at the races Take Aways from the Boston Marathon: the Good, the Bad, the Ugly

Take Aways from the Boston Marathon: the Good, the Bad, the Ugly

2023 Boston Marathon Weekend Boston, Ma   April 15-17, 2023 Photo: Errol Anderson@PhotoRun 631-291-3409 www.photorun.NET #victahsailer

I am not sure the Boston Marathon has ever been so highly anticipated.

Eliud Kipchoge made his first appearance on New England roads. Hellen Obiri, pictured, looked to bounce back from her somewhat disappointing debut in New York last fall. Defending champions Evan Chebet and Benson Kipruto looked to upset the GOAT. And the American women looked to challenge for the women’s crown. These were by far the deepest fields in Boston Marathon history.

For those who don’t know: the Boston Marathon begins in Hopkinton, MA, about 42.2km outside of downtown Boston. Starting mostly downhill, it weaves through the relaxed New England suburbs. When reaching the Town of Newton, things typically get more difficult, as runners are faced with four hills, each more daunting than the last. The final hill, named Heartbreak Hill, tops out at about 32K into the race, leaving competitors 10K to go to Boylston Street.

Although those 10K are downhill, it feels like a long way to go.

Men’s Race

Eliud Kipchoge, the greatest marathoner of all-time, got a real Boston Marathon welcome this Patriot’s Day. Not only was it cool, but it also was damp and rainy. If one thinks back to the last time Kipchoge raced in the rain—the London Marathon in 2020—they’d remember that that was the last time he lost a race as he had a bit of an ear infection.

Kipchoge looked great…until he didn’t. Opening his first 5K in an “easy” 14:12, Kipchoge stretched the field. Although some athletes surged, Kipchoge looked to be in control, with the others keying off of him. As the race drew on he started to look slightly annoyed, mostly because his heels kept getting clipped and no one would share the work into the headwind. Part way through the Newton Hills, Kipchoge had whittled the group down to six or seven others, but was slightly knocked off stride by 2022 Tartan Ottawa Marathon winner Andualem Belay, causing him to miss his bottle.

Almost instantly, Kipchoge was dropped by a surge from Gabriel Geay. At some point, Kipchoge even stopped on the side of the course. However, too proud to drop out, he battled on to a sixth place finish. Meanwhile, Evans Chebet (last year’s winner), Benson Kipruto (also a previous winner and a former winner of the TSC Toronto Waterfront Marathon), and Geay surged ahead. With about one mile to go, as the Citgo signed appeared from the fog, Chebet launched the race winning move, and Geay had to out sprint Chebet for second place. 

Women’s Race

Unlike the men’s race, the women’s race was wide open, but it also went more to script.

Because of the hills in Boston, usually races go out slower—and the women went out slow. They went through their first mile in 6:06 (3:48/km pace) and through 5K in 17:48. Soon, the big guns came out and a surge by Amane Beriso, who spotted the fastest personal best entering the race. Predictably, this shrunk the pack from thirty athletes to eight, including American Emma Bates.

By half way, the lead group went from being on 2:35 pace to 2:22 pace. Although the lead group did swell, Emma Bates was the one putting on the pressure, including leading the pack through most of the Newton Hills. Behind, there looked to be some animosity and clipping of heels. What opened up the race was Ethiopian Ababel Yeshaneh clipping Hellen Obiri, leading to her falling on the pavement with about six kileomtres to go. From here, more pressure was applied and, at one mile to go, Hellen Obiri used her great 5K and 10K prowess to kick away from her competitors, winning in a time of 2:21:37.

Ethiopia’s Amane Beriso and Isreal’s Lonah Salpeter rounded out the podium.

Here are my five take aways:

  1. Kipchoge is still the GOAT

Although he may not like the rain, Eliud Kipchoge is not done. He will be back. (Likely in New York in the fall). We will likely never, ever, ever, ever see another marathoner like him. In eighteen marathons, he has won fifteen—including two Olympic gold medals—and is the only human to ever break two hours. He may be down, but we would be foolish to count him out.

  1. Emma Bates 

What a run by Emma Bates. For a while, I was thinking she had a shot to win the race. Ultimately, the tumble with 5K to go by her competitor likely jolted some extra pace and panache into the group, otherwise it may have been closer at the line. She is certainly one to watch for the US Olympic trials, which will happen next February in Orlando. Bates came into the race saying she was in 2:18 shape on a fast course—and she showed it.

  1. Hellen Obiri—GOAT?

She is certainly one of the greatest distance runners of all-time, but will the Boston Marathon title cement her legacy as THE greatest? I suppose only time will tell. This was only her second marathon after a poor showing in New York in the fall. From what I heard, she wanted to run a fast course; her coach wanted her to run Boston. Being a great cross country runner, Obiri was ideal for Boston and showed it. She will probably run a fast marathon in the fall—then set up as a favourite in Paris for the Olympics. 

  1. Wheelchair races are great

We had two spectacular results in the wheelchair races. In the men’s, Marcel Hug, the silver bullet, won yet another Boston title, breaking his own course record and pocketing a nice $50,000 for doing so. On the women’s side, Susannah Scaroni took home her first ever title and even needed to stop at the side of the road to fix a mechanical problem with her chair.

  1. Boston vibes are (mostly) immaculate

I told Guelph’s coach, Terry Radchenko earlier in the week that the Boston Marathon weekend is the mecca of running. Just walking through the city during the weekend is enough to give one chills. Not only does the marathon feature, but so do the BAA 5K and the BAA Mile (P.S. we had some great Canadian results there this year), but the weekend just represents the coming together of the running world. If you have never been, I recommend making the trip, even if you’re not racing the marathon.

However, all was not good and this needs to be said: Although I said the Boston Marathon had immaculate vibes, a video circled after the race of police specifically barring a section of Black fans from enjoying the event and cheering their friends, family and others.

Running is for everyone. Running should be a truly democratic experience. The Boston Police appeared to have systematically denied this group of black spectators from enjoying this experience—actions which must be addressed by the police department and the BAA to ensure nothing like this ever happens again. Unfortunately, discriminatory events like these happen far too often. Boston is the mecca of running. But it’s still part of the world.

A world that desperately, quickly, needs to change.

Stephen Andersen is a World Athletics authorized athlete representative, representing Canada’s best track and field athletes. He is also a law student and cross country athlete at the University of New Brunswick. Stephen is from Burlington, ON. You can find him on Instagram @andersen_runs or Twitter @AndersenRuns.