A runaway attempt failed on the men’s side of the 125th Boston Marathon on Monday, but a late attack secured a win in the women’s division on the hilly Hopkinton-to-Boston course.
American C.J. Albertson, a 2:11:18 marathoner running on his 28th birthday, attacked right from the start and broke away from the men’s field so quickly that some of the elite runners had no idea he was in the lead.
He ran the first three miles in 4:32, 4:41 and 4:45 and was out of the sight of the field. At the halfway mark, he had a 2:13 lead (!) on the rest of the field, but then began to tire. The lead was down to 23 seconds at 20 miles – the start of Heartbreak Hill – and he was soon passed by a group of 15, but he attached himself to the back of that pack.
The lead group ran together only for about another mile and then Kenya’s Benson Kipruto made the decisive move in the race. He powered ahead and had a clear lead of more than 20 m by the 22-mile mark and then ran away to victory in 2:09:51.
It was Kipruto’s second win of the year, after the Prague Marathon in May and equal to his third-fastest marathon ever. He has finished in the top seven in none of his 10 career marathons.
Behind him, Ethiopians Jemal Yimer, Tsedat Ayana and Lemi Berhanu were struggling for the remaining medals with a mile to go. Berhanu, the 2016 Boston winner who had failed to finish in three of his last four marathons, sprinted on the final straight to get second in 2:10:37 and Yimer – making his marathon debut – was third in 2:10:37, 11 seconds ahead of Ayana.
To his credit, Albertson did not fade and hung with elements of the elite pack for the rest of the race. He fell from the lead to 16th by mile 21, but rebounded to come back up to 10th overall in 2:11:44, his second-fastest marathon ever!
The women’s race also had plenty of late drama, but a lead group of 15 ran through the half in 1:14:11. After mile 17, Kenyan Diana Kipyogei – running her third career marathon – took command and raced out to a solid lead and looked like she might run away with the race.
But Ethiopian Netsanet Gudeta – the 2018 World Half Marathon Champion – closed the gap by mile 21 and with the remaining contenders more than 20 seconds back, these two were going to fight for the win. Kipyogei slowly forged ahead and by the 22-mile marker had a small lead that kept expanding.
By 24 miles, Kipyogei was 15 seconds up and ran steadily to the finish, under cloudy skies, in 2:24:45, for her first World Marathon Majors title at age 27.
Gudeta was spent, and was passed by two-time World Champion Edna Kiplagat (KEN) by the 25-mile mark, with Gudeta falling to fifth. Kiplagat finished second (2:25:09), her third Boston medal performance, trailed by fellow Kenyan Mary Ngugi (2:25:20). Gudeta was fifth (2:26:09), just ahead of the top American, Nell Rojas (2:27:12).
Well behind the leaders, but authoring a remarkable performance, was 40-year-old U.S. star Shalane Flanagan. Now a coach, she decided to try to run all six of the World Marathon Majors within a seven-week period and all under 3:00. After finishing in the top 20 at London and Berlin in under 2:40, she was 25th in Chicago on Sunday in 2:46:39 before getting on a plane to Boston.
In cloudy and damp conditions on Monday, she ran steadily through the first half and actually picked up the pace in the last 20 km to finish 33rd in the women’s race in 2:40:34! Amazing!
She now has the luxury of a full week (!) before she tackles the Portland Marathon next week, her replacement race for the postponed Tokyo Marathon. That will be three marathons in eight days!
Flanagan’s achievement ranks right up there with any of the medal winners on Monday.
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