Geoffrey Kirui

Mo Farah wins Chicago Marathon

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Mo Farah, the greatest track distance runner of the last decade, notched his first 26.2-mile win, taking the Chicago Marathon on Sunday.

Farah, a four-time Olympic champion between the 5000m and 10,000m, clocked 2:05:11 in the rain, smashing the European record of 2:05:48. He won by 13 seconds, kicking away from Ethiopian Mosinet Geremew in the last mile.

Pre-race favorites American Galen Rupp (2:06:21) and Geoffrey Kirui of Kenya (2:06:45) were fifth and sixth.

“We wasn’t sure about the pace because conditions wasn’t great. Everybody was thinking about position, not time,” Farah said. “I could have gone a lot faster.”

Kenyan Brigid Kosgei won the women’s race in 2:18:35. Ethiopians Roza Dereje and Shure Demise were second and third in 2:21:18 and 2:22:15, respectively.

The event lost luster after Jordan Hasay, the second-fastest U.S. female marathoner ever, and 2017 World bronze medalist Amy Cragg withdrew beforehand for health reasons.

Gwen Jorgensen, the 2016 Olympic triathlon champion, was 11th in 2:36:23 in her second marathon and first since switching sports last year. Jorgensen must drop significantly into the 2:20s at the 2020 Olympic Trials for a chance at the three-woman team for Tokyo.

MORE: Chicago Marathon Results

In his third career marathon, Farah padded his argument as one of the greatest runners in history. Farah won 10 Olympic and world titles between 5000m and 10,000m from 2011 through 2017 before moving full-time to the marathon.

Farah debuted at 26.2 miles in 2014, placing eighth in London in 2:08:21, then went back to track racing. In his return to the marathon in April, he was third in London in 2:06:21, breaking the British record.

Farah noted he was ranked eighth in the Chicago field by personal best going into the race.

“I think I was expected definitely to finish in the top three. That was the aim,” he said.

Farah has ways to go to scale marathoning like he did track racing. Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge has been in a class of his own for a few years, most recently smashing the world record in Berlin three weeks ago in 2:01:39.

“Eliud’s definitely a better athlete, in the marathon,” Farah said, adding that he’ll probably race the London Marathon again in April (which Kipchoge also usually races). “Depends on what happens next couple of years, if he slows down or if he continues to keep going up, running certain times. But I’m not afraid of turning up in the same field as him, race against him, test him out.”

Farah is firmly in the second tier. So is Rupp.

Rupp, who formerly trained with Farah, dropped from the leaders around mile 19. Rupp earned the Rio Olympic marathon bronze medal and last year became the first U.S. male runner to win Chicago since 2002.

“My goal was to win, but I ran as best as I could,” Rupp said. “I just got to give credit to Mo and all the other guys that beat me.”

Kirui was shed from the leading group near mile 20. Kirui won the 2017 Boston Marathon, edging Rupp, and the 2017 World title.

Jorgensen, 32, said a pre-race goal was to not go faster than 5:40/mile pace (or a 2:28:34 marathon). She started at 5:47/mile and slowed significantly around mile 20 and finished struggling at 6:48/mile pace.

“I am, I’d say gutted, very disappointed,” Jorgensen said, adding that she had a fever all week but has raced really well while ill before.

She found husband Pat Lemieux and told him, “Oh my goodness, I’m really questioning what the heck I’m doing,” referencing leaving triathlon at the top of the sport for the marathon challenge. Jorgensen lacked motivation in Olympic-distance triathlon after winning everything and did not want to follow other Olympic medalists to the Ironman distance.

Given time to reflect, she forges ahead. Jorgensen remembered that she was lapped out of her first World Triathlon Series race in 2011 and then finished second two races later.

“I was able to get up to 120 miles a week [in training],” she said, noting a positive. “Earlier in the year I couldn’t even hit 100. I feel like I’m trending in the right way.”

American Tatyana McFadden‘s streak of Chicago Marathon wheelchair titles ended at seven straight. The 17-time Paralympic medalist finished seventh, nearly 15 minutes behind Swiss winner Manuela Schar.

Daniel Romanchuk, a 20-year-old American, won his first major marathon wheelchair title, edging Swiss Marcel Hug by one second in 1:31:34.

The fall major marathon season concludes with the New York City Marathon on Nov. 4.

The New York fields are led by defending champions Shalane Flanagan (the first U.S. female runner to win the five-borough race in 40 years) and Kenyan Geoffrey Kamworor. Also entered: Boston Marathon winner Des Linden, two-time track Olympian Molly Huddle and 43-year-old Bernard Lagat, a five-time track Olympian in his marathon debut.

