Bolting to an early lead in the Boston Marathon usually results in a back-of-the-pack finish.
Surprisingly, CJ Albertson demonstrated Monday that speed does not necessarily kill.
Rather than fading from sight after the first few miles, Albertson managed to lead the men’s elite field for the first 20-plus miles. A pack of runners eventually passed him, but Albertson wound up in 10th place in 2 hours, 11 minutes, 44 seconds, less than two minutes behind winner Benson Kipruto.
Albertson was the second-fastest US men’s runner — Massachusetts native Colin Bennie finished 18 seconds ahead of him in seventh — surprising not only the field but himself.
“For the first 20 miles, I thought it was a training run — I was by myself and got some people to cheer for me, the most fun race I’ve ever run,” said Albertson, who at one point led by two minutes in his Boston debut. “Definitely didn’t expect that to happen. It was fun.
“I was in the lead, and when the guys came, I was like, ‘All right, now it’s time to race.’ Thankfully at that point there were only 5 miles left in the race, so I just gave it everything I had.”
As a pack of a dozen or so runners quickly passed Albertson, his form began to break down, but he managed to stay with the leaders from Heartbreak Hill to the end.
Albertson ignored the conventional wisdom of conserving energy early.
“I just wanted to run the downhills at the pace I felt comfortable with,” said Albertson. “So around 19 minutes over the first 4 miles, I thought everyone would start to rein me in after that and then would have to decide whether to go with the first group or the second group. That decision ended up coming at 20 miles.”
Bennie grew up in Princeton, Mass., but now resides in Virginia. This was only his third marathon and first Boston.
“I couldn’t imagine a better first Boston,” said Bennie, who finished in 2:11.26. “It turned out to be a great day, a little bit windy, but honestly, pretty perfect running weather.”
He acknowledged the thrill of competing in Boston and his result.
“It means the world to me,” said Bennie. “It was my first major marathon. I ran the Olympic trials and that was a big one, but to actually have it be a major and have the first one be Boston was spectacular.”
Bennie said his older brother has run Boston twice. It would seem the younger Bennie got the better of his sibling.
So who had the faster time?
“I’ll let him answer that question later,” said Bennie.
Michael Silverman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.