Boston, USA The 112th running of the Boston Marathon cemented Robert Cheruiyot’s place in the record books with his fourth win in 2:07:46. And the women’s race also held something for posterity as it showcased the closest women’s finish in the history of Boston, Dire Tune’s 2-second victory over Alevtina Biktimarova (2:25:25 to 2:25:27).
Cheruiyot’s win means he is the first man to win Boston four times since Bill Rodgers did it in 1980. Tune’s victory promises, perhaps, the beginning of a similar stretch for the 22-year-old Ethiopian.
The BAA Boston Marathon is an IAAF Gold Label Road Race.
By 5K (15:40) Cheruiyot was already center stage, running in a red-and-white singlet and red shorts, in the front and middle of the pack. At 6-1 and 136 pounds with a strong loping stride, Cheruiyot commands respect just by sheer physical presence.
The pack was 17 at 10K (30:19) and Cheruiyot was accompanied by training partner Lawrence Saina, a late entry to the race. Abderrrahome Bouramdane of Morocco looked to be the only non-Kenyan or Ethiopian keeping the pace. Eleven miles was passed in 53:12 and the pack had been cut in half by that time as the pace quickened to 4:45 per mile, then the 12th mile was 4:41, with Cheruiyot still controlling the pack from the front.
The half was passed in course record pace (1:03:07), and the pack was down to six: Cheruiyot, Bouramdane, Tesafye Girma, Kasime Adillo, James Mwangi Macharia and last year’s runner-up James Kwambai. At 25K (1:14:44) Girma was off the back. A moment later, Macharia also lost contact, and it was down to four.
The pack shared water, then got back down to business, back to running a collective sub 2:06 pace. Near 18 miles the inevitable came when Cheruiyot kicked it into a gear no one else had. He strung out Bouramdane, Kwambai and Adillo in a matter of yards, and powered on ahead, eating up the hills with his long powerful strides. Cheruiyot passed 30K (1:29:32) 11 seconds up on Bouramdane and 13 seconds up on Kwambai.
By 20 miles (1:36:10) he was 22 seconds up on Bouramdane yet Cheruiyot made sure to take all his water at this point, knowing the race is not over on the hills but on the flat that comes after the hills and leads to the finish.
At 35K (1:45:01) Cheruiyot had 30 seconds on Bouramdane and 45 seconds on Adillo who had replaced Kwambai in third.
After that is was pure solo running, and the big Kenyan who has dominated Boston in his era came down Boylston all alone, slowed some to not break his course record, but waving four fingers - for his four wins - as he broke the tape. He then counted off 1,2,3,4 on his fingers to make sure his point got through.
“It was a tough race as always,” he said. “Boston is not an easy course. I tried to push because I wanted to run 2:07 [and get a course record].”
In second place (2:09:04) Bouramdane summed up his competitor this way: “He is very, very strong.”
Bouramdane’s effort means he will be on the Moroccan Olympic team. Cheruiyot, despite his win, has no such guarantee.
“Last year the federation promised they would select one athlete from here,” he said. “But I don’t know who they will select.”
Women’s contest decided in the final sprint
In the women’s race, a pack of 10 broke immediately from the start, headed by two-time New York City Marathon winner Jelena Prokopcuka, in sunglasses and white gloves.
The 5K mark was passed in 17:09 and then we could name them: Prokopcuka, Bruna Genovese, Rita Jeptoo, Magdaline Chemjor, defending champ Lidiya Grigoryeva, Askale Tafa Magarsa, Nuta Olaru, Dire Tune, Alevetine Biktimirova and Robe Tola Guta. The next women were so far behind you could not even see them.
At five miles (28:09), Genovese briefly went to the front before the young Ethiopian Guta started pressing the pace, and then the pace was taken over by Olaru. These miles were spent in a holding position, making sure to get fluids, and thinking about the hills to come.
By 10 miles (56:40), the Ethiopians in the pack had moved to the front, with Guta again at point. Near 12 miles Prokopcuka moved back to the front. The half was passed in a slow-ish 1:14:45, and you sensed that something had to give.
At 16 miles Prokupcuka began to fade and Biktimarova moved to the front, taking three runners with her: Jeptoo, Margasa and Tune. Biktimarova continued to grimace and push the pace, hit the hills hard, and the result was they lost Margasa. It was down to three, then two, as Jeptoo fell back.
“I was confident I could win the race,” said Biktimirova over her move. “I was thinking about victory. Why else take the lead?”
As they crested the hill Tune began to challenge Biktimirova by closing on her shoulder and occasionally running even, then she would drop back in behind. Finally, Tune, running with a high arm carriage, pulled even then inched ahead. Biktimarova’s head bowed with the effort and a few strides later she had regained the lead. Then Tune found something again and they were running side-by-side.
They stayed that way through the next miles, neither one getting an inch on the other. They ran 5:25 for the 25th mile in virtual lock step. Less than a mile out Biktimarova kicked it into another gear, sprinted, but Tune responded and the pace eased back again.
Turning onto Boylston Street with 600 metres to go, Tune gapped Biktimarova, but then the Russian responded and pulled even again. They stayed that way until 400 metres out when a final surge by Tune made the difference.
After the finish the Ethiopian kissed the ground and put her head in her hands. It was indeed a race for the record books.
“I am very happy to be winning in Boston,” said Tune. “I didn’t know I had won until I got to the finish line.”
For Biktimarova second place was bittersweet. “I wanted to win very badly,” she said. “I was fighting to the end but I didn’t have enough speed. Dire has better track credentials and it was easier for her to sprint in the end.”
This year prize money was up significantly in Boston. There was $796,000 total prize money with $150,000 going to the men’s and women’s winner.
Dave Kuehls for the IAAF
1. Robert Cheruiyot 2:07:46
2. Abderrahime Bouramdane 2:09:04
3. Khalid El Boumlili 2:10:35
4. Gashaw Asfaw 2:10:47
5. Kasime Adillo 2:12:24
6. Timothy Cherigat 2:14:13
7. Christopher Cheboiboch 2:14:47
8. James Kwambai 2:15:52
9. James Koskei 2:16:07
10. Nicholas Arciniaga 2:16:13
1. Dire Tune 2:25:25
2. Alevtina Biktimirova 2:25:27
3. Rita Jeptoo 2:26:34
4. Jelena Prokopcuka 2:28:12
5. Askale Tufa Magarsa 2:29:48
6. Bruno Genovese 2:30:52
7. Nuta Olaru 2:33:56
8. Robe Tola Guta 2:34:37
9. Lidiya Grogoryeva 2:35:37
10. Stephanie Hood 2:44:44