RACE STORIES

Men's Race

Women's Race

KIPLAGAT RUNS AWAY WITH BOSTON TITLE IN TRIUMPHANT FASHION
Kenya's Edna KiIplagat cruises to first Boston win in 2:21:52

By Barbara Huebner

Three days before the 121st Boston Marathon, Edna Kiplagat's plan was to make a move in the last 5K of the race, not before.

Plans change. With a little more than 10K to go, the 37-year-old two-time IAAF World Champion was feeling good, so she threw in a 5:02 mile in the midst of the Newton Hills.

"I tried to work extra hard," she said of the monster surge. "It worked for me."

Indeed it did: her rivals had no answer, and Kiplagat, running Boston for the first time in a long and glorious career that has included Abbott World Marathon Majors wins in New York City (2010) and London (2014), went on to victory in 2:21:52. It was the fourth-fastest winning time in the history of the women's race.

Finishing second was Rose Chelimo, 27, of Bahrain, in 2:22:51, with 25-year-old Jordan Hasay a game-changing third in 2:23:00-the fastest-ever debut by an American woman, obliterating the previous mark of 2:25:53 set by Kara Goucher at the New York City Marathon in 2008.

"My goal was to run a 2:25 exactly," said Hasay, who is coached by Alberto Salazar, the 1982 Boston champion. "So, I kind of exceeded those expectations. But definitely, I wanted to get that fastest debut time. I'm thrilled to have put it all together."

It was also the fastest women's debut in Boston, demolishing the mark of 2:25:15 recorded by South Africa's Elana Meyer from 1994. Touchingly, it came on the 50th anniversary of Kathrine Switzer's run heard 'round the world, when the first woman to wear a race bib in Boston made history of her own. Switzer ran this year with a team of runners from her global non-profit, 261 Fearless, to honor that bib number and mark the golden anniversary. She finished in 4:44:31.

Coming in fourth was Des Linden in 2:25:06. It was the first time that two American women finished in the top four since 1991.

"We keep getting closer," said Linden, who placed in the top four for the third time here, including a runner-up finish by just two seconds in 2011. "We're putting more numbers in there. It's just a matter of time. When the Americans break the tape out there it's going to be a big day, and we're really close."

It was Linden who controlled the pace for much of the first half of the race, knowing that fast half marathoners such as Hasay and Kenyans Joyce Chepkirui and Gladys Cherono were "all going to kill me" if she let the race become a 13.1-miler by allowing the pace to dawdle. A pack of seven hit the halfway point in 1:12:33.

A 5:13 mile 16, heading into Newton Lower Falls, left Linden falling off the back of the pack. The 33-year-old, who finished seventh at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, worked the tangents to fight her way back by the start of the Newton Hills, but couldn't hang on for long.

With the pack down to five -- Kiplagat, Chelimo, Hasay, Cherono and Valentine Kipketer -- at 30K, Hasay felt her confidence soaring, and figured that she could go with any move. Then Kiplagat put the hammer down with that 5:02 mile ("I said, 'I'm not going to wait'") and by 35K she was 34 seconds ahead of Chelimo and 45 seconds up on Hasay.

"When she did go, she went so hard," said Hasay. "I just thought, 'I don't think I can go with this.'"

In a closer race, a courteous act just after the 21-mile mark could have been a disaster when Kiplagat discovered that she had grabbed a rival's fluid bottle and then stopped to return it only to keep seeking her own. Worried because she had missed her fluids at the previous stop, Kiplagat was not about to continue on a warm day without her hydration of choice. Instead, it was barely a glitch.

From there, Kiplagat's run was merely an attempt to keep her kids from waiting: At the finish line, the new champion was met by two of her five (including three adopted) children, 13-year-old Carlos and 9-year-old Wendy.

Just as Kiplagat praised her children for their support, at the post-race press conference Hasay thanked her mother for being with her every step of her 26.2 miles. Teresa Hasay, only 56 years old, died unexpectedly last November.

With her late mother's engagement ring on her left hand during the race, daughter Jordan felt her strength every time she reached for fluids in what her mother had known would be her marathon debut.

"Help me grab this bottle," she thought. "There are so many things that remind me of her."

