Geoffrey Mutai Runs World’s Best at the Boston Marathon
Traditionally, the Boston Marathon has been thought of as one of the world’s most difficult races. World-class runners looking for fast times tend to rather choose flat and fast European races like Berlin, London, or Rotterdam. But this year, Kenya’s Geoffrey Mutai has changed the paradigm. With strong tailwinds nearing 20mph and cool temperatures, he was the first athlete to cross the finish line in the 115th running of the world’s oldest annual marathon with a time of 2:03:02 hours—a new world’s best.
Haile Gebrselassie’s (Ethiopia) official world record, 2:03:59 will still stand—the Boston course is point-to-point and exceeds the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF)-allowed elevation drop. Nevertheless, Geoffrey Mutai’s achievement is remarkable: He averaged 4:41 minutes per mile for 26.2 miles. Among the elite athletes were almost 27,000 participants at this year’s starting line.
As soon as the starting gun went off in the quiet village of Hopkinton, American Ryan Hall surged ahead and quickly established himself in the lead during the race’s early miles, which are substantially downhill. The American record holder in the half marathon had used this same tactic in the past two Boston Marathons. In last year’s race, he set a new American course record. 28-year-old Ryan Hall continued to maintain a 4-second lead with a large chase group fast on his heels. However, by the 10-kilometer mark, reached in 29:05 minutes, the 10-runner-deep field had caught him.
There was no significant change in the race’s dynamic when the leading men reached the 20K mark (58:45). However, once they crossed the half-marathon point, in an all-time best of 1:01:57 hours, the pace had quickened. At that point the leading group was down to seven runners: Ryan Hall, Peter Kamais (Kenya), Gilbert Yegon (Kenya), Bekana Daba (Ethiopia/winner of this year’s Houston Marathon), Geoffrey Mutai, Evans Cheruiyot (Kenya/2008 Boston Marathon champion), and defending champion Robert Kiprono Cheruiyot (Kenya). Last year’s ING New York City Marathon champion, Gebre Gebremariam (Ethiopia), was a few seconds behind.
The second significant move of the race came near the 25K mark when Bekana Daba surged ahead. Six runners went with him, including Kenyans Geoffrey Mutai and Moses Mosop (Kenya). But by the 19th mile only two runners remained: Geoffrey Mutai and Moses Mosop.
The two ran side by side for the final six miles. Knowing that they were witnessing history, the spectators cheers grew louder. It was still a very close race as the two turned onto the Boylston Street, the final stretch of the race. With 600 meters to go, Geoffrey Mutai put on the final sprint. Moses Mosop couldn’t counter and at that point it became clear who would be the fastest marathoner in history.
Geoffrey Mutai’s finishing time was 2:03:02 hours, while Moses Mosop came across the finish line two seconds later—running the fastest marathon debut of all times. Gebre Gebremariam was third in 2:04:53. Ryan Hall placed fourth (2:04:58), setting a new American record. ”Ryan Hall made the race fast for all of us,” said the 29-year-old Geoffrey Mutai. “Once I got in front I felt good and kept pushing. It is easier for me to run by myself and keep my own pace, and not respond to other runners.”
“From 15 kilometers, it was hard and it was hilly,” Geoffrey Mutai recalled. “It is like a dream. So, I’m fulfilling my dream.” According to the Web site of the Boston Athletic Association, he is the oldest of nine siblings and says that running came to him naturally as a youth.
Caroline Kilel Takes the Women’s Marathon
The women’s race was just as thrilling as the men’s. The moment the runners left the starting line, Kim Smith took off, blazing down the early hills. The New Zealand athlete is the fastest woman to run a half marathon on U.S. soil. A graduate of Providence College in nearby Rhode Island, she has admitted that running Boston is akin to running in her home country.
By the 2-mile mark, Kim Smith had already established a 30-second lead that she maintained until the 7-mile point (37:36 minutes). Surprisingly, she then increased the margin of her lead to 35 seconds and by the time she reached the half (1:10:52), it was close to a minute.
However, once she reached the infamous string of Newton Hills that appear near the 16-mile mark, Kim Smith began to slow, while her followers began to speed up. Near the 20-mile point, she unfortunately had to step off the course with a cramped leg and eventually tried to catch back up the pack, but was unable to.
Left with just 10K to go were three runners: Kenyan runners Sharon Cherop and Caroline Kilel as well as American Desiree Davila—she had entered the race as fourth-fastest American marathoner.
Through the overwhelming cheers the three ran, switching leads the entire way. As the women turned onto Boylston Street it looked like Desiree Davila was going to win the race—she would have been the first American to win Boston since 1985.
But, in the final meters, Caroline Kilel pulled ahead and broke the finish-line tape in 2:22:36, while Desiree Davila finished 2 seconds later. Third place went to Sharon Cherop in 2:22:42.
“I’m really happy because I won,” Caroline Kilel said in the post-race press conference. “This is my first time to come here.” She has been competing in marathons for nine years and won the Frankfurt Marathon last year.
The Boston Marathon was again not just an outstanding race for the elite athletes, but also for the runners who participated in the event on Monday. There were 23,879 finishers and 32 wheelchair finishers as well 19 handcyclers.
Uta said, “As one of the many spectators at the starting line, I felt overwhelmed to see this exceptionally well organized event to take off in Hopkinton, when many thousands of happy runners started their 26.2-mile run. It was a beautiful day—great and favorable conditions for fast times. We were lucky and witnessed outstanding and record breaking results. And while Dick and Rick Hoyt crossed the finish line—it was their 29th Boston Marathon—many runners completed their marathon as well and said they had the running experience of their lifetime.”
