Women's Race

Des Linden Earns an American Victory at 122 nd Boston Marathon

By Barbara Huebner

In 2007, Des Linden made her 26.2-mile debut at the Boston Marathon. In 2008, she competed in her first U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials here, certain that she would make the team; an infuriating late-race fade sealed her determination to master the distance. In 2011, she briefly led down Boylston Street, coming within an agonizing two seconds of becoming the first American woman to win the Boston Marathon since 1985.

Boston is to Des Linden what oxygen is to the rest of us: It keeps her alive.

And now it has entered her into the ledger of its 122-year history not only as a champion but as the first American woman to win here in 33 years, since Lisa Larsen-Weidenbach in 1985.

“It means everything,” she said. “This race is a marathon. It’s not a 26.2-mile road race; it’s where marathoners come to do their stuff. To win on this course and to have it be significant for American marathoning means everything.”

Linden’s winning time of 2:39:54 – the slowest in 40 years – reflected the conditions: 38 degrees Fahrenheit at the start, with fierce rain squalls all morning, making for some of the worst conditions in race history.

“It was brutal,” said the two-time Olympian.

It also led to results as topsy-turvy as the flailing umbrellas along the course. Finishing second was Sarah Sellers, 26, a full-time nurse anesthetist from Tucson, Ariz., while Krista Duchene, a 41-year- old mother of three and Canadian Olympian, was third overall and top masters. Among the superstars they vanquished were defending champion and two-time World Champion Edna Kiplagat, who finished eighth.

The early miles of the race played out as expected, with the top contenders crawling in a tight pack as they fought the elements and going through 5K in 19:18 – compared to 17:44 last year. Ethiopians Aselefech Mergia, Mamitu Daska and Buzunesh Deba, the course record-holder, all threw in a few surges and didn’t seem to mind leading or running to the side, apart from the pack, but none got away until Shalane Flanagan needed a porta-potty stop just past mile 12.

Flash back to a conversation at the 10K point: Linden confessed to Flanagan that she was feeling horrible and would probably drop out, offering to block the wind for Flanagan until calling it a day. When Flanagan veered off the course, the pack shattered and Daska took off. At first, Linden slowed to wait for Flanagan, but when she saw Daska’s break she decided to first help American Molly Huddle catch up before slowing again to escort Flanagan back to the pack.

“By then I was in third or fourth and I couldn’t drop out,” said Linden, prompting laughter at the post-race press conference.

The 36-year- old Flanagan, who grew up in nearby Marblehead, MA and last fall became the first American woman to win the New York City Marathon in 40 years, had said before the race that this would be her last Boston Marathon. After finishing seventh she seemed to waver, unsure if she wanted to go out after a race in which she was so delirious from the cold that at one point she thought she might be in the lead despite being well back.

She was sure, however, about Linden’s sportsmanship.

“I’m really happy for Des,” she said. “She just seemed like she was going to be the sacrificial lamb, doing whatever she could to help … then I just saw her keep going. I think that momentum of just helping someone else, not investing so much in how she’s feeling maybe gave her that little lift she needed.”

Daska, meanwhile, was apparently confident coming off an impressive third-place finish last fall in the TCS New York City Marathon. Although she was reeled in and part of a pack of nine women who went through the halfway mark in 1:19:41, the Ethiopian surged again, defying the headwind, and led by almost 30 seconds by Mile 14. Coming into Newton Lower Falls, Linden, Kiplagat and Kenyan Gladys Chesir began to chase, slowly reeling her in; by Mile 21, Daska was looking confused after struggling with the simple task of taking off her gloves and pushing up her sleeves and was caught first by Chesir and then by Linden. Head held high and arms pumping, Linden churned inexorably toward Boylston to chants of USA, USA!

“This is storybook stuff,” she said later. “I got into the sport because of the Boston Marathon.”

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Men's Race

Yuki Kawauchi Comes From Behind to Win Boston Marathon

By James O’Brien

Japan’s Yuki Kawauchi won the men’s race at the 122nd Boston Marathon in such dramatic fashion that it will surely be recalled alongside such epics as the Duel in the Sun of 1982 and the Johnny Kelley/Ellison Brown battle of 1936. A customarily deep field ensured that the mano a mano competition would always be the focus of the day; but, with conditions ranging from consistently heavy rain to a veritable monsoon, it was undeniable that the weather was enormously significant in the outcome.

