Lelisa Desisa

Lawrence Cherono wins Boston Marathon in third-closest finish ever

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BOSTON — Kenyan Lawrence Cherono won the Boston Marathon by two seconds, edging Ethiopian Lelisa Desisa in the third-closest men’s finish in the race’s 123-year history.

Cherono, a 30-year-old Kenyan, overtook a flailing, slowing Desisa in the final feet of the 26.2-mile event on Boylston Street to win his first major marathon in 2:07:57. Desisa, racing on the anniversary of his 2013 Boston Marathon win that was followed hours later by twin bombings, was seeking his third Boston title.

“It was something amazing,” Cherono said of the closest finish since Elijah Lagat beat Gezahegne Abera in the same time in 2000. “It was not easy.”

Ethiopian Worknesh Degefa won the women’s race in contrastingly convincing fashion, leading alone the last 22 miles and prevailing by 44 seconds over 2017 Boston champ Edna Kiplagat of Kenya. Americans Jordan Hasay and 2018 Boston winner Des Linden were third and fifth, respectively.

“I knew today was going to be a big task to defend,” Linden said on NBCSN. “I had a blast.”

BOSTON MARATHON: Results | Finish Line Camera

Degefa, who on Jan. 25 became the fourth-fastest female marathoner ever in pancake-flat Dubai, shockingly went off on her own in the fourth mile. She led by 90 seconds at 10 miles and nearly 2:30 at the halfway point. Degefa, 28, has never raced a marathon outside Dubai, and, according to TV commentators, did not do a pre-race course tour of Boston.

Though 39-year-old Kiplagat closed in the final miles, Degefa was able to celebrate down Boylston Street. She delivered on pre-race favorite status, having the fastest personal best of the field by two minutes.

“[My husband and coach] said you have good speed, when you have comfortable, just go,” Degefa said through a translator.

Cherono, too, had the fastest personal best in the men’s field, where the top American finishers were Scott Fauble and Jared Ward in seventh and eighth. Surprise 2018 Boston winner Yuki Kawauchi of Japan was 17th.

For the women, Hasay and Linden remain among the favorites for the U.S. Olympic Trials marathon in Atlanta on Feb. 29, though Linden is undecided on her next move at age 35. Top runners sometimes skip a fall marathon to prepare for trials, which determine the three Olympians per gender.

Other Olympic contenders include 2017 New York City champ Shalane Flanagan, who has said she may not race again and may be facing surgery, Molly Huddle, who races London in two weeks, and 2017 World bronze medalist Amy Cragg.

In the wheelchair division, Daniel Romanchuk became the youngest Boston Marathon champion at age 20 and the first American winner since 1993. His time, 1:21:36, gave him a near-three-minute win and the fastest time by a U.S. wheelchair racer ever in Boston. On Nov. 4, Romanchuk became the youngest male and first American male wheelchair racer to win the New York City Marathon.

Swiss Manuela Schär won the women’s wheelchair title for the second time three years. Schär, who prevailed by 7:16 over Tatyana McFadden in 1:34:19, now holds the current Boston, Berlin, Chicago, New York City and Tokyo Marathon titles.

MORE: Shalane Flanagan may need surgery, starts post-racing career

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Mary Keitany wins 4th New York City Marathon ahead of Shalane Flanagan

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NEW YORK — With about 24 steps left in her New York City Marathon title defense, Shalane Flanagan mouthed “I love you” and waved her right hand to the Central Park crowd. Then she waved her left and crossed the finish line in third place.

The first person to greet the hunched-over Flanagan was Mary Keitany, holding a towel and carrying a Kenyan flag in her right arm.

Flanagan ran the five-borough race 31 seconds faster than last year, when she became the first U.S. female runner to win in 40 years and kept Keitany from a fourth straight title.

On this day, in optimal weather, Keitany not only regained the New York crown, but she also put together arguably the most impressive final half of a marathon in history. The 36-year-old mother of two clocked 2:22:48 overall and won by 3 minutes, 13 seconds over countrywoman Vivian Cheruiyot. Flanagan was another 20 seconds back.

Ethiopian Lelisa Desisa bagged his first New York title, after two Boston Marathon victories, by outlasting pre-race favorites Shura Kitata (by 1.99 seconds) and defending champion Geoffrey Kamworor (by 26 seconds). Desisa clocked 2:05:59, the second-fastest time in New York’s 48-year history. In many other years, that would be the performance of the day.

MORE: New York City Marathon Results | 2018 U.S. Marathon Rankings

Not this time.

Not when Keitany, in running the second-fastest female time in New York history, covered the second half in 66:58. That’s almost nine minutes faster than her first half.

