BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS, April 15—The men’s race in the 123rd Boston Marathon featured the unusual sight of no fewer than 8 contenders cresting Heartbreak Hill at 21M, setting up a mad dash to the finish with Kenyan Lawrence Cherono edging ahead of Ethiopian Lelisa Desisa in the final 30m to claim the laurel wreath in 2:07:57. Americans Scott Fauble and Jared Ward both cracked 2:10 and finished in the Top 10 to secure Olympic qualifying-time placings. The 27 year-old Fauble ran a 3+ minute PR 2:09:09 to finish 7th and Rio Olympian Ward took his all-time best down to 2:09:25 finishing a place later.
The race began with a new-for-Boston tradition of the elite men setting off 2:00 ahead of the mass start. Defending champ Yuki Kawauchi and fellow Japanese Hiroto Inoue led the pack through the downhill opening 5K in 15:11. The pace remained steady through 10K (30:20), but started to lag and in mile 9 Dathan Ritzenhein made his way to the front. Ritz had fallen back 50m into a second pack, but when the pace up front slowed he reeled in the lead group and kept rolling, leading the field across the 15K mats in 15:45 (46:05). After a 5:11 mile Ward took his turn at the front, building a 10m lead in Natick. The statistics teacher had done his pace math as he noted “I had a goal to run sub-2:10 for a long time and I didn’t want to throw away a few miles at 5:10.” BYU alum Ward lifted the pace with a 4:50 for mile 12, passing 20K in 1:01:14 and enjoying the moment. “That was so much fun to be leading through Wellesley and hear the screams out there,” he recounted. “That was a really, really cool experience.”
Crossing halfway in 64:27, Geoffrey Kirui took the lead with his training partner Philemon Rono at his side. Second here last year and the winner in ’17, Kirui trains with Patrick Sang and prepared for this race with WR holder Eliud Kipchoge. The tempo remained steady, passing 25K in 1:16:22 (2:08:53 pace), and crossing the Charles River at 16M a cumbersome pack of 14 headed into the Newton Hills. Surprisingly there were no attacks and little separation over the first two of the four hills with Fauble, who runs for Hoka Northern Arizona Elite, leading the way up the second climb and passing 30K in 1:31:59 with a 10m lead over a pack of 10. The ascent up the third hill pared off a few runners with Ward dropping from contention. No one was eager to push the pace up Heartbreak—the last of the famed Hills—and with a 5:07 for mile 21 the lead pack of 8 coalesced as they gathered themselves for the finishing stretch.
Dropping downhill into Cleveland Circle, Kirui took the lead with Desisa locking in on his shoulder, but a 4:47 mile did little to shake up the group. With less than 3M to go, Fauble again hit the front, this time to his own amazement. “They were playing a cat-and-mouse game,” he said, “so I went to the front and tried to wind it up in a way that I was comfortable doing and keep it constant. I just wanted to get into my top gear and grind.” Fauble, seemingly a head taller than his East African rivals, was awed by his position, saying, “I was leading the fricking Boston Marathon; it was a surreal experience to be leading a race I grew up watching on TV.”
The surreal gave way a couple of miles later when Kirui and Cherono teamed up for a 4:32 downhill mile 24 and the American fell off the pace. When Cherono punched a subsequent 4:39 on the flats, it was Kirui and Rono who were dispatched, with only Desisa and surprising Kenneth Kipkemboi keeping pace. Kipkemboi, 4th last year in Chicago in 2:05:57, had spotted the field 100m early in this race, noting, “My shoe was not feeling well so I had to fix it.”
Heading into the final mile Desisa—a two-time Boston champion running his sixth Patriot’s Day race—ran a stride behind his two Kenyan rivals making their Boston debuts. The Ethiopian admitted, “I was afraid of Kirui, but after he dropped off I decided to wait for the sprint.” Rounding the turn onto Boylston 600m from the finish Desisa unleashed his sprint and almost immediately dropped Kipkemboi. Cherono was not to be broken and he matched strides with Desisa block after block until his Ethiopian rival faltered 30m from the finish. The 30-year-old Cherono notched his sixth victory in his last eight marathons, and admitted, “I am poor at finishing but today I did a fantastic job.” He had set course records in his last two wins (Amsterdam & Honolulu) and relished the opportunity to win a World Marathon Majors race, concluding, “I am so grateful to be in Boston and win a race that the world is watching.”
BOSTON MARATHON MEN’S RESULTS
World Marathon Major; Hopkinton-to-Boston, April 15 (aided) (top-10 finish secures ’20 Olympic Q-standard time)—
1. Lawrence Cherono’ (Ken) 2:07:57 ($150,000) (1:04:29/1:03:28); 2. Lelisa Desisa’ (Eth) 2:07:59; 3. Kenneth Kipkemoi’ (Ken) 2:08:07; 4. Felix Kandie’ (Ken) 2:08:54; 5. Geoffrey Kirui’ (Ken) 2:08:55; 6. Philemon Rono’ (Ken) 2:08:57;
7. Scott Fauble (HokaNAz) 2:09:09 (aided AL);
8. Jared Ward (Sauc) 2:09:25; 9. Festus Talam’ (Ken) 2:09:25; 10. Benson Kipruto’ (Ken) 2:09:53; 11. Elkanah Kibet (ADP) 2:11:51; 12. Hiroto Inoue’ (Jpn) 2:11:53; 13. Augustus Maiyo (ADP) 2:12:40; 14. Daniel Mesfun’ (Eri) 2:13:05; 15. Shadrack Biwott (HansB) 2:13:11; 16. Mohamed El Aaraby’ (Mor) 2:13:46; 17. Yuki Kawauchi’ (Jpn) 2:15:29; 18. Hayato Sonoda’ (Jpn) 2:15:58; 19. Dathan Ritzenhein (HansB) 2:16:19; 20. Brendan Gregg (HansB) 2:16:46;
21. Matt McDonald (Ga) 2:16:58; 22. Enoch Nadler (FlTC) 2:17:06; 23. Scott Overall’ (GB) 2:17:37; 24. Masao Kizu’ (Jpn) 2:17:43; 25. Ben Payne (CoSpTC) 2:18:01; 26. Stephen Vangampleare (Co) 2:18:40; 27. Abdi Abdirahman (Nik) 2:18:56; 28. Hiroki Kai’ (Jpn) 2:19:31; 29. Riley Cook (Ut) 2:20:23; 30. Christopher Kipyego’ (Ken) 2:20:51;… 32. Jonathan Phillips (unat) 2:22:51; 33. Tommy Rivers Puzey (Altra) 2:23:06; 34. Peter Bromka (BowTC) 2:23:08; 35. Dan Vassallo (Ma) 2:23:15;… 42. Tim Ritchie (Sauc) 2:24:54;… dnf—Lemi Berhanu’ (Eth), Solomon Deksisa’ (Eth), Wesley Korir’ (Ken), Jeff Eggleston (adi), John Raneri (Az).