BOSTON – The African challenge in Monday's Boston Marathon was thwarted as Japan's Yuki Kawauchi and American Desiree Linden were the winners of the men's and women's races.
Best of the Africans was Kenya's Geoffrey Kirui who finished second in the men's race among a glut of Americans while fellow countrywoman Edna Kiplagat finished ninth among the women.
This was the first year neither race was won by an African athlete since 1990, when Gelindo Bordin and Rosa Mota took the titles.
Strong headwinds, occasional driving rain, and temperatures hovering just a few degrees above freezing combined with the notoriously challenging course to give Kawauchi and Linden relatively pedestrian winning times of 2:15:58 and 2:39:54, respectively.
Both athletes also benefited from the toll the conditions took on their competitors.
Kawauchi’s was the slowest winning time since 1976; Linden’s was the slowest women’s winning time since 1978.
Kawauchi marked the first win by a Japanese man in Boston since Toshihiko Seko in 1987. “Seko’s win was the year I was born,” Kawauchi noted after the race, “so I can’t help but see the hand of fate.”
Defending champion Kirui was prominent in the front, a white windbreaker and cap his defence against the elements. Unusually for an early leader, Kawauchi remained with the pack.
Kirui made gestures towards the lead several times, particularly testing the pack after they passed halfway, but the world champion committed to the lead in earnest approaching the 30-kilometre mark in the Newton hills.
At one of the course’s few turns, the right turn by the Newton firehouse, Kirui bore down and opened a lead, attacking the three rises through Newton where so many Boston Marathons have collapsed.
By the time he crested the final rise, the infamous ‘Heartbreak’ hill, his pursuers were out of sight.
Unfortunately for Kirui, he had overcommitted on the hills, and it was clear by 35 kilometres that he was struggling. “My legs became stiff,” he said. “And that gave me the challenge.”
Kirui took second in 2:18:23, with Shadrack Biwott third in 2:18:35. Biwott conceded that the conditions had been a factor.
Top 10 results - Men:
1 Yuki Kawauchi (JPN) 2:15:58
2 Geoffrey Kirui (KEN) 2:18:23
3 Shadrack Biwott (USA) 2:18:35
4 Tyler Pennel (USA) 2:18:57
5 Andrew Bumbalough (USA) 2:19:52
6 Scott Smith (USA) 2:21:47
7 Abdi Nageeye (NED) 2:23:16
8 Elkanah Kibet (USA) 2:23:379
9 Reid Coolsaet (CAN) 2:25:02
10 Daniel Vassallo (USA) 2:27:50
Top 10 results - Women:
1 Desiree Linden (USA) 2:39:54
2 Sarah Sellers (USA) 2:44:04
3 Krista Duchene (CAN) 2:44:204
4 Rachel Hyland (USA) 2:44:29
5 Jessica Chichester (USA) 2:45:23
6 Nicole Dimercurio (USA) 2:45:52
7 Shalane Flanagan (USA) 2:46:31
8 Kimi Reed (USA) 2:46:47
9 Edna Kiplagat (KEN) 2:47:14
10 Hiroko Yoshitomi (JPN) 2:48:29
African News Agency (ANA)