One can make a case that the world’s two greatest athletes were both in Boston Monday, performing less than a half-mile from one another.
But our sloppy spring weather was the ultimate winner. New England’s April remains undefeated.
Kenyan superstar Eliud Kipchoge, the undisputed greatest marathoner of all-time, finished a disappointing sixth in the 127th Boston Marathon, logging the worst time (2:09:23) of his epic career. His countryman Evans Chebet was the winner for the second straight year.
Meanwhile, over at ancient Fenway Park (forever 15 years younger than our Marathon), Shohei Ohtani, the Babe Ruth of the 21st century, pitched two hitless innings and cracked a couple of singles but his mound start was cut short by car-wash rains that repeatedly stalled play in a 5-4 Angels victory over the Red Sox.
Kipchoge is the best. Ohtani is the best. But Boston — with its hills, headwinds, and April showers — proved too much for the men. The superstars didn’t get far. And now they’re leaving. They found out the hard way that dreams don’t always come true.
With the whole world watching, Boston proved to be Boston.
We had Red Sox, runners, and Bruins playoffs. We had the ubiquitous David Ortiz (“Everything Everywhere All At Once”) serving as grand marshal. We had 30,239 registered marathoners, representing all 50 United States and 106 countries. We had baseball players from Curacao, Taiwan, Puerto Rico, Korea, Venezuela, Colombia, Panama, Canada, the US, and Japan. We had hockey players from Canada, the US, Finland, Czechia, Russia, and Sweden.
Time-tested Boston rituals were honored, including a mid-morning, misguided box truck with a sardine-can roof top stuck under a bridge on Storrow Drive. Somebody tweeted a photo with the caption, “A tradition unlike any other.”
New Englanders ignored the crappy weather and turned out in the tens of thousands, happy to be pandemic-free, ever-mindful of a now decade-old tragedy that marked the end of all innocence with this annual celebration. My personal favorite moment of the day came when I heard that Zdeno Chara had passed Brock Holt somewhere between Framingham and Brookline. A tall Bruin over a short Sox. So Boston.
Kipchoge was supposed to be the sure thing. The 38-year-old Kenyan came into the day with 15 first-place finishes in the 17 marathons he has run in the last decade. He’s the world’s only sub-two-hour marathoner (1:59:40, but it’s not a record because he had pacers) and he also has won two Olympic golds and 10 World Marathon Majors. He is the Michael Jordan, Bobby Orr, Tom Brady of his sport. He is the GOAT.
But this was his first Boston, and he was not up to the task. He stayed with the leaders for the first 18 miles, but fell 16 seconds behind the pack in the Newton hills. It was weird to see Kipchoge running by himself through Brookline and into Boston.
We wondered whether he might drop out altogether. This is a man who races in only two marathons a year. There was the thought he might bail rather than suffer the indignity of coming down Boylston Street more than three minutes after Chebet.
Kipchoge went all Garbo after his defeat, eschewing the postrace press conference and issuing a wimpy statement that read (in part), “It’s never guaranteed, it’s never easy. Today was a tough day for me. I pushed myself as hard as I could, but sometimes we must accept that today was the day to push the barrier to a greater height.”
Boo. What the heck happened in the Newton hills, champ? Tarzan Brown and Billy Rodgers would have told us.
Ohtani had a better day than Kipchoge. The Japanese savant is without doubt the greatest all-around baseball player since Babe Ruth (no one in the last 100 years has worked as a full-time starting pitcher and everyday hitter), and he’s coming off the high of winning the World Baseball Classic for his homeland. Red Sox manager Alex Cora said Friday, “With all due respect to all the athletes in the world, he has to be the best athlete.”
Ohtani delivered. Until rain stopped him on the hill.
He was the Angels’ starting pitcher for the rare morning start. Because of the day’s first rain event, the game didn’t get going until 12:06 p.m, by which time Kipchoge had already lost. Ohtani singled to right in the first inning and scored as the Angels roughed up Brayan Bello for four quick runs.
The sorry Sox submitted a lineup with six hitters batting .212 or lower. In the bottom of the first, Ohtani walked leadoff man Raimel Tapia on four pitches and allowed him to score by throwing two wild pitches, then giving up a ground out to Rob Refsnyder.
The new Babe had to wait 11 minutes to start his second inning, then fanned two of the three batters he faced. He had a 5-1 lead with three strikeouts after two innings when rains came again in the top of the third. This delay was an hour and 25 minutes. Bringing Ohtani back after that would have been managing malpractice. Especially for a guy in his contract year.
It would be nice to see Ohtani in a Red Sox uniform in 2024, but that’s doubtful. Even if the new, bottom-line Sox returned to spending-to-win, Monday’s dismal weather gives Ohtani little incentive to consider our town.
Regarding Boston’s abysmal April weather, Ohtani said, “I have no control over it. There’s nothing much I can do. Just try to move on.”
Correct. Which means move on to someplace that is not here.
We’re on to the Bruins.
Read more about the Boston Marathon
- Evans Chebet defends his Boston Marathon men’s title after Eliud Kipchoge fades on Heartbreak Hill
- Check out the complete list of finishers
- Kenya’s Hellen Obiri surges in last mile to capture women’s elite race in Boston Marathon
- ‘It was really surreal:’ How Emma Bates finished as top American in women’s field
- ‘Today was a tough day for me’: Eliud Kipchoge reflects on his sixth-place finish at the Boston Marathon
- Marcel Hug sets course record, Susannah Scaroni overcomes loose wheel in winning Boston Marathon wheelchair divisions
- Boston Marathon champion Hellen Obiri and daughter capture hearts with finish line greeting
- Ababel Yeshaneh fell during the Boston Marathon — but still finished fourth
Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @dan_shaughnessy.