Boston Marathon Men — Lemma’s Audacious Pace Pays

Admittedly suffering in the hills after going out in 1:00:19, Lemma Sisay might have wanted a cold beverage but he had a race to win. (VICTOR SAILER/PHOTO RUN)

HOKINTON-TO-BOSTON, April 15 — Sisay Lemma’s torrid streak of fast running continued on the streets of Boston as he moved to the front at 8K and ran far away from the field to break the tape on Boylston Street in 2:06:17.

With his win most likely securing a spot on the Ethiopian Olympic marathon squad, Lemma exclaimed “I am so happy to win Boston,” then with a big laugh added, “I even set my personal best in the half-marathon, so I’m feeling very good.”

Ethiopian Huseyidin Mohamed (AKA Mohamed Esa) finished 2nd in 2:06:58 with two-time defending champion Evans Chebet crossing 3rd in 2:07:22. CJ Albertson, the U.S. Olympic Trials 5th-placer, was the first American, finishing 7th in a PR 2:09:53.

These finishing times offer no measure of Lemma’s utter dominance of this race as his lead grew to 2:49 at 30K and he ran the final 18 miles with virtually no other runner in sight.

Last December, the 33-year-old Lemma became the fourth man in history to better 2:02 running 2:01:48 to break Kelvin Kiptum’s year-old Valencia course record. In that race Lemma also pushed a high early pace, then covered moves by Kibiwott Kandie and Dawit Wolde before breaking away at 37K.

No such patience was evident in this Patriots’ Day rout and Lemma admitted, “When I came here my plan was to run under 2:02 and challenge the course record. I was confident when we started. Since there was no pace-setter, I decided that I wanted to start fast.”

Lemma got a pace bump from Japan’s Yuma Morii who ran 2:40 for the free-fall opening kilometer. The lead pack of a dozen runners soon sped past Morii, splitting 14:21 at 5K with Lemma’s frontrunning matched by last year’s top two finishers Chebet and Gabriel Geay.

At 7K, Lemma forged a 20m lead, and then he was gone, pounding out 2:50 kilometers (4:34 miles) to cross 10K in 28:28 (2:00:07 pace) with a 25-second lead.

Locked on 2:51K pace, Lemma passed 15K in 42:43 with an 81-second lead, that would grow to 99 seconds at 20K (57:13) and 109 seconds at halfway (60:19). Although Lemma contests few half-marathons, it was indeed a midrace PR, admittedly downhill but sans a tailwind as the flags along the course lay still.

“With no one following me, I could set the pace of my run,” Lemma said. “I was running very hard and very good and I knew I was fast at the half-marathon when I looked at my watch and saw it was faster than Valencia.”

So fast that even Lemma’s coach, Gemedu Dedefo, admitted, “it was such a crazy pace and probably not the best way to challenge the course record.”

Lemma soon found that out, slowing to over 3:00 Ks as he entered the Newton Hills: “After the halfway mark it was getting harder and harder to run.”

While slowing, Lemma was steady through the hills and his lead grew to almost a kilometer when he passed 30K in 1:26:56 — 2:02:16 pace and well inside Geoffrey Mutai’s 2:03:02 course record.

Just when it looked like Lemma and his training partner, Tamirat Tola, might take down both Mutai’s venerable New York and Boston records within six months, Sisay’s glutes started barking at him on the downhills.

“The running was very hard and painful on the downhills,” Lemma said, “I could not push and had to manage my way to the finish.”

Mutai’s course record was safe, and with such a big lead, Lemma was able to coast home for a redemptive victory after three previous Boston whiffs — 30th in 2019, and DNFs in 2017 and 2022.

“When I tried the first three times it was very hard,” he acknowledged, “But I said I was going to redeem myself. I started very fast, ran very hard and so I was able to win.”

This was Lemma’s second WMM title after taking the 2021 London race.

Chebet’s bid for a three-peat was scuttled by a spring Achilles injury that compromised his training. “I knew I was not as fit as the past two years, so I was very happy to make the podium.”

His Olympic fate is now in the hand of the Kenyan selectors and he said, “I hope that I have the opportunity for Paris.”


1. Sisay Lemma (Eth) 2:06:17 (1:00:19/1:05:58 ($150,000); 2. Huseyidin Mohamed (Eth) 2:06:58; 3. Evans Chebet (Ken) 2:07:22; 4. John Korir (Ken) 2:07:40; 5. Albert Korir (Ken) 2:07:47;

6. Isaac Mpofu (Zim) 2:08:17; 7. C.J. Albertson (US) 2:09:53; 8. Yuma Morii (Jpn) 2:09:59; 9. Cybrian Kotut (Ken) 2:10:29; 10. Zouhair Talbi (Mor) 2:10:45; 11. Shura Kitata (Eth) 2:10:52; 12. Sondre Moen (Nor) 2:11:18;

13. Suguru Osako (Jpn) 2:11:44; 14. Elkanah Kibet (Ken) 2:12:32; 15. Ryan Eiler (US) 2:14:22;… 18. Patrick Smyth (US) 2:15:45; 19. Grant O’Connor (US) 2:16:17.