Highlights from the 115th running of the Boston Marathon
MEN'S RACE STORY
In 2010, Robert Kiprono Cheruiyot set a Boston course record of 2:05:52. Had Cheruiyot run that time in this year's race, he would have placed fifth. That is not to minimize the caliber of the defending champion's year-old record; on the contrary, it more clearly illustrates the stunning accomplishment of Geoffrey Mutai in taking the 2011 laurel wreath in a scarcely believable time of 2:03:02. One may be confident in stating that this is a mark that will remain unapproached for many years. Then again, the evidence of the 115th Boston Marathon is that there may be plenty more still to come.
The other-worldly quality of this year's race was in evidence from the moment the gun fired. Some even felt portents of what was going to unfold earlier than that. "I knew this was going to be a special day as soon as I got out of bed," stated Ryan Hall.
There had been much talk, in the days in advance of the race, of the tailwind that was being anticipated. The elite runners would fly. Be that as it may, there have been tailwinds in Boston before, but there has never been a day like today. In some ways it bordered on the scarcely believable. A winning time of 2:03:02 - the fastest marathon ever run, by 58 seconds - was an epoch shattering performance of Usain Bolt-ian proportions. The free-form tactics of Ryan Hall were absorbing, sometimes bewildering, but ultimately fantastically successful. Four finishers under the 12 months old course record, six under 2:07 and 10 under 2:09 was indicative of a speed in depth that has never before been seen on the fabled Boston course. It's too easy to dismiss the times as due solely to the aiding wind. There are still 26.2 miles to cover, still the Newton Hills to confront and still a hoard of the most intimidating competitors in the world to handle. Aiding wind or not, there are ways innumerable that things can go wrong. That they didn't is testimony to the acuity of the field and most of all to the inspired racing of the 29 year-old Mutai.
WOMEN'S RACE STORY
They came through the halfway point in a pack of nine, 70 seconds behind the leader. By the time they hit the "One Mile to Go" sign in Kenmore Square, they were in a tug of war for the laurel wreath. One would yank on the rope, and the other would falter. Then, the reverse. Who would finally pull the other over the dividing line between first and second, between winning and ... winning?
In the end, Caroline Kilel of Kenya executed one final, unanswerable tug with about 100 meters to go, breaking the tape in 2:22:36 to win the 115th Boston Marathon. Just two seconds back, little-heralded Desiree Davila crossed the line in 2:22:38. "I'm very happy because I won this Boston," said Kilel, a 30-year-old veteran whose time was a personal best and the fourth-fastest ever run on this course. "Maybe if you will invite me next year I will be here again."
Finishing third was Sharon Cherop of Kenya, in 2:22:42. American Kara Goucher, coming back from giving birth 6 1/2 months ago, was fifth in 2:24:52, a personal best by just over a minute. Indeed, most of the top 10 women ran personal bests on a day that offered ideal conditions on the point-to-point course: 49 degrees with a 21-mph tailwind at the start.