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Boston Marathon 2019 Comes Down to a Sprint

Lawrence Cherono, in his Boston Marathon debut, outkicks two-time champion Lelisa Desisa in a dramatic finish, while older runners set impressive age-group records.

Lawrence Cherono of Kenya today won the 123rd running of the Boston Marathon with a sprint finish victory over two-time Boston winner Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia. It was Cherono’s first Boston but his fourth marathon victory in a row. The two crossed the line just a few yards ahead of Kenneth Kipkemoi of Kenya. The three podium winners clocked 2:07:58, 2:07:59, and 2:08:06. The podium placers claimed prize purses of $150,000, $75,000, and $40,000 respectively.

Cherono, 30, has now won successive marathons in Amsterdam, Honolulu, Amsterdam, and Boston today. His best time is 2:04:06 from last year’s Amsterdam Marathon. Cherono’s victory was the 22nd by a Kenyan since the country’s first Boston win in 1988 by Ibrahim Hussein.

Cherono’s time bettered the 2:15:58 of Yuki Kawauchi in 2018, which featured Boston’s worst-ever weather. It was nowhere near the course record, 2:03:02, set by Geoffrey Mutai in 2011 with the help of a strong tailwind.

After an early morning deluge much like last year’s, the rain let up, and the temperature climbed into the 60s with high humidity. Most elite runners ran in stripped-down shorts and singlet—no gloves, no arm warmers, few sunglasses. Weather was not a factor in the marathon outcome, unlike a year ago when the Arctic conditions led to many dropouts and slow times for all.

A large front pack of 17 runners made the Firehouse turn together at 17 miles. It included three prior Boston winners: Lelisa Desisa, 2013 and 2015; Lemi Berhanu, 2016; and Geoffrey Kirui, 2017. The big surprise was American Scott Fauble, 27, of Flagstaff, Arizona with a PR of only 2:12:28 vs 2:06s and better for his competitors. Fauble actually moved to the front on several downhills, and was still with the leaders at 21 miles.

Fauble held on to finish as the top American, seventh in 2:09:10, a personal best by 3:19. He was followed 15 seconds later by Jared Ward, eighth, who bettered his PR by 2:05.

Last year’s surprise winner, Yuki Kawauchi, from Japan, couldn’t produce another upset. After running near the leaders for 10 miles, he faded badly.

The women’s race was covered extensively here by our sister publication, Women’s Running.

Every year Boston attracts an impressive number of “streakers” and high-age runners. Today, 68-year-old Ben Beach finished his 52nd Boston in a row, a world record for a runner in the same annual marathon, crossing the line in 6:05:35. Larry Cole, the oldest starter at 85, hoped to break six hours, and finished in 6:33:10. He had to compete with everyone over 80, however, the fast of whom, Canadian Keijo Taivassalo, posted a remarkable 3:47:10. Last year’s 80+ champion, Susumu Ichida, placed second in the division in 4:23:03.

Ten years ago, in 2009, Ichida set a Boston record for 70+ runners with his 3:16:50. That was broken last year by Gene Dykes, who finished in 3:16:20. Four months ago, Dykes set a world best time for 70+ runners when he ran 2:54:23 in Jacksonville, Florida. Dykes was aiming to finish in under 3 hours today, and accomplished his goal, smashing the age-group record with a net time of 2:58:50.

One streak was broken today. For the first time since 1981, Rick Hoyt didn’t finish in a wheelchair pushed by his father Dick or other Team Hoyt volunteers. Rick Hoyt is a quadriplegic with cerebral palsy, but he and his father had become familiar, widely-celebrated Boston participants. Hoyt was hospitalized for a month earlier this year, and his health hadn’t improved enough to cover the Boston course again.

Today’s race marked the fifth anniversary of the last Boston Marathon victory by an American runner. That happened when Meb Keflezighi won the  2014 “comeback” Boston a year after the tragic, finish-line bombings of 2013. Keflezighi is no longer running competitively, but he seemed everywhere present in Boston over the weekend giving inspirational talks and promoting his new book, 26 Marathons: What I Learned About Faith, Identity, Running, and Life from My Marathon Career.

Today’s Boston Marathon was the first since 2013 to fall on the date, April 15th, of the 2013 Boston. This date is now known as “One Boston Day” in the city. At 2:49 this afternoon, the time of the first of two Boston bomb explosions, Boston Marathon finish-line announcers called for a moment of reflection and remembrance even as runners continued flowing forward in the last yards of their long run.

It was also the 40th anniversary of the 1979 Boston, which saw two Americans in the winner’s circle: Bill Rodgers and Joan Benoit Samuelson. Rodgers, 71, did not start today, but Samuelson, 61, ran with the goal of finishing within 40 minutes of her winning time (2:35:15) of 1979. She accomplished her goal, and then some, finishing in 3:04:00.

A total of 30,349 runners entered this year’s Boston—16,645 men and 13,704 women. The biggest ever Boston took place in 1996, the 100th running of the Boston Marathon, when the entry field reached 38,708. The first woman, Roberta Gibb, ran Boston (unofficially) in 1966. There were 540 men that year and only 18 in 1897, the Boston Marathon’s first running.