Report15 Apr 2024

Lemma gains redemption while Obiri retains title in Boston


Sisay Lemma wins the Boston Marathon (© Getty Images)

Ethiopia’s Sisay Lemma and Kenya’s Hellen Obiri were victorious at the Boston Marathon on Monday (15), winning the World Athletics Platinum Label road race in 2:06:17 and 2:22:37 respectively.

For Lemma, it was a race of redemption, following two previous outings in the US city that ended in disappointment. His winning time is the fourth fastest in Boston history.

Obiri, meanwhile, successfully defended her title, notching up her third victory in a row in a World Marathon Majors race and leading a Kenyan sweep of the podium.

The two races played out in contrasting fashion; Lemma made an early break in the men’s race and built up a huge lead, eventually winning by 41 seconds. Conversely, in the women’s contest, the real racing began only in the final few miles with Obiri eventually finishing just eight seconds ahead of fellow Kenyan Sharon Lokedi.

Ten men passed through the first 5km in 14:21, but that still wasn’t quite swift enough for Lemma, who increased his pace and started to pull away from the pack. He reached 10km in 28:28, by which point he already had a 25-second margin over an eight-man chase pack that included Evans Chebet and Gabriel Geay – the top two finishers from last year.

Over the course of the next five kilometres, Lemma had added almost a minute to his lead, reaching 15km in 42:43, 81 seconds ahead of his pursuers.

He reached the half way point in 1:00:19 – the fastest ever half-way split recorded in Boston – by which point the chase pack was down to five men: Chebet, Albert Korir, Cybrian Kotut, John Korir and Haftu Teklu.

By the time Lemma reached 20 miles (1:33:48), he had increased his lead to two minutes and 49 seconds and was still just about on schedule to break Geoffrey Mutai’s course record of 2:03:02 from 2011. But he had some of the toughest parts of the course to contend with.

He slogged his way up Heartbreak Hill in 5:28 but his lead was starting to reduce as Chebet, John Korir, Albert Korir and Mohamed Esa ran together up the steepest section of the race.

From that point onwards, the chasers continued to reduce Lemma’s leading margin. With two miles to go, though, Lemma still had a 90-second cushion over Chebet and John Korir, who were running side by side, both looking set to claim the other podium places.

Despite his pace continuing to slip, Lemma’s lead proved too much for his opponents and he went on to cross the line in 2:06:17. The was some excitement further back, though, as the strong-finishing Esa went from fifth at 23 miles to second by the finish line, claiming the runner-up spot in 2:06:58.

Chebet, the defending champion, this time finished third in 2:07:22 - his fourth consecutive podium finish in a marathon major.

“I previously didn’t finish in this race, so I wanted redemption for that, that’s why I came,” said Lemma, who last year moved to fourth on the world all-time list with his 2:01:48 victory in Valencia. “Thankfully I was able to redeem myself, so I’m happy. My plan was to break the course record, but the hills at the end made me really tired.

“The reason I raced in Boston is because the course is similar to the Olympic one, so hopefully this will be good preparation for the Paris Games.”

In stark contrast to the men’s race, a pack of about 20 women ran together for most of the first half. They went through 10km in 33:27 and reached the half-way point in 1:12:33 with most of the big contenders all still in contention, all of whom appeared to be running within themselves, saving their energy for the more challenging parts of the race.

Obiri, past winner Edna Kiplagat and 2022 New York winner Sharon Lokedi featured in the sizeable pack, along with 2015 world 5000m silver medallist Senbere Teferi, 2022 world silver medallist Judith Korir, world bronze medallist Fatima Gardadi, and Ethiopia’s Buze Diriba.

Hellen Obiri wins the Boston Marathon

Hellen Obiri wins the Boston Marathon (© Getty Images)

Just before 30km, USA’s Emma Bates attempted to make a break. Her time running a few strides ahead of the pack was short lived, though, and by 21 miles she had fallen behind the lead group.

The pace started to ramp up with about seven kilometres remaining. By 35km, reached in 2:00:48, the pack was down to 12 women with Obiri poised ominously near the front.

About six minutes later, Obiri, Lokedi and Kiplagat broke away to form a lead trio, leaving behind Ethiopia’s Workenesh Edesa. After another four minutes of running, two-time Boston winner Kiplagat, now aged 44, had been dropped, leaving Obiri and Lokedi out in front.

Soon after passing through 40km together in 2:15:54, Obiri broke away from Lokedi to begin her long drive from home. Lokedi never let Obiri too far out of her sights, but similarly struggled to get back on level terms with the two-time world 5000m champion.

Obiri, displaying the same finishing strength that has carried the 34-year-old to many major victories and medals, charged through the line in 2:22:37, earning her third marathon victory in what was just her fourth career race over the distance.

Lokedi, also a relatively inexperienced marathon runner, claimed second place in 2:22:45, while Kiplagat completed the Kenyan podium sweep in 2:23:21.

“I knew that Sharon was very strong so I tried my best at the end,” Obiri said after the race. “I tried to push, but she was still close behind me. To win here makes me so very happy.

“When I won here last year, I was not that familiar with the marathon. This year my training was perfect and I trusted everything we were doing.

“Winning is something very precious to me,” she added. “After winning here, I really hope I’ll be chosen to compete at the Olympics.”

Leading results

1 Hellen Obiri (KEN) 2:22:37
2 Sharon Lokedi (KEN) 2:22:45
3 Edna Kiplagat (KEN) 2:23:21
4 Buze Diriba (ETH) 2:24:04
5 Senbere Teferi (ETH) 2:24:04
6 Mary Ngugi-Cooper (KEN) 2:24:24
7 Workenesh Edesa (ETH) 2:24:47
8 Fatima Gardadi (MAR) 2:24:53
9 Tiruye Mesfin (ETH) 2:24:58
10 Dera Dida (ETH) 2:25:16

1 Sisay Lemma (ETH) 2:06:17
2 Mohamed Esa (ETH) 2:06:58
3 Evans Chebet (KEN) 2:07:22
4 John Korir (KEN) 2:07:40
5 Albert Korir (KEN) 2:07:47
6 Isaac Mpofu (ZIM) 2:08:17
7 CJ Albertson (USA) 2:09:53
8 Yuma Morii (KEN) 2:09:59
9 Cybrian Kotut (KEN) 2:10:29
10 Zouhair Talbi (MAR) 2:10:45

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