Kenyan sweep at Boston Marathon

Updated: April 19, 2011, 8:45 AM ET
Associated Press

BOSTON -- The rest of the world can debate whether Geoffrey Mutai set a record when he blistered the Boston Marathon course in 2 hours, 3 minutes, 2 seconds -- the fastest anyone has ever run 26.2 miles.

From Hopkinton to Copley Square, there is no doubt.

"We had a stunning performance and an immensely fast time here today," Tom Grilk, the head of the Boston Athletic Association, said on Monday. "We in Boston are well-pleased with what has happened, and that's good unto itself. The definitions of others, I will leave to them."

[+] EnlargeGeoffrey Mutai
Jim Rogash/Getty ImagesGeoffrey Mutai was almost three minutes better than the course record set just last year.

Mutai outsprinted Moses Mosop down Boylston Street to win by 4 seconds, and the two Kenyans each beat Haile Gebrselassie's sanctioned world record of 2:03:59.

But Mutai's mark is unlikely to be recognized as a world record because the IAAF requires courses to start and finish near the same point to discourage downhill, wind-aided runs. Boston starts at an elevation of 475 feet and finishes 16 feet above sea level; the wind at the start on Monday was announced at 21 mph, and it came in from the west -- a tailwind.

Essentially, track's international governing body has deemed the oldest and most prestigious marathon in the world -- long considered one of the most difficult, too -- to be too easy.

But Boston officials don't seem to mind, and neither does Mutai.

"You don't look at world records. You just go," he said. "If you are strong, you push it. But if you put it in your head, you can't make it."

Although IAAF Rule 206 clearly disqualifies the Boston course from a world record, it does list Robert Kiprono Cheruiyot's time in last year's race among the best times of 2010. Joan Benoit's 2:22:53 was considered a women's record in 1983, though that was before the organization refined its rules, B.A.A. officials said.

IAAF officials did not immediately respond to emails from The Associated Press seeking comment.

Four men, including third-place finisher Gebregziabher Gebremariam of Ethiopia and American Ryan Hall, broke the course record of 2:05:52 set just last year by Cheruiyot.

"These guys obviously showed us what's possible for the marathon," said Hall, whose 2:04:58 is the fastest ever run by an American. "I was out there running, and I was thinking to myself, 'I can't believe this is happening right now. I'm running a 2:04 pace, and I can't even see the leaders.' It was unreal."

Mutai, who earned $150,000 for the win, will also receive $50,000 for the world best to go with $25,000 for the course record.

Grilk said there was no doubt he earned his money.

"This gentleman did both things, and we are honored to have played a part in his doing it," he said.

Kilel won the women's race to complete the Kenyan sweep, outsprinting American Desiree Davila to win by two seconds in 2:22:36. Davila led as late as the final stretch on Boylston Street and ran the fastest time ever for a U.S. woman, five seconds faster than Benoit, who is now known as Joan Samuelson.

Kara Goucher ran a personal best 2:24:52 to add a fifth-place finish to her third in 2009. No American -- man or woman -- has won Boston since Lisa Larsen-Weidenbach in 1985.

"We're knocking on the door," Hall said. "I mean 2:08 last year and 2:04 this year ... It's going to come; it's just a matter of time."

A year after Cheruiyot lowered the course record by more than a minute, almost 27,000 runners lined up in Hopkinton with temperatures in the high 40s and a 21 mph wind at their back -- perfect marathoning weather. Kim Smith, a New Zealander who lives in Providence, R.I., took off at a record pace and led the women's race for more than 20 miles.

The men were more steady, and they were the ones to take down the old mark.

Mutai and Mosop ran side-by-side for the final miles before Mutai pulled ahead for good on Boylston Street. The 19th Kenyan winner in the past 21 years, Mutai raised his arms in the air and grinned.

[+] EnlargeDesiree Davila
AP Photo/Elise AmendolaDesiree Davila ran the fastest marathon by an American woman, finishing second in Boston.

"When I was coming to Boston, I was not trying to break the world record. But I see the gift from God," Mutai said. "I'm happy. I don't have more words to add."

Cheruiyot, who had been recovering from a car accident in Kenya, finished sixth. Defending women's champion Teyba Erkesso dropped out before reaching the halfway point.

The women's pack let Smith go, falling almost a minute behind. But 20 miles in, as she ran down Commonwealth Avenue in Newton toward Heartbreak Hill, she began to stutter-step.

Soon, she had stopped completely to rub her right calf. It was only for a few seconds, but when she resumed she had clearly slowed and the pack was upon her less than a mile later. Among them was Davila.

The American ran with Kenyans Kilel and Sharon Cherop through Chestnut Hill and briefly broke out of her rhythm to wave as the crowd began chanting, "U-S-A!" The three swapped leads down Beacon Street in Brookline, and Davila led even on the final stretch before Kilel outkicked her.

"It was the most excitement I've had in a race ever and just really carried me the last six miles," Davila said. "I felt that energy, and I felt comfortable at the front and pushing the pace because of that. It really just carried me through to the finish line."

Masazumi Soejima and Wakako Tsuchida gave Japan a sweep of the men's and women's wheelchair divisions. It was the fifth straight win for Tsuchida and the second overall for Soejima.


Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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