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Desi Linden is first U.S. woman to win Boston Marathon since 1985

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It was never Desi Linden‘s day.

Not at the California high school state championships, which she never won. Not at Arizona State, where her best NCAA Championships result was 10th. As a professional, Linden had already far exceeded expectations with a pair of Olympic Trials runners-up and a second-place finish at the 2011 Boston Marathon (two seconds behind the winner). But she never broke the tape at a major race.

Then came Monday, the most dreadful Boston Marathon weather in at least 30 years. High 30s at the Hopkinton start. Headwinds of 20 mph. A downpour. “Hypothermia is the key here,” race director Dave McGillivray said on the local TV broadcast.

“Honestly, at mile 2, 3, 4, I didn’t feel like I was even making it to the finish line,” Linden, 34, said. She wasn’t alone.

But this was Linden’s day.

The 5-foot-2, self-described (and labeled by many others) “grinder,” book nerd and Scottish whiskey connoisseur became the first U.S. female runner to win the world’s oldest annual marathon in 33 years. The first in the professional era, since prize money was first awarded and the elite international fields became dominated by East Africans.

Linden clocked 2:39:54 (slowest winning time since 1978, that weather), crossing 4:10 ahead of unknown American Sarah Sellers, who paid a $185 entry fee and was one of two nurses to finish in the top five. Sellers was a surprise, as was men’s winner Yuki Kawauchi (more on the Japanese here), but as others said, Linden was built for this thinking-person’s race and these conditions.

“I know I’m biased when I say this, but I always feel like she’s the smartest, racer, tactician, whatever you want to call it,” Kevin Hanson, who coaches Linden in Michigan, told media afterward. “Mother Nature threw the big dilemma at everybody, which means that there was a whole additional amount of thinking that had to take place.”

BOSTON MARATHON: Results | Finish-Line Camera

Linden’s thoughts in the first few miles were of quitting. She said as much to Massachusetts native Shalane Flanagan, who on Nov. 5 became the first U.S. female runner to win the New York City Marathon in 40 years. Flanagan finished seventh on Monday in what she expected to be her last Boston Marathon.

“Des came up to me around mile 6 and said, hey, it’s not going to be my day, I think I’m going to drop out,” Flanagan recalled. Flanagan grabbed her rival’s shoulder. Linden continued, “If there’s anything I can do to help you, just let me know.”

“OK, this is weird,” the four-time Olympian Flanagan thought. “I was waiting for her, any second, to drop out.”

A half-hour passed. Linden was still with Flanagan and the leaders at mile 12 or 13. So Flanagan took Linden up on the offer and told her that she needed to stop at an upcoming port-a-potty. Flanagan didn’t say it, but she hoped Linden would look out for her on the return and help pace her back to the pack.

“I was like, basically, asking her like she was my mom,” Flanagan said. “Do you think I can go to the bathroom? She was like, yeah, I got you. I think you’ve got enough time. We’re running slow enough, it’s fine.”

Flanagan veered right and into the second portable bathroom. She spent 14 seconds inside — timed by LetsRun’s Jonathan Gault — and emerged on the wet pavement. Linden drifted to the caboose of the jacketed group of eight, repeatedly looking back for Flanagan.

Linden helped Flanagan to the group. Then she helped Molly Huddle reconnect, too. The two-time Olympian Huddle was, along with Flanagan, Jordan Hasay and Linden, one of four U.S. women who came to Boston with realistic chances of ending the 33-year drought.

Linden received the least pre-race press of the four. Flanagan was coming off her NYC title. Huddle broke the American record in the half marathon in January. Hasay became the second-fastest U.S. female marathoner ever at her last outing in Chicago on Oct. 8 but dropped out of Monday’s race on Sunday night with a heel injury.

Linden chose not to race a fall marathon, then produced her slowest career 13.1-mile time in 17 half marathons in her Boston prep race. That came in 29 degrees on a new course and into a headwind, though.

When Hanson saw the Patriots’ Day forecast, “I thought her chances of victory increased 10-fold,” he said. “She just embraced the weather when other people said we’re going to try to pretend it’s not going on.”

Soon after helping Huddle (who would finish 16th before a Tuesday root canal), Linden found herself in third or fourth place. Linden, who graduated from Arizona State with degrees in religious studies and psychology, did some more thinking.

