan Hasay, who finished in 2:23:00 for third place in her marathon debut, resulted in the best American showing at the Boston Marathon since 1985.
Hasay’s 2:23:00 is the fastest debut by an American woman in the marathon. The previous mark was held by Olympian Kara Goucher’s 2:25:53 and Hasay admitted after the race that it was a target and personal goal. The signs were there after she ran 67:55 to become just the third American woman under 68-minutes for the half marathon.
“My goal was to run 2:25 exactly and that’s kind of what I visualized. That’s the pace that I envisioned we would go at,” she said. “Alberto [Salazar] thought I was anywhere from 2:23 to 2:25 shape so I kind of exceeded those expectations. I wanted to get that fastest debut time.”
Hasay spent most of the race thinking of her late mother, Teresa, who passed away unexpectedly in November at the age of 56. Hasay wore her mother’s engagement ring on her left hand, which she used to snag water bottles throughout the course.
“She always called me Paula because [marathon world record holder] Paula Radcliffe is my idol,” Hasay said. “She always said I would be a marathoner some day. I kept telling myself ‘Good job, Paula.’ ‘Good job, Paula.’ That kind of helped me get through some of the tough times.”
Monday marked Rupp’s debut at the World Marathon Majors and his first marathon since a bronze medal at last summer’s Olympic marathon in Rio de Janeiro. Rupp was hampered by plantar fasciitis before he ran a 61:59 half marathon in Prague just 16 days ago. The warm conditions, foot injury and pollen count would all be considered factors against Rupp yet he toed the line more than ready for the race.
“I wouldn’t say my training was optimal,” Rupp said. “I’m excited. I think I have a lot of room to grow. Take nothing away from [Kirui], he ran a heck of a race and I just didn’t have it in those last two or three miles. He put in a couple good moves after Heartbreak Hill.”
Both Rupp and Hasay are coached by 1982 Boston Marathon champion Alberto Salazar, who is currently under investigation by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency for allegedly pushing the boundaries on banned substances with his athletes. (Salazar was unable to be reached after the race.) Rupp credited Salazar for his success in transitioning to the 26.2 mile distance.
“The biggest thing that I’ve taken and learned from him over the years is that toughness and always keep pushing hard,” Rupp said. “He pushes us mentally harder than I believe any other coach pushes their athletes. He is constantly putting us in really uncomfortable situations. Whether that’s adding extra intervals on, continuing to push the pace or asking us faster than maybe what we thought we could. He just knows how to get you out of your comfort zone. When you do that in practice on a daily basis, you learn to handle a lot of things and that mentality that ‘I might be dying’, ‘I feel that I am at my limit or at my max.’ But you somehow find a way to keep pushing and keep thriving in those hard circumstances. That’s what his training is all about.”
Assistant coach Pete Julian was with Salazar at the finish line and says the coach was very pleased after the finish.
“He’s extremely proud of the whole crew,” Julian said. “I know he’s fiercely proud of how tough Galen ran.”
Meb Keflezighi says farewell to Boston
2014 champion Meb Keflezighi ran his 25th career marathon and last competitive Boston Marathon in 2:17:00 for 13th place on Monday. He will run November’s New York City Marathon and retire at 42 years old—42 years for 42 kilometers, the number of kilometers in a marathon.
“It’s brutal. The marathon earns your respect, especially at Boston. Was hurting with my quads at about 12 to 13.5,” Keflezighi said after the race. “Training was great up until the NYC Half Marathon. I had done 26 miles and then injury gets you. At the same time, you go out there and execute the best that you can.”
Shortly after crossing the finish line, Keflezighi went over and embraced Martin Richards’ family. Richards was the eight-year-old boy who was killed in the twin bombings of the 2013 Boston Marathon.
Abdirahman impresses at 40 years old
Four-time Olympian Abdi Abdirahman finished sixth overall in 2:12:45 and as the top Masters (age 40+) runner. He turned 40 years old in January and shared a memory of running with Rupp, when he started training with Salazar at 16 years old.
“I used to beat him up,” Abdirahman said.
“He dropped me pretty early,” Rupp said. “I remember that vividly running with Abdi while in high school. It was in Forest Park [in Portland, Ore.] and I stayed with you for about five miles and then he took off after that for 15. It’s been fun running with him. We go back a ways.”
Another strong push by Linden
Two-time U.S. Olympian Desiree Linden finished fourth in 2:25:06 after leading for most of the first half of the race. Linden lost touch with the lead pack after about 15 miles but her plan was to eliminate the kick from the stronger half-marathoners in the race.
This marks the first time since 1991 that two American woman finished in the top four places. Linden was very vocal about winning before the race but remains optimistic about the future.
“When the Americans break the tape, it’s going to be a very great day.” Linden said. “We’re getting close.”