Jeptoo breaks course record with third Boston victory

By sportsnewsarena correspondent
Apr 22, 2021
  • Rita Jeptoo crosses the finish line.

Kenya's Rita Jeptoo and Meb Keflezighi made Boston Marathon history on Monday as Jeptoo won her third Boston in course-record time and Keflezighi broke a 31-year drought, becoming the first US man to win in Boston since 1983.

The IAAF Gold Label Road Race celebrated its 118th running from the outlying town of Hopkinton to Boston’s Copley Square.

It was an emotional day in Boston, with runners from the front of the pack to the back wishing to reclaim the marathon as a celebration and a competition after the events of 2013.

They were aided by superb weather and crowds among the largest in recent memory lining the course.

Fast treble for Jeptoo

Jeptoo’s victory, while not as surprising, was just as momentous but for different reasons.

The 33-year-old Kenyan became the fastest woman in Boston history and the first to run sub-2:20 there.

The defending champion and 2006 winner, Jeptoo came to the start line in Hopkinton with more experience than any of the elite entrants, and in winning put herself among a short list of three-time champions.

Jeptoo is the first woman to win three Boston Marathons since Catherine Ndereba took her third in 2004.

Only Ndereba, with a fourth win in 2005, has more victories in Boston.

Following an aggressive early pace set by hometown favourite Shalane Flanagan, the pack came through halfway in 1:09:28, already on pace to run about 2:19.

Jeptoo took control with a series of blistering mile splits coming down through Brookline to the finish, including an almost-unbelievable 4:47 for the 24th mile.

Alone by then, Jeptoo was chasing only Margaret Okayo’s course record of 2:20:43 from 2002, and it was almost a foregone conclusion.

Jeptoo crossed the finish line in 2:18:57, taking her to fifth on the world all-time list. In the end the top four women ran faster than the previous record: Buzunesh Deba, twice second in New York City, was second again here with a PB of 2:19:59, and Mare Dibaba was third in 2:20:35, while Jemima Jelagat Sumgong was fourth in 2:20:41.

“I was not expecting to run fast like today, but I’m happy,” said Jeptoo.

“I was surprised because the race was like on fire! I managed to think of all my training. Last year you saw nobody pushing because they’re looking for me, and everybody follows me. But today I pushed all day.”

Jeptoo will add an additional $25,000(about Ksh.2.1) for the course record.

Flanagan trailed in seventh in 2:22:02, the fastest-ever US time on the Boston course.

Former champions Sharon Cherop (eighth, 2:23:00) and Caroline Kilel (17th, 2:32:04) were ultimately non-factors.

Keflezighi escapes

It was an emotional race for Keflezighi, who started planning within days of the 2013 race. He leapt out to the front of the race early and was always visible among the leaders.

He and Josphat Boit, a Kenyan-born American who, like Keflezighi, trains in Mammoth Lakes, California, opened a gap on the rest of the field by the 5km mark, and while Boit eventually faded (he finished 11th in 2:12:52) Keflezighi did not.

His finish time of 2:08:37 was a PB by 31 seconds. Still, with only a 2:09:08 PB, Keflezighi’s move to the front wasn’t taken seriously by the rest of the pack, and top names like defending champion Lelisa Desisa and Chicago Marathon champion Dennis Kimetto stayed off the lead.

When they finally gave chase, it was too late, although only barely so. Wilson Chebet closed to within six seconds before finally settling for a 2:08:48 runner-up finish, with Frankline Chepkwony on his shoulder at 2:08:50 as neither Desisa nor Kimetto finished.