“And thought I probably shouldn’t drop out,” she said, to press-conference laughter, “so I kept going.”

Ethiopian Mamitu Daska, 34 like Linden and third in New York last fall, moved in the 14th mile. Linden dropped about 30 seconds back with 2017 Boston winner Edna Kiplagat and another Kenyan, Gladys Chesir.

Linden, so tactically proficient that she ran identical 13.1-mile splits in Boston last year (fourth place), was pretty solid this year — 1:19:42 for the first half, 1:20:12 for the second.

The others faded. Linden went from third to first in the 22nd mile. By the turn onto Boylston Street, she led by four minutes. She dared not look back, though.

“2011 put the fear in me,” Linden said.

Of all of Linden’s near misses in major races, the 2011 Boston Marathon stuck with her. She lost a sprint to Kenyan Caroline Kilel by two seconds. That fall and spring was Linden’s coming out.

Desi Davila, before she married pro runner and triathlete Ryan Linden, ran a personal best by five minutes at the October 2010 Chicago Marathon and finished second. Then she ran nearly four minutes faster than that in Boston six months later.

This for a woman who didn’t break 16 minutes for 5000m in college and ran 2:44:56 in her marathon debut in Boston in 2007. She was 18th then. Monday marked the 11th anniversary.

“In 2007, no one believed I would be sitting here, that’s for sure,” Linden said at Monday’s winners’ press conference, gold wreath resting on her head. “The [Boston Athletic Association] treated us like rock stars. They came in, showed us their history and museum. Hey, these are so-and-so’s shoes. You could have your stuff in here one day. They just treated us like we belonged. That made me want to be a marathoner.”

Linden, in a black-and-lime green jacket with a No. 8 bib pinned on its side, raised her arms in her final strides. She blew a kiss with her black gloves just before crossing the blue tape. She was enveloped by an American flag and loved ones.

“It hurts right now,” she said in a finish-line TV interview, “but it’s a perfect day for me.”

The World Marathon Majors season continues with the London Marathon on Sunday, live at 3:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold.

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Galen Rupp, fit, fast, faces familiar foe at Boston Marathon

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Galen Rupp finished second in his Boston Marathon debut last year despite not knowing if he would start the race two weeks prior.

This year, Rupp had ideal, personal-best-time lead-up into the world’s oldest annual marathon. If it wasn’t for the defending champion, he might be the heavy favorite.

Rupp, a two-time Olympic medalist, contests his fifth career marathon Monday (8:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold). Early weather forecasts call for rain, temperatures in the upper 40s and 20 mph winds. Not ideal for the runners or for making predictions.

Rupp can bolster his argument as the best U.S. distance runners of all time. He already has Olympic 10,000m and marathon medals. In his last marathon, Rupp became the first American-born male runner to win the Chicago Marathon in 35 years.

On Monday, he can become the first American-born male runner to win the Boston Marathon in 35 years.

(It’s a convenient but misleading stat. Meb Keflezighi, the 2014 Boston champ, was born in Eritrea but moved from the war-torn nation to the U.S. at age 12 and matured into a competitive runner in high school and college in Southern California. He ran in all four of his Olympics for the red, white and blue and is arguably the most celebrated American runner of all time.)

Rupp’s lead-up half-marathon results in 2017 were a scratch (plantar fasciitis) and an 11th place (two weeks before Boston, still with foot discomfort). A cortisone shot worked wonders for him on Patriots’ Day.

This year? Rupp clocked a personal best over 13.1 miles on March 11. His 59:47 in Rome was four seconds shy of Ryan Hall‘s American record.

The Boston field also plays into Rupp’s favor. It lacks the world’s best marathoners — like Olympic champion Eliud Kipchoge and Ethiopian legend Kenenisa Bekele, who are running London on April 22.

That said, the Boston field was of similar strength last year, when relative unknown Geoffrey Kirui of Kenya and Rupp broke from the pack in the 20th mile. Kirui surged with three miles left to prevail by 21 seconds.

Kirui defends his title Monday and is joined by the two Boston winners before him — Kenyan Lemi Berhanu and Ethiopian veteran Lelisa Desisa.

Like Rupp, Kirui won his last marathon, taking the world championships in London on Aug. 6 by 82 seconds. Kirui, a father of three like Rupp, has just as much marathon experience as Rupp, a faster personal best by nearly three minutes and is almost six years younger than the American.

But he hasn’t raced this year. Marathons are the toughest track and field event to predict, as shown by Rupp’s results leading into Boston last year.

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