Boston Marathon Women — Defender Obiri Unstoppable

Having left her closest pursuer 12 seconds behind in a repeat win, Hellen Obiri earned the right to stop her watch at the line. (KEVIN MORRIS)

HOKINTON-TO-BOSTON, April 15 — It took almost two hours for the women’s race at the 128th Boston Marathon to actually become a race, but the extended — and largely uneventful — prelude ultimately set the stage for a thrilling finish. Over the final 4 miles Hellen Obiri gradually thinned out the pack with a withering pace and cruised home to defend her title. With this decisive victory, her third straight in a World Marathon Majors race, Obiri is surely now at the top of Athletics Kenya’s selection list for the Paris Olympics.

It was a dramatic end to a day that started unremarkably. Under pleasant conditions (sunny and 56F/13C at the start), a crowded pack covered the first 5K in 16:36 but then progressively let the pace lag. The leaders came through 10K in 33:27 (16:51 split), then continued to back off, reaching 15K in 50:58 (17:31) and 20K in 1:08:42 (17:44). At halfway (1:12:33), there were 20 women running together easily, spread out across the road.

There was little change from there, and at 20 miles the lead group still numbered 15. The 21st mile was covered in an unspectacular 5:47. Finally, Obiri decided to start shaking the race up with a 5:17 for the next mile. This was just her fourth marathon but having won the previous two (Boston and NYC last year), she admitted that her confidence has grown. “This year my training was perfect, and I trusted everything we were doing,” she said of her work in Boulder, Colorado, under the guidance of Dathan Ritzenhein, which combined long runs and speed work. “I knew there would be strong runners [in the race]. I tried to do everything in training, and the training was even better than last year.”

A dozen women remained in contention but American Emma Bates, coming back from an injury that forced her to miss February’s Olympic Trials, started to lose contact. Earlier, she had taken turns at the front of the pack and even high-fived fans as they went through the so-called “scream tunnel” in Wellesley.

The tempo only got hotter from there. A 4:57 split for the 23rd mile whittled the pack down to five: Obiri and fellow Kenyans Sharon Lokedi and Edna Kiplagat, plus Ethiopians Workenesh Edesa (winner of January’s Osaka Marathon in 2:18:51) and Buze Diriba. The next mile, largely downhill, was covered in an eye-popping 4:41, with the Kenyan trio now clear of their rivals.

The 44-year-old Kiplagat, winner of this race in 2017 and ‘21, could no longer sustain the speed and it was quickly down to a two-woman duel. Obiri continued to hammer the pace and drifted so close to Lokedi, on her right, that they appeared to bump elbows several times. Lokedi eventually swerved to Obiri’s other side for more room to run. They covered the 5K segment from 35K to 40K in a blazing 15:06. “I didn’t know it was fast,” Obiri admitted. “When you see your watch and see it’s that fast, you can say, ‘I’m tired.’”

Moments later Obiri finally broke free. Even with her unorthodox, exaggerated arm-pumping, she looked as fast and fresh as she did in her days as a world champion and Olympic medalist on the track, sprinting down Boylston Street. “I tried to push the best I could, and I said [to myself], ‘the Kenyan people are watching’ and they know that if I can win here, it’s automatic into the Olympics. So I was fighting for the Olympics.”

She crossed the line in 2:22:37 to become the first repeat women’s champion in Boston since Catherine Ndereba won in 2004 and ‘05. Lokedi was 8 seconds back in 2:22:45, continuing her emergence as a big-race performer after winning NYC in 2022 and placing 3rd there last fall. “The competition was very tough, but it was fun to compete with everyone,” she said of her Boston debut.

Kiplagat held her form for the final podium spot in 2:23:21. Diriba and fellow Ethiopian Senbere Teferi finished 4th and 5th, both clocking 2:24:04.

Bates (2:27:14) was the first American in 12th overall. “I’m proud of finishing, I’m proud of being at the start line, I’m proud of pushing myself and the efforts that I put into it,” said Bates, who finished 5th here a year ago, but saw her Olympic hopes evaporate after tearing a plantar fascia at Chicago in October.

The other top Americans were Sara Hall (2:27:58) in 15th, on her 41st birthday, and ‘18 champ Des Linden (2:28:27) in 16th at age 40. Former 1500 star Jenny Simpson placed 18th in 2:31:39, finishing her first 26.2-miler after a DNF at the Olympic Trials.

Obiri picked up a $150,000 paycheck for the win. As for Olympic selection, she will have to wait for the Kenyan selectors to make their final decision. But she feels confident that Boston has made the case for a pair of slots. “The Paris course is a tough course,” she said. “It’s even tougher than Boston. If we have Sharon as my teammate in Paris, we will have a fantastic women’s race.”


1. Hellen Obiri (Ken) 2:22:37 (1:13:33/1:10:04) ($150,000); 2. Sharon Lokedi (Ken) 2:22:45 PR; 3. Edna Kiplagat (Ken) 2:23:21; 4. Buze Diriba (Eth) 2:24:04;

5. Senbere Teferi (Eth) 2:24:04; 6. Mary Ngugi (Ken) 2:24:24; 7. Workenesh Edesa (Eth) 2:24:47; 8. Fatima Ezzahra Gardadi (Mor) 2:24:53; 9. Tiruye Mesfin (Eth) 2:24:58; 10. Dera Dida (Eth) 2:25:16; 11. Siranesh Yirga (Eth) 2:26:31;

12. Emma Bates (US) 2:27:14; 13. Vivian Chepkurui (Ken) 2:27:23; 14. Helah Kiprop (Ken) 2:27:36; 15. Sara Hall (US) 2:27:58; 16. Desiree Linden (US) 2:28:27