Highlights from the 119th running of the Boston Marathon
MEN'S RACE RECAP
In 2013, Ethiopia's Lelisa Desisa stormed to victory in the 117th Boston Marathon. Twelve months later, he returned with a weight of expectation on his shoulders; the result was a DNF. In 2015 he came to Boston with a point to prove - which he did in demonstrative fashion after a race that was epic from gun to tape, with more plot twists than a soap opera. Desisa stayed strong through less than ideal conditions, breaking the tape on Boylston Street in 2:09:17.
Approaching the 10:00 a.m. start in Hopkinton, the weather was cause for as much conjecture as the contenders. How cold would it be? Was the anticipated rain storm going to come to pass? How much of a factor would the wind be? With the forecast changing almost by the minute, the prevailing conditions were as much of an unknown as the ultimate winner. By the time gun sounded, though, the rain had not arrived, the wind was calm, and the temperatures were chilly, though not dire. That would certainly change as the race unfolded and the blustery winds and rain swept through. But, for the early miles at least, conditions were good for fast running.
Ethiopia's Tadese Tola bolted from the starting line with the evident intention of ensuring that some heat would be injected into the proceedings. Clearly, he - and, no doubt, many of his peers - had no intention of letting any contender charge to an early and unassailable lead, as Meb Keflezighi had done in 2014.
WOMEN'S RACE RECAP
By the 5K mark of the 119th Boston Marathon, Desiree Linden had shed her hat and tossed away her long-sleeved shirt. If the 31-year-old American had to be the one to assure that this year’s race was run at an honest pace, with no excuses for the biting 45-degree chill and nerve-wracking headwind that would worsen to gusts of 29 mph by the finish, so be it.
For the next 20 miles, the gutsy Michigander took control. Now and then she might tuck in for a minute, but then resumed command. If she lagged to grab fluids, she quickly motored back into the lead. When the pack shuffled to follow a tangent, she moved back into position. Fans armored with rain gear and hugging themselves to stay warm erupted in chants of “USA! USA!” as they caught sight of an American in the lead. Lisa Rainsberger, whose win in 1985 was the last for an American woman, had fired the starter’s pistol. Perhaps it was an omen.
But in the 23rd mile, Ethiopian Mare Dibiba decided it was time to remind everyone, including her rivals, that her 2:19:52 personal best was the fastest in the field. Last year’s Boston Marathon runner-up, Buzunesh Deba, insisted that her 2:19:59 PB wasn’t going to waste, either.
Surprisingly, Kenya’s Caroline Rotich, with a lifetime best of 2:23:22 and better known as a half marathoner, tagged along. After making the race, Linden slipped back.
PUSH-RIM WHEELCHAIR RACE RECAP
On the 40th Anniversary of Bob Hall’s pioneering race to become the first athlete to officially complete the Boston Marathon in a wheelchair, 50 push-rim wheelchair participants completed the 119th Boston Marathon. Top finishers divided a prize purse of $84,500, provided by principal sponsor John Hancock Financial Services.
A short rain shower wet the roads before the start, but the fast finishers avoided later heavy rainfall in Boston. A pesky headwind slowed times, but didn’t impede competition. Switzerland’s Marcel Hug found a formula that worked to defeat 10-time champion Ernst van Dyk and the rest of the field, taking first in 1:29:53. American Tatyana McFadden won her third straight Boston in 1:52:54.
Hug crafted a commanding win this year after finishing fourth in 2012 and 2013. “It was most important for me to have a good downhill,” said the 29-year-old. “I know that Ernst is strong in downhill so I tried to be really strong today and attacking.”
Taking the lead by 10 miles, Hug continued to pull away from a field that included four past champions, including van Dyk (RSA), Masazumi Soejima (JPN), Hiroyuki Yamamoto (JPN), and course record holder Josh Cassidy (CAN). Before the Newton Hills, Hug led by more than a minute. The lead would ultimately grow to seven minutes and 20 seconds by the finish. “I feel great,” said the champion. “I am happy. To win here is really special and I am proud to win this historic race.”