The Boston Marathon was sponsored for the 26th time by John Hancock. A special Thank You goes out to the Boston Athletic Association and John Hancock for their tireless efforts to organize this unique “elite and people’s race” once again.
Emmanuel Mutai and Mary Keitany Shine in London
By Jörg Wenig
If there’s ever a doubt that the Virgin London Marathon is one of the fastest races in the world, then look no further than last Sunday’s race. In the British capital, Emmanuel Mutai clocked the fifth-fastest marathon of all time, 2:04:40, while fellow Kenyan Mary Keitany ran the seventh-fastest female marathon, covering the 26.2-mile course in 2:19:19. It was a fantastic double win for Kenya and is a good indication of how well the East African nation will perform at the 2012 Olympics.
Mary Keitany’s winning time is the year’s best so far. In addition, Emmanuel Mutai set a new course record when he ran the first sub-2:05 marathon in the race’s history. The former course record, 2:05:10, had been held by Olympic gold medallist Sammy Wanjiru of Kenya.
Approximately 35,000 participants reached the finish in the famous British city. In the mix, were thousands of charity runners—some dressed in entertaining costumes. Thousands of spectators lined the course and cheered on the runners as they made their way along the Thames River towards the finish line at Buckingham Palace.
Kenya’s Men Succeed in Great Britain’s Capital
A few days before the race’s start, last year’s winner, Tsegaye Kebede of Ethiopia, surprised the running world when he announced he was going after Haile Gebrselassie’s world record (2:03:59) provided the conditions were right. This prediction was especially bold considering the depth of talent present at the race. During the race, Tsegaye Kebede ran directly behind the pacemakers and later was the first runner to take over the lead. The first splits were within world-record range, which could have been the result of a slight decline in the early parts of the course. The lead group of 12 runners reached the 10K mark in 29:24 minutes. After that, however, the pace slowed and at the 15K split, the runners were on track for a 2:05-hour finishing time. At the half-marathon mark (62:44), this was further confirmed. Eleven runners comprised the pack that raced past the Tower Bridge. Among them were Tsegaye Kebede, Patrick Makau, Martin Lel (who was running his first marathon since the 2008 Olympic Games after coming back from injury), and Emmanuel Mutai.
When the last pacemaker dropped out of the race at the 30K mark (1:29:20), Tsegaye Kebede took over the lead and pushed the pace at the London docklands. The Kenyan trio (Emmanuel Mutai, Martin Lel, and Patrick Makau) kept up with the 24-year-old Ethiopian. It was then that Emmanuel Mutai increased his speed and split up the lead group. He reached 35K in 1:43:36 hours with a 20-second lead. Patrick Makau later reported that he had fallen shortly after the half-marathon mark and nearly dropped out of the race. He persevered, however, and held on to duel for second place with Martin Lel.
In the end, Emmanuel Mutai’s margin of victory was over a minute. It was his first World Marathon Majors (WMM) win. A runner-up at the 2009 World Championships in Berlin, the 26-year-old had travelled to London with a personal best of 2:06:15, which he had run in London three years ago when he placed fourth. He was also fourth in the 2009 edition of the race. In 2010, he came in second behind Tsegaye Kebede. “This year I returned to London and my dreams came true. During the race I didn’t think about the time but only about the win. Now I have both: the win and a sub-2:05 personal best,” said Emmanuel Mutai afterwards.
After a thrilling sprint finish, Martin Lel took second in 2:05:45. Patrick Makau crossed the finish line in the same time, but was awarded third place. Marilson Gomes dos Santos (Brazil/2:06:34), Tsegaye Kebede (2:07:48), Jaouad Gharib (Marocco/2:08:26), Abderrahime Bouramdane (Marocco/2:08:42) and Dmitry Safronov (Russia/2:09:35) took the consecutive places.
Mary Keitany Goes Sub 2:20 Hours
The women’s marathon began faster than expected. Mary Keitany, the world-record holder for 25 kilometers and the half marathon, went to the front from the start. She had debuted in the marathon in 2010 edition of the ING New York City Marathon (2:29:01) and was certainly trying to improve on that mark. She ran behind pacemaker Iness Chenonge (Kenya) and the two passed the 10K mark in 32:54, which would have been good for a sub-2:19 result. Among the runners in the lead group were last year’s winner Liliya Shobukhova (Russia) and last year’s winner of the real,- Berlin-Marathon, Aberu Kebede (Ethiopia).
Just as in the men’s race, the pace slowed following 10K. The ten-runner pack reached the half-marathon mark in 70:37. After the last pacemaker dropped out, Liliya Shobukhova, who had wanted to run her first sub-2:20 marathon, took over the lead and increased the pace. The group broke apart, but Mary Keitany stayed with her and after 25K, she was able to leave the Russian marathoner behind. Liliya Shobukhova, a former 3,000m indoor world record holder, who is capable of leg speed, could not keep up.
Mary Keitany’s 2:19:19 finishing time makes her the fourth-fastest female marathoner—a rank she shares with Irina Mikitenko who last ran this time in Berlin in 2008. “I knew that I could improve my personal best significantly here in London,” said the 29-year-old Kenyan who only started running seriously at the age of 18.
Her margin of victory was substantial with Liliya Shobukhova (2:20:15), Edna Kiplagat (Kenya/2:20:46) and the Ethiopians Bezunesh Bekele (2:23:42) and Atsede Baysa (2:23:50) taking second through fifth respectively. Then followed Yukiko Akaba (Japan/2:24:09), Irina Mikitenko (2:24:24), and Jessica Augusto (Portugal/2:24:33).
Irina Mikitenko’s (SC Gelnhausen) strong race showed that she is back after a difficult 2010 season when she struggled with injury. Her finishing time on Sunday was her fastest marathon in two years and was a leading mark for Germany this year so far.