Evans Chebet and Hellen Obiri celebrate their Boston Marathon success (© Getty Images)
Evans Chebet successfully defended his title at the Boston Marathon and fellow Kenyan Hellen Obiri triumphed in the women’s race at the World Athletics Platinum Label road race on Monday (17).
The big sub-plot of the race, however, was the performance of Eliud Kipchoge, who headed to Boston in the hopes of taking one step closer to completing his set of World Marathon Majors victories but trailed home in sixth place in 2:09:23, the slowest time of his glittering career and more than three minutes behind the winner.
But the day belonged to Chebet and Obiri, both of whom dropped their final opponents in the last few minutes of the race, winning in 2:05:54 and 2:21:38 respectively. Chebet’s mark is the third-fastest winning time ever recorded in the men’s race in Boston and Obiri’s performance is the fourth-fastest women’s winning mark.
Kipchoge looked comfortable in the early stages and was part of a lead pack of 11 men that passed through 10km in 28:52 before reaching the half-way point in 1:02:19.
Chebet and Kipchoge were still together in the lead group through 30km, reached in 1:29:23, but the double Olympic champion and world record-holder started to lose contact with the leaders just a minute or two later, having missed picking up his bottle at a water station.
At 35km, with 1:44:19 on the clock, the lead pack was down to five men – Chebet, 2021 Boston winner Benson Kipruto, Tanzanian record-holder Gabriel Geay, Kenya’s John Korir and Ethiopia’s Andualem Belay. Kipchoge, meanwhile, was more than a minute behind the leaders and no longer in contention for a podium spot.
Evans Chebet wins the 2023 Boston Marathon (© Getty Images)
With three miles to go, and Korir and Belay no longer in the running, the race was down to three men: Geay, Chebet and Kipruto. They ran together as a trio for the best part of two miles before Geay’s challenge eventually faded, leaving the Kenyan duo out in front. Chebet then gradually pulled ahead of his compatriot and training partner Kipruto, going on to cross the finish line in 2:05:54.
Geay recovered enough to pass Kipruto in the closing stages, claiming the runner-up spot in 2:06:04, two seconds ahead of Kipruto. 2021 New York winner Albert Korir finished strongly to take fourth place in 2:08:01 and Morocco’s Zouhair Talbi was fifth (2:08:35). Kipchoge followed a further 48 seconds in arrears.
“I train with Benson; he’s my friend and like a brother to me,” said Chebet, who became the sixth man to win back-to-back Boston titles. “With one kilometre to go, I said to him, ‘let’s go’.”
Obiri wins in final mile thriller
Five months after making her marathon debut with a sixth-place finish in New York, two-time world 5000m champion Hellen Obiri triumphed in her second race over the classic distance.
In an incredibly close race that wasn’t decided until the final few minutes, Obiri disposed of one of the strongest women’s fields ever assembled for the Boston Marathon.
In contrast to the men’s race, the women’s contest started off at a cautiously steady pace and gradually picked up as the race went on. A large lead pack of more than 20 runners passed through 10km in 34:46, but they had been whittled down to 11 contenders by the half-way mark, reached in 1:11:29.
By this point, the lead pack still included Obiri, world marathon champion Gotytom Gebreslase, Ethiopian record-holder Amane Beriso, Amsterdam course record-holder Angela Tanui, 2020 Tokyo champion Lonah Salpeter, Eritrean record-holder Nazret Weldu and 2021 London champion Joyciline Jepkosgei.
Gebreslase and Weldu had fallen out of the pack with five miles to go, and the lead pack was reduced further to just six women at 23 miles: Obiri, Salpeter, Beriso, Jepkosgei, Ethiopia’s Ababel Yeshaneh and USA’s Emma Bates.
Jepkosgei and Bates started to fade in the last few miles, while Yeshaneh tripped and fell, only to rejoin the lead pack soon after. Salpeter was the next to fade, leaving just Obiri, Beriso and Yeshaneh to battle it out for the victory.
Hellen Obiri wins the 2023 Boston Marathon (© Getty Images)
With 2:17 on the clock, Obiri and Beriso had broken free from Yeshaneh. About 90 seconds later, Obiri embarked on a long drive for the finish line. With occasional glances over her shoulder, the Olympic silver medallist maintained a healthy gap ahead of Beriso and went on to finish in 2:21:38.
Beriso took second place in 2:21:50 and Salpeter overtook Yeshaneh in the closing stages to claim third place in 2:21:57, three seconds ahead of the Ethiopian. Bates was fifth in 2:22:10, making her the top US finisher in either of the races.
“I’m so happy,” said Obiri. “I was undecided about which marathon to do this year, but eventually I decided to do Boston. My coach (Dathen Ritzenhein) told me, ‘you have trained well, you’re ready to do Boston’. I’m very, very happy I chose to do it.”
1 Hellen Obiri (KEN) 2:21:38
2 Amane Beriso (ETH) 2:21:50
3 Lonah Salpeter (ISR) 2:21:57
4 Ababel Yeshaneh (ETH) 2:22:00
5 Emma Bates (USA) 2:22:10
6 Nazret Weldu (ERI) 2:23:25
7 Angela Tanui (KEN) 2:24:12
8 Hiwot Gebremaryam (ETH) 2:24:30
1 Evans Chebet (KEN) 2:05:54
2 Gabriel Geay (TAN) 2:06:04
3 Benson Kipruto (KEN) 2:06:06
4 Albert Korir (KEN) 2:08:01
5 Zouhair Talbi (MAR) 2:08:35
6 Eliud Kipchoge (KEN) 2:09:23
7 Scott Fauble (USA) 2:09:44
8 Hassan Chahdi (FRA) 2:09:46