Robert Cheruiyot fulfilled most people’s predictions today, by winning the 112th Boston Marathon. But it was not so much the fact that he won as the manner in which he did it that was remarkable. He absolutely destroyed the field through his own front-running efforts, taking up the pace very early on in the race, keeping the tempo way below course record (2:07:14) schedule, and then attacking the field off that fast pace on the famed Newton Hills.
At one stage, the predicted finish time was on for sub-2:06, which is absolutely unheard of in Boston, and would have smashed the old record by over a minute! It was not to be, as Cheruiyot himself paid the price for his incredible front-running, and he ended the race running nearly as slowly as the women – he covered the final 2.2 km in 7:03, which is only 4 seconds faster than the women, who were involved in a great race for the line (see below)! Ultimately, Cheruiyot came home in 2:07:46, 32 seconds outside record pace.
However, by then, the damage had been done, and he had created gaps of minutes over his nearest rivals. The table below, followed by the graph, show the splits and a summary of how the race unfolded.
The graph below shows the time PER MILE over the course of the men’s race (click on the figure to enlarge and read the text – apologies for the small size!):
Incredible front running in the middle of the race
It’s clear that after a slow early pace (very slow for the first three miles), Cheruiyot decided to lift things – he said in the post-race interview that this was his tactic. Just how much he lifted the pace was remarkable – between 5km and 30km, the pace never dropped slower than 3:00/km.
In fact, this 25km stretch, which includes a few hilly sections, was covered in 1:13:52, which equates to an average pace of 2:57/km. That equates to a marathon time of 2:04:40. Given the course profile, which is hardly a Chicago, Berlin or London course, this is incredible running. To have run this from the front, without pacemakers, is even more remarkable, and testimony to the kind of form that Cheruiyot carried into Boston.
The gaps that eventually gave Cheruiyot the victory were created soon after the start of the Newton Hills at 17 miles. At this stage, four men were together, but between 17 and 18 miles, Cheruiyot moved to the front, ran a 4:52 mile on one of the Newton Hills, and the race was over. It was the decisive move, though Cheruiyot continued to grow his advantage, opening up a lead that would end at 1:18 over Morocco’s Bouramdane.
The final 10km were a real struggle for Cheruiyot (and everyone else!), thanks to the searing pace that broke the race up. He built a lead, but his earlier efforts saw the pace drop to slower than 5min/mile (3:06/km), and eventually, he missed his own course record, finishing in 2:07:46 instead.
Nevertheless, a dominant performance, against an admittedly weaker field than he might encounter in Beijing (should he be picked, which seems likely), and evidence yet again that Kenya has some serious marathon talent at its disposal – if you think back to a week ago, on ONE DAY, THREE KENYANS BROKE 2:06, and now Cheruiyot has confirmed that he, despite his slower time, is right up there in the talent stakes and must be a sure pick for the Beijing race. Their Olympic Marathon team will be a remarkable one!
Women’s Race: Fantastic sprint down the straight as Tune wins closest ever finish!
The women’s race was no less spectacular, though the characters might have been somewhat unexpected. All attention before the race was on Jelena Prokopcuka, twice second in Boston, and this year’s pick for the title. However, a rather topsy-turvy and erratic women’s pace saw Prokopcuka first take on the pace soon after halfway, and then get dropped when the pace was stepped up at about 25km!
It was left to somewhat unheralded runners in the form of Dire Tune, and Alevtina Biktimirova, to create a fantastic final sprint down the finish straight. The two of them were alone for the final 10km, and the pace they set was searing. In the end, it was Tune of Ethiopia who prevailed in the final 300m, winning the race by the narrowest margin in history – 2 seconds, in a time of 2:25:25. The table below shows how the winner’s race was put together.
A race of two halves and fantastic finishing
The women’s race was really a race of two halves – the halfway mark was reached in 1:14:45, on course for a pedestrian 2:29:30. It was soon after this that Prokopcuka went to the front, and pace was picked up very slightly. However, at 25km, things really started to happen, as Biktimirova and Tune moved clear, with Jeptoo of Kenya. This 5km split would be run in 16:47, a pace of 3:21/km (a 2:20 marathon).
From then on, it just got faster and faster, despite the hilly profile of the second half! The subsequent 5km splits were all covered in faster that 3:20/km, and ultimately, the second half would be run in 70:40, which is absolutely remarkable given the Newton Hills that fall in this period!
Coming into the final 2km, the two women were side by side and attacking each other! No one made a decisive move, and then with about 700m to go, Tune moved clear with a big surge! She opened about 5m over Biktimirova, but it too was not decisive. Biktimirova bridged that gap, then went clear herself, opening a 5m gap of her own! This too was closed down, and with 300m to go, despite three changes of lead, two gaps of 5m, no one had yet shaken the other!
Finally, with the finish in sight, Tune found something extra, moved clear, held that gap, and then with 100m to run, Biktimirova was broken and it was Tune who went on to win what was the closest finish in history! Her margin of 2 seconds beat the previous gap of 10 seconds (Jeptoo beating Prokopcuka). The eventual winning time was 2:25:25, which is incredible given how slowly the halfway point was reached.
The final 2km, as mentioned, were covered in about the same time as Robert Cheruiyot covered his final 2km, testimony to how fast the women were running, and how much the great Kenyan had done earlier in his race!
There’s more to come from Boston – we’ll bring you discussion of the race, insights, analysis, some quotes and more detailed reports tomorrow. A great race, and (yet another) Kenyan major marathon triumph – you have to go back an awful long time to find the last non-Kenyan to win a Major Marathon. In fact, here’s a bit of trivia – if you take London, New York, Chicago and Boston (I’m excluding Berlin because it’s not really much of a race these days, more a record attempt time-trial), who is the last non-Kenyan to win the race? That’s for discussion tomorrow, join us then!
This post is part of the thread: Marathon Analysis – an ongoing story on this site. View the thread timeline for more context on this post.