Kenyan runners swept the Boston Marathon titles, but the U.S. had its best combined male and female finishes since 1985 on Monday.
Rio Olympic bronze medalist Galen Rupp finished second in his first city marathon, 21 seconds behind Kenyan Geoffrey Kirui. Kirui prevailed in 2 hours, 9 minutes, 37 seconds, on a warm day with temperatures in the 70s.
Jordan Hasay, who like Rupp trains under 1982 Boston winner Alberto Salazar, was third in her marathon debut. Hasay crossed 69 seconds behind champion Edna Kiplagat, who clocked 2:21:52.
The Boston Marathon started awarding prize money in 1986, a greater incentive for the world’s top runners to take part. This is the second year since that the U.S put male and female runners in the top three (Kara Goucher and Ryan Hall were both third in 2009).
Meb Keflezighi, the 2014 Boston winner, finished 13th in the men’s race, more than seven minutes behind Kirui. The 41-year-old Keflezighi ran Boston for the final time as an elite racer.
Rupp, 30, ran his first marathon last year after a decorated track career that included a 2012 Olympic 10,000m silver medal. He won the February 2016 Olympic Trials marathon before earning bronze in Rio.
Rupp entered Boston as one of the favorites given the field lacked the world’s best handful of marathoners.
Rupp and Kirui were alone when Kirui made his move with about three miles left. Kirui, 24, was not one of the pre-race favorites, largely because he had never contested a major marathon (nor won either of his previous marathons).
“Just didn’t have an answer for him,” Rupp said on NBCSN. “I was really happy with the way I ran. You know, I wasn’t sure two weeks ago if I was even going to be able to come here and start and run.”
Rupp withdrew before January’s Houston Half Marathon with plantar fasciitis in his left foot. Two weeks ago, he spoke of left foot discomfort after finishing 11th in a half marathon in Prague. But a cortisone shot worked wonders.
He ran Monday wearing a white cap given to him by two-time Boston winner Joan Benoit in the hotel lobby that morning. Rupp has a long way to go to reach the status of Benoit, the first Olympic women’s marathon champion, but he seems intent on chasing it.
“I have a lot of room to grow,” said Rupp, who plans to race his final season on the track this summer before moving full-time to the marathon.
The U.S. put six men in the top 10. Keflezighi was not one of them.
The Eritrean-born 2004 Olympic silver medalist has just one marathon left, the 26th of his career in New York City on Nov. 5. Keflezighi struggled Monday, finishing outside the top eight in Boston for the first time.
“I went for it early on, but it was pretty warm and really tough conditions, and training wasn’t the greatest training I ever had,” said Keflezighi, who noted Achilles problems before the race and quad issues after. “It’s not like a victory that I could have ended up with, but at the same time, I enjoyed every bit of it.”
Keflezighi said he broke down in tears about two minutes after finishing, flooded with the emotions brought on by support from the crowd along the course. He noted one sign telling him he was a hero.
“Everybody was saying you’re our hero, we love you, and all that,” said Keflezighi, the only U.S. male or female runner to win Boston since 1985. “Even if you finish 15th or 20th, they still love you.”
In a poignant finish-area moment, Keflezighi embraced the family of Martin Richard on Boylston Street, feet away from where Richard, then 8 years old, was killed in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings.
In the women’s race, the 37-year-old Kiplagat became the second-oldest winner in Boston history. Her time was the fastest-ever by a woman that old, according to the IAAF’s Jon Mulkeen.
Kiplagat has five children — two biological, two adopted from her sister who died from breast cancer and one adopted from a neighbor who died in childbirth, according to the Chicago Marathon. She has won two world titles and the London and New York City Marathons, but this was her first marathon win since 2014.
Hasay and two-time U.S. Olympian Desi Linden were part of a group of six leaders that began disintegrating after Kiplagat surged around the 19-mile mark.
Hasay’s ability to hang on for third proved to her that moving from the track to the roads at such a young age — 25 — was the right call.
“It was kind of a risky decision,” said Hasay, who ran the fastest debut marathon by a U.S. woman by three minutes. “We weren’t sure how it was going to play out, but it seems like this is definitely my distance. … I can’t wait to do another one.”
Hasay said she ran the entire 26.2 miles with the voice of her mom in her head. Teresa Hasay died unexpectedly at age 56 in November for a reason the family is keeping private.
Teresa used to call Jordan “Paula,” after Jordan’s idol, British marathoner Paula Radcliffe.
On Monday, Jordan repeated to herself, “Good job, Paula, good job, Paula,” along the course.
“She always told me that I could be a great marathoner,” Jordan said of her mom.
Of all the Americans, many predicted Linden had the best shot at winning. She was disappointed in placing fourth. Linden remains the fastest U.S. female marathoner never to win a 26.2-mile race.
“I feel like I’ve poured everything into this to figure out how I can get better,” Linden said. “Maybe this is my peak, you know.”
Earlier, 17-time Paralympic medalist Tatyana McFadden finished fourth in the wheelchair division, weeks after surgeries for blood clots. McFadden had previously won each of the world’s four major city marathons each of the last four years.
Swiss Manuela Schar won Boston in 1 hour, 28 minutes, 17 seconds, a course record by nearly six minutes.
McFadden, born in Russia paralyzed from the waist down and adopted from a St. Petersburg orphanage at age 6 by an American, is the only marathoner, able-bodied or wheelchair, to sweep Boston, Chicago, London and New York City in one year, let alone four.
McFadden shockingly lost the Rio Paralympic marathon in a photo finish (video here).
In the men’s wheelchair race Monday, Swiss Marcel Hug won his third straight Boston title. Hug, the Rio Paralympic marathon champion, clocked 1:18:04, the fastest wheelchair marathon time ever.
The time does not count for record purposes as Boston is not a record-eligible course due to its point-to-point, net downhill layout.
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