A race of more than 26 miles came down to the final few agonizing yards Monday afternoon with Lawrence Cherono edging Lelisa Desisa in the closest Boston Marathon finish since 1988. On the women’s side, the finish was exactly the opposite, with Worknesh Degefa leaving no doubt as she kept her competition out of camera range for most of the race and cruised to a comfortable victory.
It was the men’s race that brought drama to the 123rd running of the marathons, with a three-man battle going down to two. Nearly out of gas as the finish line loomed, Cherono and Desisa dueled with arms and legs flailing, but Cherono had just a bit more left in the tank and won in what was very nearly a photo finish. The unofficial times: Cherono of Kenya in 2:07:57, Desisa of Ethiopia in 2:07:59. Kenneth Kipkemoi, also of Kenya, faded over the final 300 yards or so and was third in 2:08:07.
Scott Fauble of Flagstaff, Ariz., was the first American man across the finish line, in seventh place with a time of 2:09:09. Jared Ward, the Utah native who finished sixth in the Rio Olympics marathon, was eighth in 2:09:25.
It was a gutsy finish by Cherono, who had to be helped by two race officials as he stepped gingerly to the podium for the post-race ceremony. Afterward, he said he was “so happy, so grateful” to have won. “I have never won a major marathon,” he told WBZ, “but I was determined” as the race came down to the wire.
On the women’s side, Degefa, a 28-year-old Ethiopian who was running only her fourth marathon, took control of the race at about Mile 4, moving past American Sara Hall. With an unofficial winning time of 2:23:31, she easily beat 39-year-old Kenyan Edna Kiplagat, who finished second, and American Jordan Hasay, who was third. Des Linden, the American who won last year’s race, finished fifth in 2:27:00.
Degefa, who came into the race with a personal record two minutes better than any other woman in the field, opened up an early lead. There were concerns that Boston’s hills might present a challenge because her previous marathons were in Dubai, but she quickly put those to rest.
As she shivered after the race, Degefa told WBZ through an interpreter that she was “a little worried” at having such a large lead, “but I turned around and there was nobody behind me.”
An American was the first winner of the day, with Daniel Romanchuk winning the men’s push-rim wheelchair event, becoming the first American winner of the event since 1993. Manuela Schar of Switzerland won the women’s race, ending Tatyana McFadden’s bid to repeat. The wheelchair competitors were the first to start and their races began not long after a storm swept through Boston.
“I fell today on the train tracks due to a wet first half of the race,” McFadden tweeted, “but this girl got right back up! Thank you to the amazing crowds and family for the support today. Went from 6th place to 2nd place! I’m ecstatic! Can’t wait for next year.”
Romanchuk, a 20-year-old from Urbana, Ill., became the youngest winner of the event, finishing in an unofficial time of 1:21:36. Schar won at Boston for a second time, finishing in an unofficial 1:34:19.
The Boston Athletic Association, which puts on the race, apologized after an American flag was placed on the ground during the Romanchuk’s medal ceremony. Romanchuk had draped the flag around his shoulders and it was removed to put the medal around his neck and the laurel wreath on his head.
“The Boston Athletic Association apologizes sincerely for the nature in which our men’s wheelchair award ceremony was held,” Jack Fleming, the B.A.A.'s chief operating officer said in a statement. “We are reviewing our awards protocol to ensure that this does not happen again. The Boston Marathon has been an American tradition for more than a century and we take pride in the passion and determination that participants, spectators, and volunteers from around the world display at our annual event. Our flag is a symbol of freedom, unity, and community spirit — all of which are virtues that the Boston Athletic Association supports.”
Isn’t that . . .?
Why, yes, NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson was running the marathon this year. “Training is a part of every racecar driver’s life,” said the seven-time NASCAR champion, who wore bib No. 4848 in a nod to his No. 48 Chevrolet. “Certainly, getting ready for a marathon is more than the normal event. There’s just a lot of miles required.” His time? 3:09:07.
And yes, that was Joan Benoit Samuelson, the 1984 Olympic gold medalist in the marathon, running in the race she won in 1979. Samuelson, 61, finished in an unofficial 3:04:00, breaking her goal by more than a minute. (That’s Samuelson in the Bowdoin shirt in the video below.)
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