Boston shocker: World record-holder falters; Obiri wins in 2nd marathon
It wasn’t the man who won the 2023 Boston Marathon that came as a surprise, but rather the man who didn’t.
While Evans Chebet of Kenya pulled away from the pack on a rainy Monday morning, breaking the tape in Copley Square in 2 hours, 5 minutes and 54 seconds to become a back-to-back champ, heavy favorite and reigning world record-holder Eliud Kipchoge was languishing more than 3 minutes behind.
Kipchoge finished sixth in his first appearance at the Boston Marathon – a stunning result, if only because he has been so dominant for so long.
It was just the third time in 20 marathons that he hasn’t crossed the line first.
Chebet told reporters after the race that his focus was on defending his title, not beating Kipchoge.
‘The bottom line was that we trained well,’ Chebet told reporters. ‘Our confidence in the quality of our training made us feel good about taking on this race.’
Despite having never run the course in Boston before, Kipchoge entered Monday’s event as the heavy favorite, given all he’s achieved. For the better part of the past decade, the 38-year-old has appeared almost unbeatable, winning two Olympic gold medals, breaking the world record and becoming the first and only known man to run 26.2 miles in less than two hours, albeit in a time trial.
Kipchoge typically trains on flat ground and has had some of his most iconic performances on flat courses, so there were questions about how he would tackle the course in Boston, which features a notoriously hilly stretch after the midway point of the race, including the infamous Heartbreak Hill.
The answer, at least in the early going, was that he didn’t plan to hold anything back.
Kipchoge set the pace from the start and was front and center in the lead pack for the first half of the race, churning up miles at around a 4:40 pace. As a light drizzle began to fall, the group slowly dwindled from more than 20 to a dozen to just seven, with the defining moment coming at a water station around the 19-mile mark.
In top-tier competitions, elite runners have their own numbered tables at each water station, with bottles containing their sports drinks of choice. Kipchoge maneuvered around another runner and attempted to grab one of his bottles from a table but missed it and kept going.
By Mile 20, he had fallen 16 seconds behind the leader. And by Mile 21, that gap had grown to nearly a minute.
As Kipchoge drifted behind, the top three began to separate themselves from the rest of the field. Chebet took off down the home stretch to win, followed by Tanzanian runner Gabriel Geay and Benson Kipruto of Kenya, who is one of Chebet’s training partners. Geay and Kipruto finished second and third, respectively.
Scott Fauble was the top-finishing American, placing just behind Kipchoge in seventh, with a time of 2:09:44.
‘I would have loved to have gone out with that (lead) pack, but they were too fast,’ Fauble told reporters. ‘Most of them blew up, even Eliud Kipchoge. I almost caught him.’
Obiri shows off track speed in victory
Hellen Obiri was a late entry to the women’s field for Boston, having been convinced by her coach to enter the race just late last month.
Her performance Monday proved it to be the right decision.
Obiri used her foot speed down the stretch to separate herself from the rest of the field and win in a time of 2:21:38, giving her a surprising victory in what was a tight race up until the final mile.
It was Obiri’s first win in a marathon in what was just her second career race at the distance. The Kenyan has made a name for herself running slightly shorter distances on the track, winning silver medals in the 5000-meter events at both the 2016 Rio Olympics and 2021 Tokyo Games.
Obiri was in the mix from the start, but the race was up for grabs until the very end, with a lead pack of at least five runners all jockeying for the top.
‘My coach told me that the marathon is about patience,’ she told reporters after her win. ‘So I tried to be patient until the right time.’
Amane Beriso of Ethiopia and Lonah Salpeter of Israel finished second and third, respectively, with American Emma Bates not far behind in fifth.
Marcel Hug, Susannah Scaroni dominate wheelchair races
Marcel Hug of Switzerland broke his own course record by nearly a minute in the men’s wheelchair division, crossing the finish line in a time of 1:17:06.
The 2020 Paralympic gold medalist in the marathon, Hug will get a $50,000 bonus for his course record. He won by a whopping margin, finishing more than 10 full minutes ahead of runner-up Daniel Romanchuk.
The women’s wheelchair race, won by American Susannah Scaroni, wasn’t much closer. Scaroni, 31, won with a time of 1:41:45 – more than 5 minutes ahead of the rest of the field.
► This year’s race marked the 10th anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing, which left three people dead and hundreds more injured. The victims were honored during a ceremony Saturday, which was exactly 10 years after the April 15, 2013 attack.
► This year’s field included roughly 30,000 runners, including 27 registrants in the non-binary division, which was offered for the first time.
Contact Tom Schad at email@example.com or on Twitter @Tom_Schad.