Boston Marathon Women — Kipyokei Leads Kenyan Sweep

Diana Kipyokei was the winner as Kenyans crossed the line 1-2-3-4. (ANDREW McCLANAHAN/PHOTO RUN)

HOPKINTON-TO-BOSTON, October 11 — Unlike the men on the road to Boston, the women’s field brought with it a sense of pace and racing strategy. Just what you might expect on this mild October morning, more than two years removed from the traditional Patriot’s Day race staged on the third Monday in April.

The crowded C19-era marathon racing schedule has certainly juggled runners’ plans to peak when it counts most. No recordsetting pace on the road to Boston this year, just some highly competitive racing from two dozen or so of the elite.

Leading a strong display of Kenyan depth, sweeping the top 4 places, a Boston first, 27-year-old Diana Kipyokei (listed in some past competitions as Kipyogei) backed up men’s winner Benson Kipruto with a solid victory in 2:24:45. Kipyokei, running in only her third marathon and first WMM effort, made her first break from the field around 18M, before reaching 30K. At that point Ethiopia’s Netsanet Gudeta also switched gears to provide Kipyokei some challenge. The pack followed by about 30 seconds at 35K as the lead duo headed into Brookline over the final 8K.

“For me, I saw the group was slowing down and I said to myself, ‘Let me go,’” said Kipyokei, who owns a PR of 2:22:06. She still had to withstand the charge from Gudeta, who challenged as long as possible. By 40K, Kipyokei had extended her lead to 27 seconds over the eventual runner-up, 41-year-old Kenyan Edna Kiplagat (2:25:09). Kiplagat’s strong showing bettered the race’s Masters Record of 2:27:58 held by Firaya Sultanova-Zhdanova of Russia from ’02.

The late-race challenge experienced by Kipyokei just made her more determined. “‘You know,’” I said, ‘the body was good,’ and then I said, ‘Let me try and push.’ The course was not easy. It was steep in the hills, but I did it.” On deciding to run her first Boston she added, “I just decided to come and try my luck this year. That’s just about all I can say.”

Kiplagat continued to bring a storied running career to the marathon following more than two decades at the top of the leaderboard. She won silver and bronze track medals in the World Juniors, is a 2-time world champion in the marathon and was triumphant at Boston in ’17 (2:21:52).

Her legacy continues to mount. At nearly 42 she continues to maintain an elite position in the sport. “This is a big blessing for me,” said, the mother of five who works as a policewoman. “I know I’ve been in the sport for so long and I’m grateful for the support my family has been giving me.

“I’ve been very disciplined; I’ve been focused all the time when I’m preparing for a race, or marathon or championship race. I have a code of what to do. I have been so focused and maintaining my discipline all the time.”

Mary Ngugi finished 3rd (2:25:20) just 11 seconds behind Kiplagat and 12 seconds in front of fourth Kenyan Monicah Wanjuhi (2:25:32 in her marathon debut). The breakaway on the Newton Hills seemed to be at the right time for Ngugi, the runner-up at the ’14 World Half-Marathon. “We were a big group until just before there was a hill, and that’s why the group broke and some dropped. And that’s why I decided this is the time for me to follow the guys in front. I think it was a good idea because we finished earlier.”

This was a dominant day for the Kenyan women, placing 7 runners in the top 15. “For me it feels great to be here and present my flag, to keep the dominance going on,” said Ngugi. “To be involved in that and be part of that, it’s an amazing thing for me. And it feels great because we are giving hope to the girls back at home in the village who maybe think they don’t have a future. They see us up there and they know we can be something, we can be like them and we can continue the dominance if we keep working. So it means a lot.”

The first American across the line was USATF 10-mile champ Nell Rojas in 6th, claiming a PR 2:27:12.

1. Diana Kipyokei (Ken) 2:24:45
2. Edna Kiplagat (Ken) 2:25:09
3. Mary Ngugi (Ken) 2:25:20
4. Monicah Wanjuhi (Ken) 2:25:32 (debut)
5. Netsanet Gudeta (Eth) 2:26:09
6. Nell Rojas (US) 2:27:12 PR
7. Workenesh Edesa (Eth) 2:27:38
8. Atsede Baysa (Eth) 2:28:04
9. Biruktayit Eshetu (Eth) 2:29:05
10. Tigist Abayechew (Eth) 2:29:06