Ethiopians sweep Boston Marathon for first time

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BOSTON (AP) — The Ethiopians ran past the Kenyans on their way to the Boston Marathon finish line Monday and nearly swept them off the victory podium.

Lemi Berhanu Hayle won the 120th edition of the men’s race, and Atsede Baysa overcame a 37-second deficit on the women’s side for Ethiopia’s first-ever sweep of the world’s most prestigious marathon.

Hayle finished in 2 hours, 12 minutes, 45 seconds to beat defending champion Lelisa Desisa by 47 seconds. Yemane Tsegay was an additional 30 seconds back to round out an all-Ethiopian top three.

“In sports, sometimes that happens. But not always,” said Desisa, who also won the 2013 race. “It is the performance on the day.”

Kenya had dominated the Boston Marathon since the professional era began in 1986, winning the men’s race 14 straight times from 1991-2004 and 20 out of 22 before Desisa earned the first of his two victories three years ago.

But the Kenyans have been beset with doping problems. The World Anti-Doping Agency put the country’s athletics program on probation after more than 40 athletes tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs since the 2012 Olympics, including three-time Boston winner Rita Jeptoo.

Instead, it was its East African neighbor that had its anthem played over Copley Square — twice. Ethiopia claimed its sixth title in the men’s race – including three of the last four — to go with six more in the distaff division.

Hayle (HAY-lee) pulled away from Desisa as they crossed over the Massachusetts Turnpike heading into Kenmore Square. He tapped his chest as he ran down Boylston Street, held his arms out to bask in the cheers of the crowd and then, after crossing the finish line, did a celebratory skip-jump.

Baysa trailed by 37 seconds at the 35km checkpoint before chasing down Tirfi Tsegaye on Beacon Street in Brookline, two miles from the finish line. The two-time Chicago Marathon champion won by 44 seconds in 2:29:19.

Joyce Chepkirui was third — the lone Kenyan to medal.

Most of the top Americans, including 2014 winner Meb Keflezighi, skipped the race after running in the U.S. Olympic Trials in February. Other countries pick their Olympic teams by committee, and the performances in Boston could help Monday’s top finishers earn a ticket to Rio de Janeiro.

“This is a major marathon,” Baysa said through an interpreter. “We don’t know what they are thinking, but we are confident they will select me.”

Zachary Hine of Dallas was the top U.S. man, finishing 10th. Neely Spence Gracey, of Superior, Colo., was the first American woman to finish, coming in ninth.

Gracey was born into marathoning: Her father was the No. 2 American in Boston in 1989; the next year she was born on race day while he was running. She and Sarah Crouch, of Blowing Rock, N.C., were among the leaders through the first seven miles before falling behind.

“The energy was spectacular,” said Gracey, who ran against Crouch in college. “We were commenting back and forth saying: ‘Wow! We are leading the Boston Marathon. We need to take this in and relish the moment.'”

On a clear day with a slight headwind, cool temperatures at the start warmed to 62 degrees by the time the winners reached the Back Bay. It warmed further as the day went on — an added challenge for the 27,491 runners who left Hopkinton in four waves on Monday morning.

Fifty years after Bobbi Gibb sneaked onto the course and became the first woman to finish the race, more than 14,000 women were in the field that made the 26.2-mile trek to Copley Square, where a commemorative logo greeted them at the finish. Gibb served as the grand marshal this year, riding down Boylston in a sports car before breaking a ceremonial finish-line tape.

Defending women’s champion Caroline Rotich was among the first to fall out, dropping away from the leaders at a water station about 5 miles in and walking to the side of the road. No reason for her withdrawal was available.

Baysa, 29, also fell out of the lead but never stopped running.

She was out of the picture as the women’s leaders ran through Heartbreak Hill, but soon after the TV cameras picked up a bobbing yellow figure running along the side of the road. As she gained, it was clear that she had saved enough energy for the winning kick.

She caught Chepkirui on Beacon Street in Brookline with about 2.5 miles remaining, then sped past Tsegaye on the run toward Kenmore Square. The gap grew larger over the final mile, and Baysa turned onto Boylston Street all alone.

“Winning the Boston Marathon is very big,” she said. “To win the Boston Marathon means that I am the best athlete in a very competitive field, including my teammates.”

Hayle, 21, earned his first major marathon victory. He has run four smaller marathons since 2014, winning three and finishing second in Dubai in January.

Marcel Hug of Switzerland won his second straight wheelchair race in a three-man sprint to the finish. Ten-time champion Ernst Van Dyk was second by 1 second, and he held off third-place finisher Kurt Fearnley in a photo finish, winning by the width of a tire.