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Men's Race

IN BOSTON DEBUT, GEOFFREY KIRUI SOARS TO VICTORY
Kenyan Kirui took home the title after battling American Galen Rupp

By James O'Brien

As runners assembled in Hopkinton for the 121st running of the Boston Marathon, it was the weather as much as the competition that was the focus of greatest conjecture. As the elite men toed the starting line, the mercury in Hopkinton hovered close to 65F with hardly a cloud in the sky.

Yet the warm temperatures did not deter Kenya's Geoffrey Kirui, who stormed to victory in 2:09:37 in his Boston Marathon debut. American Galen Rupp was second in 2:09:58, followed by teammate Suguru Osako of Japan in third (2:10:28).

Through the opening 10K in 30:26, raucous crowds were out in full force spurring the elites on as they clicked off mile after mile. All the main contenders were content working together, saving energy for the hills and anticipated heat to come. The pack had stayed close all the way through Wellesley, passing halfway in 1:04:35.

Those who know the Boston Marathon course well understand that the Newton Hills often serve as the turning point in races year after year. Yet again the famed inclines served to shake up the pack, dropping top contenders one by one. What was a ten-man group at 25K (15.5 miles) turned into a three man show by 20 miles: American Rupp, Kenya's Kirui, and USA Masters ace Abdi Abdirahman.

Shortly past 20 miles (1:39:52), a surge by Rupp was followed up by a strong acceleration by Kirui, upping the ante and forcing Abdirahman to fall behind. Soon the aforementioned Osako had shifted into third, but the battle to watch was up front between a pair of Boston debutants in Rupp and Kirui.

The contrast in styles was marked: Kirui, short, compact and efficient; Rupp, tall, loping, fluid as water. Common to them both, though, was the relaxed nature of their strides, remarkable at so late a stage in the race. Both appeared consummately at.

It was a short incline at 22.5 miles that decided the outcome of the 121st Boston Marathon: Kirui surged - wickedly - Rupp responded, then faltered, and that was it. A 15 meter gap instantly opened, thanks to the 4:28 split Kirui recorded between miles 23 and 24.

Rupp fought valiantly all the way to the line, as did his Oregon Project teammate Osako, but there was no denying the new champ. In only his third marathon and his first Abbott World Marathon Majors appearance, Kirui crossed the line in a time of 2:09:37, becoming the first Kenyan men's winner in Boston since Wesley Korir in 2012.

Rupp finished second in a personal best 2:09:58, while Osako held on for third in a time of 2:10:28 - an exceptional finish in his marathon debut.

"I'm so happy and so grateful" said the winner Kirui. "I knew I was going to run against people who have run in Boston many times, so I was not confident to win. But because of my training, I knew I would challenge. I was well prepared."

Rupp conceded that it was not the result that he wanted, but was justifiably thrilled with the outcome. "I had an incredible time," he enthused. "The race exceeded any expectations that I had. I wouldn't say that my training has been optimal, but I take nothing away from this guy [indicating Kirui, seated alongside]. He ran a hell of a race. I just didn't have it in the last couple of miles. I'm very happy with this result, but I think I have a lot more room to grow. Now, I just have to recover and get ready for the track season. After this year, it's full time with the marathon."

Placing fourth overall was American Shadrack Biwott in 2:12:08, followed by Wilson Chebet (2:12:35) and Abdirahman (2:12:45). While six Americans finished in the top ten, the loudest ovation went to Meb Keflezighi as he crossed 13th in 2:17:00 in his final competitive Boston Marathon. Keflezighi waved to the crowd and thanked everyone on Boylston Street for supporting him over the years.

"Winning the 2014 Marathon has changed my life," he said. "The community has embraced me. There was so many people thanking me throughout the course. To hear 'Meb is our hero' and see the signs means a lot to me. I wanted to go for the win, or top three, or ten, but today was not my day. I congratulate those who finished ahead of me."

Even with Keflezighi's tough day, American distance running shined on Marathon Monday.

"It's so exciting to see Americans running well here in Boston," said Rupp, a two-time Olympic medalist. "It's awesome to see American distance running on the upswing."

Even so, there was no disputing that this Patriots' Day belonged to Geoffrey Kirui, the pride of Kenya.