Even Kawauchi assented. “I think the conditions were instrumental in pulling off this victory,” he stated after crossing the Boylston Street finish line in a time of 2:15:58, the slowest winning time since 1976 (when it was blazing hot), but still almost two and a half minutes up on second placed Geoffrey Kirui, the defending champion (2:18:23) and a further twelve seconds ahead of third placed Shadrack Biwott (2:18:35).

The race may have been slow, but the manner of Kawauchi’s victory was enthralling. As he conceded, “I bet there’s not a single person in Boston who thought that I would win today.” Saliently, he added, “But, in the marathon anything can happen.”

It wasn’t just the fact of the upset, it was the manner in which the win was earned. Always in Boston, a runner bolts off the finish line, into a sizeable lead, only to fade and never be seen again. Kawauchi was that runner this year, defying the torrential rain and blustery winds and blasting through the first mile in 4:37 with a 13 second lead over a pack of 25 runners that included Kirui (KEN), 2016 winner Lemi Berhanu (ETH), 2013 and 2015 winner Lelisa Desisa (ETH) and 2017 Chicago champ (and Boston second placer) Galen Rupp. One mile later (9:30), the gap was down to eight seconds, and the inevitable seemed about to happen. Except that it didn’t.

The miles rolled by and gradually others joined Kawauchi. Felix Kandie was the aggressor as the group pushed through 10 miles in 49:51, with the rain coming down in torrents. Still, the leaders appeared unfazed.

The first move of consequence came just past 16 miles. Kawauchi had been biding his time among the lead pack. As the severe climb over Route 128 rose before him, Kawauchi surged to the forefront, opening an immediate five meter lead and inflicting the first significant damage on this field. 

“I just wanted to take it out at an honest pace so I could get rid of some people,” commented Kawauchi, who contested 12 marathons in 2017, plus a bitterly cold New Year’s Day marathon in Marshfield, MA in freezing temperatures. 

Among the casualties at this stage was Rupp, who lost an immediate 15 meters and progressively fell from the fray. Not so for Kirui; the defending champ appeared poised, composed and comfortable, covering the move and surging back alongside Kawauchi together with a handful of others.

Almost immediately after the famed Newton Firehouse turn, the defending champion in Kirui surged into the lead, taking the right turn like a sprinter. To mile 18, Kirui clocked a 5:02 mile. Then came a 4:51; then a 5:03, and there was nobody in sight. Wilson Chebet was engaged in a silver medal tussle with Berhanu and, remarkably, Kawauchi; but, for all intents and purposes, the victor had been decided.

The subtleties told a different story. Having forged a seemingly insurmountable lead, Kirui repeatedly looked over his shoulder. His form looked immaculate, but the strain of battling the severe headwinds was evident on his face. With every meter precious at this stage, he failed to run the tangents. And, at a time when focus was key, he lost precious time going out of his way to seek water from the roadside tables. On their own, the signs meant little. Together, they told a tale.

Ninety seconds down, Kawauchi could have seen none of this; but, with three kilometers remaining, he must have sensed the sea change.  “I told myself to just keep going forward, forward, forward,” he explained. “To run my own race and keep going.”

At 40K, the man who had led through the first mile assumed that position again. Kirui, having had the laurel wreath within his grasp, clocked a 6:29 split to mile 25, a depth from which there was no returning. As the defending champion struggled to keep going, Kawauchi surged past and on to a glorious win, the first by a Japanese since Tosihiko Seko in 1987 - the year Kawauchi was born. 

Shadrack Biwott was the top American in third, timing 2:18:35. “Man, it was a tough one,” said Biwott. “During the race I kept reminding myself to relax. It was a struggle to find all breaks… Even on a tough race, I just relax and run my race and don’t panic.”

In the master’s division, four-time Olympian Abdi Abdirahman (Tucson, AZ) dominated the competition, taking the $10,000 first place prize with a 2:28:18.