After a 910 day gap, the Boston Marathon returned on October 10 for the 125th running with the field limited to 20,000.
Kenya ultimately dominated tactical elite races with a winning double and taking the first four places in the women’s race as Diana Kipyogei won in 2:24:45 to join Benson Kipruto as both achieved their greatest and most lucrative victories.
It was Kipyogei’s third marathon and her slowest following 2:22:07 in Ljubljana in 2019 and a 2:22:06 in Istanbul last November. It was her first race of 2021 and the 27 year-old has a half-marathon PB of 67:07 set in Valencia in 2018 and it was a deserved victory as she provided the main move of the race.
Kipruto, who is 30 years-old, won in Prague in May in 2:10:21 and was seventh in London last year in 2:06:42 and has a lifetime best of 2:05:13 from Toronto in 2019, a year he was tenth in Boston in 2:09:53.
In 2021 he was two seconds faster but nine places higher in a bizarre men’s race.
While everyone else went out tentatively, USA’s 2:11:18 marathoner CJ Albertson decided on a solo run and was through 5km in 14:29, 10km in 29:32 and 15km in 45:01.
The 5km splits showed he was getting slower in each split and the 14:29, 15:03, 15:29 were followed by a 15:42 and he was through halfway in 64:08 and the lead was a massive two minutes 13 seconds from a huge pack as they all ambled through in 66:21 with fellow American Colin Bennie leading a half-hearted chase.
The pack woke up shortly afterwards and at 25km in 1:16:34 (15:50), Albertson had lost some of the lead as the 2017 world champion Geoffrey Kirui pushed on to pass just under two minutes back in 1:18:15 after a 15:23.
The gap continued to shrink as he passed 30km in 1:33:03 (16:29) and 20 miles in 1:40:25 though the pack weren’t even needing to go particularly fast as their split was only 15:42 as they were 54 seconds back at 30km and 23 seconds at 20 miles.
The 15-strong pack caught him after 1 hour 43 minutes of running and he held close despite running a 5:33 21st mile and everyone assumed he would fade well down the field after a suicidal run. He didn’t but would no longer be battling for the lead.
At 30km, Kirui (1:49:25) was the official leader with a 15:28 split though the race finally came to real life after 1:53 of running as Kipruto powered away.
His lead was soon over half a minute and perhaps not surprising as he had blasted a 14:05 km to reach 40km in 2:03:31.
A pack of three were together in second with Lemi Berhanbu, Jemal Yimer and Tsedet Ayana all on 2:04:08.
Kipruto moved further away throughout and won in 2:09:51 with a 63:29 second half.
While it was his Marathon major, his brother Dickson Chumba won in Chicago in 2015 and Tokyo in 2014 and 2018.
The all Ethiopian battle for second was won by Berhanu (2:10:37) from Yimer (2:10:38) and Ayana (2:10:47).
Berhanu, the 2016 winner had had a mixed marathon record since dropping out of the 2017 and 2018 Boston races and in Tokyo and Valencia last year, though he does have a 2:04:33 PB.
Colin Bennie was the first American in seventh in 2:11:26 with Albertson a superb 10th in 2:11:43 after a resurgent 15:24 split from 35km to 40km – only bettered by his first two splits.
Kirui finished 13th in 2:12:00 one place down on Kiwi Jake Robertson’s 2:11:56.
The women’s pack were equally slow though had no runaway leader and 14 athletes were together at halfway in a modest 1:14:11 after opening 10km’s of just 35:00 and 35:24.
The third 10km was covered in 34:01 as Kipyogei kicked hard after 1:43 of running. She passed 30km in 1:44:25, 10 seconds up on Mary Ngugi, Netsanet Gudeta Edna Kiplagat and Monican Ngige and Workenesh Edesa and Nell Rojas.
At 20 miles Kipyogei (1:51:33) was being closed by Gudeta (1:51:40) who had left Ngugi, Kiplagat amd Ngige over 10 seconds back.
At 35km Kipyogei (2:00:54 – with a 16:29 split) had almost been caught by Gudeta (2:00:56 (16:21) who was 150 metres clear of Nugugi, Ngige and Kiplagat (2:01:24) who were clear of Edesa (2:02:05) and Rojas (2:02:13).
All money was now on Gudeta but Kipyogei was not finished and surged again and broke the Ethiopian and at 40km (2:17:11 – 16:27) she had a 27 second lead over a charging Kiplagat (2:17:38 – with a 16:14) and a fading Gudeta (2:17:48 – 16:52) who was also being run down by Ngugi and Ngige (2:17:50).
Kipyogei held most of her lead in the last 2km as she won by 24 seconds to complete a 70:34 second half almost four minutes better than her first.
After the race, she said: “I am happy for the win and the group was so slow, I decided to go. The course was not easy but I felt good.”
Kiplagat finished second in 2:25:09 with Ngugi (2:25:20) and Ngige (2:25:32) completing the all-Kenyan top four.
The 41-year-old Kiplagat, the 2011 and 2013 world champion, matched her second place here from 2019.
Gudeta proved the best of the rest with 2:26:09 in fifth with Rojas the leading American in sixth in a one-minute PB of 2:27:12.
A day after running 2:46:39, in Chicago, Shalane Flanagan ran a stunning 2:40:34 a week after her London 2:35:04 and her 2:38:32 in Berlin the week before that!