Olympic champion Peres Jepchirchir made a thrilling sprint to the line to win the women’s division of the 126th Boston Marathon on Monday, as fellow Kenyan Evans Chebet dominated a stellar field to win the men’s race.
With fewer than two kilometres remaining in the 42.19km (26.2-mile) contest, Jepchirchir sprinted ahead of Ababel Yeshaneh, but the Ethiopian runner refused to bow and retook the lead before the pair battled down the final stretch.
Jepchirchir, who won in New York in November, needed every ounce of energy to break the tape in two hours, 21 minutes and one second – just four seconds ahead of her rival.
“Above all, I was feeling she was strong and I pushed it, I feel I’m tired. I go behind, but I didn’t lose hope,” Jepchirchir told reporters after the victory. “The course is tough but thank God I managed to win the race.”
Monday’s event marked the first time in three years that the world’s longest-running annual marathon returned to its traditional spring date.
The 125th Boston Marathon was first postponed, then called off because of the COVID-19 pandemic — the first cancellation since the event began in 1897 — while in 2021, it was postponed until October.
On the men’s side, Kenyan Evans Chebet pulled away with about 6.4km (4 miles) to go to win the race, picking up his first major victory in two hours, six minutes and 51 seconds, with fellow Kenyans Lawrence Cherono and Benson Kipruto coming in second and third.
A huge leading pack stuck together through 35km (21 miles) before Chebet pulled away, securing an 18-second advantage over 2019 winner Cherono with 1.6km (one mile) left.
The bells of the Old South Church rang and a roar came up from the crowd along Boylston Street as he ran towards the finish line.
Six of the top 10 women’s finishers on Monday and five of the top 10 men were Kenyans.
Meanwhile, American Daniel Romanchuk won his second career men’s wheelchair title in one hour, 26 minutes and 58 seconds, while Switzerland’s Manuela Schar won her second straight Boston crown and fourth overall, finishing in one hour, 41 minutes and 8 seconds in the women’s wheelchair race.
Fans waved Ukrainian flags in support of the few dozen runners whose run in Boston was the easiest part of their journey. Athletes from Russia and Belarus had been disinvited in response to the invasion of Ukraine by Russia.
Ukrainians who were unable to make it were offered a deferral or refund.
“Whatever they want to do, they can do,” Boston Athletic Association President Tom Grilk said. “Run this year, run next year. You want a puppy? Whatever. There is no group we want to be more helpful to.”
This year’s race marked the 50th anniversary of Nina Kuscsik’s victory as the first official women’s winner. The actual first woman to finish the race was Bobbi Gibb, who first ran in 1966 among the unofficial runners known as “bandits”.
Valerie Rogosheske, who finished sixth in the women’s division in 1972, said she had been planning to hide in the bushes and run as a bandit before women got the go-ahead a few weeks before the race. She ran this year with her daughters, and served as the honorary starter for the women’s elite field.
“There was just this feeling of, ‘Boy, we’re going to do this. No one can drop out. There are eyes upon us,’” she said at the starting line on Monday. “Many people didn’t think we should be running a marathon. So that’s why we really felt that pressure but opportunity as well to finish this marathon.”
SOURCE: NEWS AGENCIES