It’s also 29 seconds faster than Paula Radcliffe‘s closing 13.1 miles at the 2003 London Marathon, when she set the world record of 2:15:25, a 26.2-mile mark nobody has been within 90 seconds of since. That time came with the aid of male pacers. New York has no pacers and has the slowest times of the six World Marathon Majors.

The three American women who finished in the top six on Sunday (first time that’s happened in 40 years), were asked to react to Keitany’s split.

“Holy crap,” fourth-place Molly Huddle said.

“The only word for her is incredible,” said Des Linden, Sunday’s sixth-place finisher who in April became the first U.S. female runner to win the Boston Marathon in 33 years.

“I don’t have the physical capability to have an answer for that,” said Flanagan, a 37-year-old, four-time Olympian who is unsure if she will run another marathon.

Last year, Flanagan pulled away from Keitany in the 24th mile and beat her by 61 seconds.

Keitany started the 2017 race as an overwhelming favorite, having won New York the previous three years and, in her previous marathon that spring, clocked the fastest time in a women’s-only race in history in London. Keitany said after her runner-up last year that she incurred a problem the prior afternoon but declined to specify. Keitany’s agent told LetsRun.com that she started her period less than 24 hours before the race.

Keitany said Sunday that she had an infection before this race but did not say when.

“Nothing was special today,” she said in a soft voice. “I was just ready for the race.”

Keitany started in Staten Island on Sunday morning with the most doubt she’s faced since starting her marathon career in 2010.

She lost back-to-back marathons for the first time last fall and spring. In the last two years, Ethiopian Tirunesh Dibaba and Kenyans Gladys Cherono and Cheruiyot became the third-, fourth- and fifth-fastest performers all-time behind Radcliffe and Keitany. Had Keitany’s descent begun?

It had not. Keitany’s incredible second half Sunday included 17th, 18th and 19th miles faster than five minutes. Her 19th mile was 4:55. The top men ran the 19th mile in 4:50.

“I didn’t want to rush at the beginning so that to suffer at the end,” she said. “I wanted to be comfortable throughout the race.”

Flanagan also showed that she is still among the world’s best marathoners. She said after finishing seventh in a miserable Boston Marathon in April that she had contested her hometown marathon for the last time as an elite. She could leave competitive marathoning altogether with this third-place finish.

“I just thought [in the final miles] if this truly is going to be my last race, a podium spot really would be special,” Flanagan said.

She could try to become the first U.S. distance runner to compete in five Olympics in 2020. At 39, she would be the third-oldest female U.S. Olympic runner after marathoners Colleen de Reuck (2004) and Francie Larrieu-Smith (1992), according to the OlyMADMen.

“My heart is leaning towards serving others,” said Flanagan, who as a training group teammate has helped Amy Cragg to a world bronze medal and Shelby Houlihan to the American record in the 5000m in the last 15 months. “It’s become swinging more in that direction than it is in my own running.”

Flanagan’s future in New York could also be impacted by the calendar. Elites may forego the latest fall major marathon next year in preparation for the Olympic Trials on Leap Day 2020. If they make the Olympic team, they could miss the 2020 New York City Marathon as well, given it’s three months after the Tokyo Games.

If Flanagan races trials, she may enter as an underdog for the three-woman Olympic team. Think of the potential field: Linden, Huddle, Cragg and Jordan Hasay, the second-fastest U.S. women’s marathoner of all time who withdrew before last month’s Chicago Marathon with a heel injury.

Meanwhile, Olympic silver medalist Galen Rupp, who is out through the spring marathon season after foot surgery, is the only U.S. man to break 2:11 in the last three years. The top American on Sunday was Jared Ward, who finished sixth, as he did in Rio.

Ward’s time was 2:12:24, making him the second-fastest American for the year but outside the world’s top 250. Bernard Lagat, a 43-year-old, five-time Olympian on the track, was 18th in 2:17:20, qualifying for the Olympic Trials in his marathon debut. It’s not unfathomable that Lagat could make the Olympic team, though he’s only committing at the moment to running New York again at some point.

Paralympian Daniel Romanchuk became the first American to win the men’s wheelchair race, beating three-time winner Marcel Hug of Switzerland by one second in 1:36:21. Romanchuk, 20, also became the youngest male winner in New York history.

Swiss Manuela Schar repeated in the women’s wheelchair division, pulling away from 17-time Paralympic medalist and five-time New York winner Tatyana McFadden by 21 seconds in 1:50:27.

