To hear the runners tell it, they battled strong headwinds on the legendary course.
Maybe so, but their times told a different story.
In a field billed as the fastest in Boston Marathon history — 11 women with personal bests under 2:23; 10 men under 2:06 — Scott Fauble ran the fastest time by an American man since Meb Keflezighi in 2014.
Fauble, 30, finished in seventh by mashing the pedal after the Newton hills. Once he burned his tank, he let the crowd carry him. His personal-best 2:08:52 tied the fifth-fastest finish by an American here. Alberto Salazar of Wayland, the 1982 winner, also ran that time.
Fauble was 22nd at the halfway point (1:04:26). Smooth and in control, he began his push at Mile 15, watching his competitors fall by the wayside.
“One person at a time,” said Fauble, a five-time All-American at the University of Portland who trains in Flagstaff, Ariz. “I was lucky there was enough carnage ahead of me that I was catching someone every couple minutes. Catch someone, five hard steps, put them away … once you get over Heartbreak, I was telling myself, gas gas gas gas gas.”
CJ Albertson was one of the racers in his path.
For the second year in a row, Albertson spent the majority of the race in front, until it mattered most.
Albertson, 28, led last October’s race by more than two minutes at the halfway point and was ahead until Mile 20, before fizzling to a 10th-place finish.
He penned a similar tale on Monday.
His 13th-place finish (2:10:23) saw him jump to the early lead and hold off the pack to emerge with a 20-yard lead at the 16-mile mark. As eventual winner Evans Chebet and fellow Kenyans Lawrence Cherono and Benson Kipruto distinguished themselves, Albertson faded to the back of the lead group.
Asked about his “untraditional” racing style, Albertson pushed back.
“I don’t know there’s anything untraditional about trying to win, but,” he said, before sighing. “Obviously it’s a very talented field. The only chance to really win or be up at the top is to kind of break some people. I have a mind-set that I’m invincible. You have to run like that. There’s limits, but …”
The Fresno, Calif., resident realized those limits around Boston College, when his grip on the lead slipped — again.
“My race strategy worked,” Albertson said. “I did exactly what I wanted to. I was exactly where I wanted to be at the top of the hill, feeling really good. Super unexpected. I just felt terrible coming down the hill. The last five miles. Everything cramped up. It’s disappointing I can’t race that last 8K. I’ve got to figure it out.
“Again, there’s nothing untraditional about trying to win.”
Elkanah Kibet (ninth, 2:09:07) was the second-best American male finisher, followed by Albertson and Matthew McDonald (14th, 2:10:25), Reed Fischer (16th, 2:10:54), Mick Iacofano (17th, 2:11:48) and Colin Bennie (19th, 2:12:08).
The women’s field was stunned when Molly Seidel dropped out of the race between the 25- and 30-kilometer marks.
Seidel, the surprise bronze medalist from Tokyo and a former Boston resident, arrived for her first Boston Marathon with kinesiology tape on her right knee. She hung with the leaders at the 5-mile mark.
Nell Rojas raised her arms high after finishing as the top American woman for the second year in a row.
Rojas, 34, submitted a 10th-place 2:25:57, about five minutes behind winner Peres Jepchirchir.
Flanked at the finish line by her father and coach, Ric, who was sporting a Harvard hat, she dedicated her race to “all the strong girls, the Latinas, the minorities,” Rojas said on WBZ. “The people who don’t believe they belong.”
But Rojas, who was sixth last year, certainly has a place in Boston.
“It was relieving. You do it one time, and OK that was lucky,” she said afterward. “You do it more, you believe in yourself more and realize you could compete with these people and you’re one of them.”
Running her last Boston Marathon as an elite competitor, Stephanie Rothstein-Bruce was 12th in the women’s race (2:28:02).
“I forgot how hard it was. It’s a brutal course,” she said. “The distance running world is so deep right now, it’s crazy to think the times we ran.”
“Running, I don’t know if you ever get what you want. Even when people finish their careers, they might always have a little bit of what-ifs,” Rothstein-Bruce said. “I’ve always subscribed to one of Meb’s mottos: ‘Run to win, but sometimes winning isn’t always getting first place, it’s winning in your life.’ I felt like I did that today that for sure.”
Especially for the Yanks, the crowds at the first Patriots Day marathon in three years were deeply inspiring.
“I’m toward the end of my marathon career, and the last few years with nothing really on, no major events, it’s easy to be like, ‘What’s the point?’” said 38-year-old Des Linden, who finished 13th among women (2:28:47). “Even coming here in the fall was tough. It felt different. It felt off. It’s like, I don’t know, do I still enjoy this? A day like today reignites the fire and the passion … every spot on the course I feel the love.”
“The last 5 miles, the crowds are going to push you,” he said. “Especially that last mile, they carried me home.”