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Wesley Korir Captures His First Boston Marathon Victory

American Jason Hartmann surprised with a fourth-place finish.

American Jason Hartmann surprises with a fourth-place finish. 

BOSTON —  Opportunity often presents itself under the most dire of situations, and for Kenyan Wesley Korir, racing the Boston Marathon on the most dire of weather days proved to be the opportunity of a lifetime.

Exuding both caution and patience when temperatures reached into the upper 80s, the 29-year-old Korir took the lead for the first time in the 25th mile, yo-yo’ing back and forth with countryman Levy Matebo for much of the next mile. By the time he turned onto Hereford Street before making the foray onto Boylston Street, Korir was in the clear and savored the final 600-meter straightaway to the finish line to record the biggest win of his young career in 2:12:40.

“Being able to win Boston Marathon is an amazing accomplishment,” said Korir, who ran collegiately at Louisville and is hoping to gain U.S. citizenship soon. “This is an amazing experience. I thank God for the opportunity and everything he’s given me in my life. To me the Boston Marathon is the Olympics of the marathon. I’m very happy to win here.”

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Matebo held on for second in 2:13:06, while Kenyan Bernard Kipyego took third in 2:13:13. American Jason Hartmann, who finished 32nd at the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in January, rebounded nicely from that disappointing effort to finish fourth in 2:14:31.

Boston was definitely a redemption race for me,” Hartmann said afterward. “I felt like I had the strength to hold my position and move up through the field by just running smart and not overly aggressively early. I wanted to let the race to unfold and then capitalize through other people’s mistakes.”

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When the sweat settled at the end of the day, seven of the top-10 finishers were from Kenya. Not amongst them, however, was defending champion and pre-race favorite Geoffrey Mutai. It’s been said all week that the only way someone other than Mutai could win this year’s race is if the he wasn’t in it, which is exactly what happened when the fastest marathoner of all-time stepped off the course just after the 30K in the Newton Hills due to stomach cramping.

“You cannot plan everything,” Mutai said at the post-race press conference. “This is the will of God. I cannot blame anything or anyone. For me, I’m still happy and I can still manage myself.”

Unlike the women’s race, which started off at dawdling pace, the men kept the clip honest from the get-go. Unknown American Glenn Randall, a 25-year-old from Mesa, Colo., who entered the race with a personal best of 2:20:40, led the through 6 miles in 29:51 before being swallowed up by the main field. A large group of runners stayed together through halfway–reached in 1:06:08–before Kenyan Mathew Kisorio asserted himself  in mile 15 with a 4:54 split. Kisorio was followed closely by Matebo and Mutai with Korir and Wilson Chebet (5th, 2:14:56) trailing just a few strides behind. A 4:42 16th mile by Kisorio strung things out even further as only Matebo and Mutai came with him. At that point of the race, it looked as if the winner would emerge from that trio.

“The guys had taken off at a fast pace,” Korir said of Kisorio’s definitive move. “I didn’t want to go too hard too soon and cramp up. I thought, ‘Let me go conservative and run my race.’ I was concerned more about my health because it was really, really hot.”

The 17-mile mark was reached in 1:25:05 with Kisorio still stringing things along and Matebo pinned firmly to his right side. Mutai had fallen off the pace and would call it a day less than two miles later, while Matebo, seemingly shocked that they had dropped the defending champion, looked over his shoulder continually.

Matebo and Kisorio ran 4:48 for the 19th mile, as Korir and Kipyego lurked behind in third and fourth place. Heading over the last of the Newton Hills, Matebo opened up an advantage over Kisorio and was seven seconds clear of his countryman as he passed a frenzied scene of fans at Boston College. With five miles to go it seemed as if the race had been decided, but Korir and Kipyego were far from done.

Over the next three miles Kisorio would implode while Korir and Kipyego worked together to cut into Matebo’s lead. With a mile-and-a-half to go, Korir caught the smooth-striding Matebo, who reclaimed the lead less than a minute later with a surge of his own. Korir accelerated again, however, grabbing the lead for the final time and stretching it out all the way to the finish line in front of the Boston Public Library in Boston’s famed Back Bay.

“I was thinking if I could survive one step at a time, I was trying to take one step at a time,” Korir said. “I knew that coming here today, I knew that if it came down to the wire, I knew that I had the speed. I was confident that if it comes down to the wire I was going to have an advantage.”

FOR MORE: 2012 Boston Marathon Race Coverage On