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MORE: Galen Rupp out several months, to miss spring marathon

Ghirmay Ghebreslassie youngest man to win NYC Marathon; U.S. ends drought

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NEW YORK — Ghirmay Ghebreslassie, a 20-year-old from Eritrea, became the youngest man to win the New York City Marathon, while Americans made both the men’s and women’s podiums for the first time since 1994.

In the women’s race, Kenyan Mary Keitany became the first runner in 30 years to win three straight New York City Marathons.

U.S. Olympians Abdi Abdirahman and Molly Huddle each finished third on Sunday.

New York City Marathon results are here. A record 52,049 people started the 46th running of the five-borough race.

Ghebreslassie won in 2 hours, 7 minutes, 51 seconds, adding to a résumé that includes the 2015 World title and a fourth-place finish at the Rio Olympics just 11 weeks earlier.

He beat Kenyan Lucas Rotich by 1:02, becoming the first Eritrean to win a World Marathon Major title and the first non-Kenyan man or woman to win New York City since 2011.

Ghebreslassie, Rotich and Ethiopian Lelisa Desisa broke away in the 14th mile. Desisa dropped back six miles later (and eventually dropped out of the race altogether, along with defending champion Stanley Biwott and top pre-race American hope Dathan Ritzenhein).

Ghebreslassie inched away from Rotich over the final six miles in sunny, upper-50s weather, finishing comfortably enough to turn around, run back and high-five Rotich before the Kenyan crossed.

After, Ghebreslassie exuded self-assurance rather than any sense of astonishment when told of the history he made. When asked about his short turnaround from the Olympics. And when pressed about difficulties faced before or during the race.

“Only the wind,” said Ghebreslassie, the second-oldest of eight children who took a short break from training one month ago to get married. “If you lose your confidence means you are hopeless. If you lose your hope, you can’t do anything.”

MORE: Keitany follows 3-year-old’s advice; Huddle looks to 2017

Many had lost hope in Abdirahman long before Sunday’s race.

The four-time Olympian had finished just one marathon since the 2012 Olympic Trials (an unimpressive 2:16:06 at Boston 2014) and turns 40 years old on New Year’s Day. He pulled out before the Olympic Trials marathon in February with a calf injury.

“I didn’t run the Olympic trials, so I told my manager, this is going to be my Olympic trials,” Abdirahman said.

At the 19-mile mark, Abdirahman and five relatively unaccomplished men were 2 minutes, 20 seconds behind the three-man lead group.

When Desisa dropped out in the 22nd mile, Abdirahman suddenly was in the podium mix.

“I thought I might finish fifth, sixth, or seventh,” said Abdirahman, Somalian born and nicknamed the Black Cactus. “When I passed Lelisa, that’s when my eyes just — I don’t know what hit me, but I just get another wind.”

Abdirahman became the first U.S. man to make the New York City podium since Meb Keflezighi won in 2009, a simply stunning result. Keflezighi announced his final marathon Sunday.

“I was telling these guys I was in the Olympics in 2000, and they were looking at me, really?” Abdirahman said. “And I say yes.”

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Keitany, a mother of two and the second-fastest female marathoner ever, crossed the Central Park finish line in 2:24:26. Her margin of victory over countrywoman Sally Kipyego, 3:34, was the largest since 1984.

The last runner to win three straight New York City titles was Norwegian Grete Waitz, who won five of her nine total from 1982 through 1986.

Huddle, a two-time U.S. Olympian on the track making her marathon debut, was third, the best finish by a U.S. women’s runner since Shalane Flanagan was second in 2010.

Gwen Jorgensen, the Olympic triathlon champion in her marathon debut, finished 14th in 2:41:01.

Earlier, Tatyana McFadden, a 17-time Paralympic medalist, completed her fourth straight sweep of the Boston, Chicago, London and New York City Marathons.

McFadden, born in Russia paralyzed from the waist down and adopted from a St. Petersburg orphanage at age 6 by an American, completed her New York City four-peat on Sunday in 1 hour, 47 minutes, 43 seconds. She won by more than one minute after 26.2 miles.

The 27-year-old became the first women’s wheelchair racer to win four straight New York City Marathons, taking her fifth overall crown. She has won 20 combined World Marathon Major titles.

She’s 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). The woman who beat McFadden there, China’s Zou Lihong, made her New York City Marathon debut Sunday.

McFadden went to Rio with a shot at seven gold medals in September. She won the 400m, 800m, 1500m and 5000m and earned silver in the 100m and the marathon. She and the U.S. were disqualified from the 4x400m relay.

Also Sunday, Marcel Hug of Switzerland won the New York City Marathon men’s wheelchair race in a photo finish over Australian Kurt Fearnley. Hug swept the Berlin, Boston and Chicago Marathons this year, plus the Paralympics.

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