BOSTON – On a day of historic, thrilling, and fast professional races, Evans Chebet of Kenya became the first man to defend his title here since 2008, winning in 2:05:54, with Kenya’s Hellen Obiri – in her Boston Marathon debut – breaking the tape in 2:21:38. In the wheelchair division, Marcel Hug of Switzerland broke his own course record, finishing in 1:17:06 for his sixth victory here, while Susannah Scaroni of the U.S. took her first Boston win in 1:41:45.
Eliud Kipchoge, the two-time Olympic Champion and world record-holder who was running Boston for the first time, led the pack in the early going, with 13 athletes hitting the 7-mile mark in 32:41, four seconds ahead of course record pace. But Heartbreak Hill earned its nickname once again when Kipchoge quickly fell back. He would go on to finish in sixth in 2:09:23.
“Today was a tough day for me,” he said later in a written statement. “I pushed myself as hard as I could, but sometimes, we must accept that today wasn’t the day to push the barrier to a greater height.”
Chebet, meanwhile, bided his time in the pack along with training partner Benson Kipruto, the 2021 Boston champion. As Kipchoge soon ran alone about 16 seconds behind, Gabriel Geay of Tanzania briefly took over the lead of a dwindling group, and soon it was down to Geay, last year’s fourth-place finisher, and the two recent champions.
“It was a mutual agreement that we would keep pace together,” said Chebet afterward, when asked about his race tactics alongside Kipruto. “And this is what worked out well.”
Geay would go on to finish as runner-up in 2:06:04, with Kipruto a close third right behind, in 2:06:06. Top American was Scott Fauble, seventh in 2:09:44. Chebet’s 2:05:54 was the third-fastest winning time in race history.
For the women, the pack numbered 10 through most of the Newton Hills, with Emma Bates largely controlling the pace. The 30-year-old American, who finished seventh in last summer’s World Athletics Championships but was making her Boston debut, was leading at Mile 23, when Lonah Salpeter of Israel briefly took over.
But coming out of Kenmore Square, Obiri was in the lead, her stride seeming to get longer with every step as she flew down Boylston Street to win in the fourth-fastest time here ever.
Asked what she learned from her debut at the distance in the TCS New York City Marathon last fall, where she finished a disappointing sixth, Obiri said, “After New York we learned some things we did not know. I learned to be patient.”
Finishing second was Amane Beriso of Ethiopia, in 2:21:50, with Salpeter third in 2:21:57. Bates finished as top American in fifth, in 2:22:10, the second-fastest time ever by an American woman on this course.
In the wheelchair races, Scaroni overcame a loose wheel in the eighth mile that forced her to pull over for a quick repair. But she had already built up a cushion that allowed her to keep her lead, and she would go on to finish five minutes ahead of runner-up Madison de Rozario of Australia, who crossed the line in 1:46:45. In third was 48-year-old Wakako Tsuchida of Japan, in 1:47:04, who won here five consecutive years from 2007-2011.
Four-time winner and defending champion Manuela Schär dropped out after 30K with a flat tire.
Asked what it felt like to finally win here in her ninth appearance, Scaroni said, “It was pretty emotional. I always give everything I have and I know everyone else is doing so also. So, this is extra special.”
As usual for the downhill specialist, Hug went out fast from the start. But this time, the racer known as the “Swiss Silver Bullet” would build his lead to more than 10 minutes by the finish over runner-up Daniel Romanchuk, who crossed in 1:27:45. Jetze Plat of the Netherlands was third in 1:28:35.
“I’m just so, so happy with the race today,” Hug said. “It’s incredible in these conditions, with headwinds, crosswinds, rain, to do a time like this. For me, it’s incredible.”
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