Kebenei’s milestone highlighted a record-filled day at the 47th running of the race, which drew about 16,000 competitors.
Greg Meyer set the U.S. record on the course in 1983 with a time of 46 minutes 13 seconds. In 2017, Kebenei won the race but was disappointed after falling 23 seconds short of Meyer’s mark. Kebenei was confident he would break the record this year, feeling loose since he woke Sunday morning.
“It’s a great feeling, and it’s a great day,” said Kebenei, who was fourth in the elite men’s race. “I’m glad the record is gone.”
At the lead of the men’s race, Ethiopia’s Jemal Yimer, the defending champion, was challenged for the second consecutive year. Kenya’s Josphat Tanui, 25, stuck to Yimer’s hip for the majority of the run. Yimer, 22, sprinted away in the final 100 meters to win in 45:36. Tanui crossed the line two seconds later. It was another breakthrough for Yimer, who ran the third-fastest half-marathon of all time (58:33) in October.
In the elite women’s race, Kenya’s Rosemary Wanjiru, 24, set the course record in 50:42. The previous mark was 51:16. Wanjiru also faced stiff competition; Ethiopia’s Gotytom Gebreslase, 24, trailed her by five seconds.
Wanjiru spent the past two months focused on this event, but she forecast a time closer to 52 minutes.
“I was not expecting to win today,” she said. “I was not expecting to break the course record. I am so happy. I was like, ‘Oh, it’s a surprise.’ ”
Emma Bates, 26, of Boise, Idaho, was the top American women’s finisher with a time of 52:18 to place sixth. The former Boise State runner came up five seconds short of the U.S. women’s course record.
The temperature remained in the low 50s throughout, which Bates said may have benefited some competitors, even though she’s comfortable running in colder temperatures in Idaho. Bates was aiming to break the U.S. mark until she suffered an injury that affected her breathing about a month ago.
“It gets me even more fired up to come out here and race fast next time,” she said. “I’m excited I was within it but bittersweet.”