Tatyana McFadden, an 11-time Paralympic medalist across Summer and Winter Games, won the women’s wheelchair race for the fourth year in a row.

NBC Sports’ spring marathon coverage continues with the London Marathon, live on NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra on Sunday at 3:30 a.m. ET.

VIDEO: New trailer for Boston Marathon documentary

Joan Benoit Samuelson, Olympic marathon champ in 1984, runs London Marathon at 65

Joan Benoit Samuelson
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Joan Benoit Samuelson, the first Olympic women’s marathon champion in 1984, ran her first 26.2-mile race in three years at Sunday’s London Marathon and won her age group.

Benoit Samuelson, 65, clocked 3 hours, 20 minutes, 20 seconds to top the women’s 65-69 age group by 7 minutes, 52 seconds. She took pleasure in being joined in the race by daughter Abby, who crossed in 2:58:19.

“She may have beaten me with my replacement knee, but everybody said I wouldn’t do it! I will never say never,” Benoit Samuelson said, according to race organizers. “I am a grandmother now to Charlotte, and it’s my goal to run 5K with her.”

LONDON MARATHON: Results

Benoit Samuelson raced the 1987 Boston Marathon while three months pregnant with Abby. Before that, she won the first Olympic women’s marathon at the 1984 Los Angeles Games, plus the Boston Marathon in 1979 and 1983 and the Chicago Marathon in 1985.

Her personal best — 2:21:21 — still holds up. She ranks sixth in U.S. women’s history.

Benoit Samuelson plans to race the Tokyo Marathon to complete her set of doing all six annual World Marathon Majors. The others are Berlin, Boston, Chicago and New York City.

“I’m happy to finish this race and make it to Tokyo, but I did it today on a wing and a prayer,” she said, according to organizers. “I’m blessed to have longevity in this sport. It doesn’t owe me anything, but I feel I owe my sport.”

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Kenenisa Bekele still eyes Eliud Kipchoge’s marathon world record, but a duel must wait

Kenenisa Bekele
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LONDON — Kenenisa Bekele made headlines last week by declaring “of course I am the best” long distance runner ever. But the Ethiopian was fifth-best at Sunday’s London Marathon, finishing 74 seconds behind Kenya’s Amos Kipruto.

Bekele, 40, clocked 2:05:53, the fastest-ever marathon by a runner 40 years or older. He was with the lead pack until being dropped in the 21st mile.

But Bekele estimated he could have run 90 to 120 seconds faster had he not missed parts of six weeks of training with hip and joint injuries.

“I expect better even if the preparation is short,” he said. “I know my talent and I know my capacity, but really I couldn’t achieve what I expect.”

Bekele is the second-fastest marathoner in history behind Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge, who broke his own world record by clocking 2:01:09 at the Berlin Marathon last week.

“I am happy when I see Eliud Kipchoge run that time,” Bekele said. “It motivates all athletes who really expect to do the same thing.”

LONDON MARATHON: Results

Bekele’s best time was within two seconds of Kipchoge’s previous world record (2:01:39). He described breaking Kipchoge’s new mark as the “main goal” for the rest of his career.

“Yes, I hope, one day it will happen, of course,” Bekele said. “With good preparation, I don’t know when, but we will see one more time.”

Nobody has won more London Marathons than Kipchoge, a four-time champion who set the course record (2:02:37) in 2019. But the two-time Olympic marathon champion did not run this year in London, as elite marathoners typically choose to enter one race each spring and fall.

Bekele does not know which race he will enter in the spring. But it will not be against Kipchoge.

“I need to show something first,” Bekele said. “I need to run a fast time. I have to check myself. This is not enough.”

Kipchoge will try to become the first runner to win three Olympic marathon titles at the Paris Games. Bekele, who will be 42 in 2024, has not committed to trying to qualify for the Ethiopian team.

“There’s a long time to go before Paris,” Bekele said. “At this moment I am not decided. I have to show something.”

So who is the greatest long distance runner ever?

Bekele can make a strong case on the track:

Bekele
Four Olympic medals (three gold)
Six World Championship medals (five gold)
Former 5000m and 10,000m world-record holder

Kipchoge
Two Olympic medals
Two World Championship medals (one gold)

But Kipchoge can make a strong case on the pavement:

Bekele
Second-fastest marathoner in history
Two World Marathon Major victories

Kipchoge
Four of the five best marathon times in history
Two-time Olympic marathon champion
12 World Marathon Major victories

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