Hall, Goucher third - best U.S. combined finish since 1985
By Ryan Lamppa and Jim Gerweck, Running USA wire
BOSTON - (April 20, 2009) - At the 113th Boston Marathon, Deriba Merga of Ethiopia and Salina Kosgei of Kenya were the class of their respective fields, but each won in a different way at the Monday Patriots' Day tradition. Merga pulled away with about 8 miles left to win by nearly a minute, 2:08:42 to 2:09:32 by Kenyan Daniel Rono, while Kosgei edged defending champion Dire Tune with an exciting finish, 2:32:16 to 2:32:17. Americans and 2008 Olympians Ryan Hall and Kara Goucher ran well and finished third in 2:09:40 and 2:32:25, respectively. It was the first time that the USA placed one man and one woman in the top 3 since 1985.
Under overcast skies, temperatures in the upper 40s and lower 50s and a headwind at 6-10mph, the men's field went out fast on the downhill section and a large group of contenders hit the 15K mark in 44:44, at course record place. The men's phalanx with Merga, Hall and defending champion Robert "Kipkeoch" Cheruiyot then passed the halfway point in 1:03:39.
The real racing started at one hour and 15 minutes when Stephen Kiogora and 2004 race champion Timothy Cherigat threw down the first major surge which the lead pack later absorbed. Just before 25K on the start of a downhill section, Merga and countryman Solomon Molla separated themselves from the pack as it was being strung out. While Molla dropped back, Rono came to challenge Merga, but Merga, 28, put together several sub-5 minute miles to begin the lonely march to Copley Square.
Merga, who was passed on the track and finished a disappointing 4th at the Beijing Olympic Marathon and also DNFed here in 2006, hit the 24th mile in 4:41 to seal the win. The third Ethiopian man to capture Boston also won $150,000.
The race champion's strategy was to "push at 35K", but because of the strong field, he decided to make his move at 28K - which proved to be a good decision.
Hall, 26, held together and moved up in the field in the latter stages as the race course took its toll. Overall, the Stanford graduate was happy with his third place performance which equaled 2004 Olympic silver medalist Meb Keflezighi's in Boston 2006.
"I was learning as I went, and it hurt a lot the last 10K. The guys in front of me ran great races. I'm young and I'll be back," said the 2008 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials champion from Big Bear Lake, Calif.
The women's race, which started 28 minutes before the men, was almost the antithesis of that contest. There was no Ryan Hall to push the pace from the start, so the early miles resembled an easy group training run more than a world-class marathon, with opening miles approaching 6:30, projecting a 2:49 finish. Things were so leisurely that 45-year-old Colleen De Reuck, who had come into the race hoping to win the Masters division, instead found herself leading the whole thing. "It was kind of embarrassing, really," she said. "I figured with the field they had, it would be a lot faster. I think when you're being paid a lot of money you should go out and race."
It was racing, but in the manner of a tactical championship track 10,000 rather than a major marathon, especially Boston with its downhill opening miles. The shuffling pace continued mile after mile, allowing a pack of some 20 women to stay together. Joining De Reuck in the lead were three fellow Americans - Elva Dryer, Mary Akor and Kara Goucher, one of the pre-race favorites to garner America's first Boston win since Lisa Larsen-Weidenbach in 1985.
"It was comforting to look around and see the other Americans there," said Goucher. And for her part, she was unwilling to do anything to disrupt the leisurely proceedings. "It was slower than I would have like, but I figured I was getting a 40 minute warm-up, an hour warm-up. I'm not a person that needs to lead - it was comfortable to just run along and disassociate."
The pace continued to dawdle through splits of 37:05 for 10K and 1:18:12 for halfway, more than seven minutes off Margaret Okayo's 2002 course record pace. There was a gradual increase as the women passed through the sound tunnel of Wellesley College, and then the Newton hills provided a degree of attrition, thinning the herd to a dozen.
It was after cresting Heartbreak Hill that the real racing began, as it often does in Boston. Goucher began a long drive toward the finish as the course made its long gradual descent down Beacon Street, cutting the pack down to five. Among the casualties were 2007 champ Lidiya Grigoryeva and Elefenesh Alemu of Ethiopia. "I knew someone was going to flip the switch and start the racing, I just didn't think it would be me," said Goucher. "But there were too many people there, so I wanted to cut things down to a manageable size."
As the leaders crossed over the Mass Pike then passed Fenway Park, where the Red Sox were playing the Orioles in their traditional Patriots' Day morning game, it was down to three - Goucher, Kenya's Salina Kosgei and defending champ Dire Tune of Ethiopia.
Rounding the turn into Kenmore Square, the two Africans opened a gap on Goucher, who fought back as they passed under Massachusetts Avenue, only to fall back once again.
Kosgei and Tune, who had won in a sprint finish last year, traded the lead down the final straightaway on Boylston Street before the former prevailed by a single second ahead of Tune in 2:32:16, the slowest winning time since Larsen-Weidenbach's 1985 2:34:06.
"At the beginning it was slow, the middle a little faster, but the problem is we were running against the wind," said the winner. "Tune and I were pushing each other the whole last way - it was just chance that I won."
Goucher, who equaled her ING New York City Marathon placing in her second race at the distance, expressed a mixture of joy and disappointment. "I don't enter a race I don't think I can win," she said. "No one expects more of me than I do. I felt better than I did in New York, but the other women were just better at the end."
There were 26,386 entrants and 23,156 starters for the world's oldest and most storied 26.2 mile road race.
113th B.A.A. Boston Marathon
Boston, MA, Monday, April 20, 2009
1) Deriba Merga (ETH), 2:08:42, $150,000
2) Daniel Rono (KEN), 2:09:32, $75,000
3) Ryan Hall (USA / CA), 2:09:40, $40,000
4) Tekeste Kebede (ETH), 2:09:49, $25,000
5) Robert Kiprono Cheruiyot (KEN), 2:10:06, $15,000
6) Gashaw Asfaw (ETH), 2:10:44, $12,000
7) Solomon Molla (ETH), 2:12:02, $9000
8) Evans Cheruiyot (KEN), 2:12:45, $7400
9) Stephen Kiogora (KEN), 2:13:00, $5700
10) Timothy Cherigat (KEN), 2:13:04, $4200
MASTERS Men (40+)
1) James Koskei 40, KEN, 2:14:52, $12,600
1) Salina Kosgei (KEN), 2:32:16, $150,000
2) Dire Tune (ETH), 2:32:17, $75,000
3) Kara Goucher (USA / OR), 2:32:25, $40,000
4) Bezunesh Bekele (ETH), 2:33:08, $25,000
5) Helena Kirop (KEN), 2:33:24, $15,000
6) Lidiya Grigoryeva (RUS), 2:34:20, $12,000
7) Atsede Habtamu (ETH), 2:35:34, $9000
8) Colleen De Reuck, 45, USA / CO, 2:35:37, $17,400
9) Alice Timbilili (KEN), 2:36:25, $5700
10) Alina Ivanova, 40, RUS, 2:36:50, $8400
Full results and more at: BostonMarathon.org.