Kenay Edna Kiplagat cruises to first Boston Marathon win in 2:21:52
By Barbara Huebner
Three days before the 121st Boston Marathon, Edna Kiplagat’s plan was to make a move in the last 5K of the race, not before.
Plans change. With a little more than 10K to go, the 37-year-old two-time IAAF World Champion was feeling good, so she threw in a 5:02 mile in the midst of the Newton Hills.
“I tried to work extra hard,” she said of the monster surge. “It worked for me.”
Indeed it did: her rivals had no answer, and Kiplagat, running Boston for the first time in a long and glorious career that has included Abbott World Marathon Majors wins in New York City (2010) and London (2014), went on to victory in 2:21:52. It was the fourth-fastest winning time in the history of the women’s race.
Finishing second was Rose Chelimo, 27, of Bahrain, in 2:22:51, with 25-year-old Jordan Hasay a game-changing third in 2:23:00—the fastest-ever debut by an American woman, obliterating the previous mark of 2:25:53 set by Kara Goucher at the New York City Marathon in 2008.
“My goal was to run a 2:25 exactly,” said Hasay, who is coached by Alberto Salazar, the 1982 Boston champion. “So, I kind of exceeded those expectations. But definitely, I wanted to get that fastest debut time. I’m thrilled to have put it all together.”
It was also the fastest women’s debut in Boston, demolishing the mark of 2:25:15 recorded by South Africa’s Elana Meyer from 1994. Touchingly, it came on the 50th anniversary of Kathrine Switzer’s run heard ‘round the world, when the first woman to wear a race bib in Boston made history of her own. Switzer ran this year with a team of runners from her global non-profit, 261 Fearless, to honor that bib number and mark the golden anniversary. She finished in 4:44:31.
Coming in fourth was Des Linden in 2:25:06. It was the first time that two American women finished in the top four since 1991.
“We keep getting closer,” said Linden, who placed in the top four for the third time here, including a runner-up finish by just two seconds in 2011. “We’re putting more numbers in there. It’s just a matter of time. When the Americans break the tape out there it’s going to be a big day, and we’re really close.”
It was Linden who controlled the pace for much of the first half of the race, knowing that fast half marathoners such as Hasay and Kenyans Joyce Chepkirui and Gladys Cherono were “all going to kill me” if she let the race become a 13.1-miler by allowing the pace to dawdle. A pack of seven hit the halfway point in 1:12:33.
A 5:13 mile 16, heading into Newton Lower Falls, left Linden falling off the back of the pack. The 33-year-old, who finished seventh at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, worked the tangents to fight her way back by the start of the Newton Hills, but couldn’t hang on for long.
With the pack down to five—Kiplagat, Chelimo, Hasay, Cherono and Valentine Kipketer—at 30K, Hasay felt her confidence soaring, and figured that she could go with any move. Then Kiplagat put the hammer down with that 5:02 mile (“I said, ‘I’m not going to wait’”) and by 35K she was 34 seconds ahead of Chelimo and 45 seconds up on Hasay.
“When she did go, she went so hard,” said Hasay. “I just thought, ‘I don’t think I can go with this.’”
In a closer race, a courteous act just after the 21-mile mark could have been a disaster when Kiplagat discovered that she had grabbed a rival’s fluid bottle and then stopped to return it only to keep seeking her own. Worried because she had missed her fluids at the previous stop, Kiplagat was not about to continue on a warm day without her hydration of choice. Instead, it was barely a glitch.
From there, Kiplagat’s run was merely an attempt to keep her kids from waiting: At the finish line, the new champion was met by two of her five (including three adopted) children, 13-year-old Carlos and 9-year-old Wendy.
Just as Kiplagat praised her children for their support, at the post-race press conference Hasay thanked her mother for being with her every step of her 26.2 miles. Teresa Hasay, only 56 years old, died unexpectedly last November.
With her late mother’s engagement ring on her left hand during the race, daughter Jordan felt her strength every time she reached for fluids in what her mother had known would be her marathon debut.
“Help me grab this bottle,” she thought. “There are so many things that remind me of her.”