Ethiopians claim men’s, women’s titles at Boston Marathon
Lemi Berhanu Hayle and Atsede Baysa of Ethiopia won the men’s and women’s titles at the 120th Boston Marathon on Monday.
Baysa, 29, a two-time winner of the Chicago and Paris marathons, posted her first Boston victory. She outdueled Tirfi Tsegaye, also from Ethiopia, in the final miles, first catching Tsegaye then opening a sizable lead in the race’s final mile.
Baysa’s winning time was 2:29:19. Tsegaye was second in 2:30:03, and Joyce Chepkirui of Kenya was third in 2:30:50.
Berhanu Hayle, 21, also became a first-time Boston winner. He crossed the finish in 2:12:45. Defending champion Lelisa Desisa was second (2:13:32) and Yemane Tsegay third (2:14:02) to complete an Ethiopian sweep of the men’s podium.
Baysa trailed by 37 seconds as she approached the 22-mile mark. But over the next few miles she rapidly made up ground. By Mile 25, she enjoyed a five-second lead on the field and eventual runner-up Tsegaye.
The women’s front-runners hit the half marathon mark at 1:15:33. At that point, the tightly-bunched lead pack consisted of 10 runners, with Tsegaye at the front. A couple of Kenyans — Valentine Kipketer and Chepkirui — followed close on her heels. The rest of the pack consisted of six other Ethiopians and another Kenyan.
But shortly thereafter, the women picked up the pace through Wellesley, and the lead pack dwindled to four runners: Kipketer, Chepkirui, Flomena Daniel, and Tsegaye.
Shortly before the 19-mile mark, Daniel dropped back and the race was down to three women. All three —Tsegaye, Chepkirui, and Kipketer — looked strong and comfortable as they approached Heartbreak Hill shoulder to shoulder.
Going up the steep climb, Tsegaye and Chepkirui tried to dropped Kipketer. And they were momentarily successful, but Kipketer rejoined the group on the downhill past Boston College.
But by the time they approached Cleveland Circle and took a left onto Beacon Street, it appeared that only Chepkurui and Tsegaye remained in contention for the title. Then Baysa surged toward the leaders as they approached Mile 24.
Baysa passed Chepkirui, then set her sights on Tsegaye and the win.
Berhanu Hayle outkicked Desisa on the Brookline flats to win the men’s race, denying the defending champion his third title in four years.
With Tsegay finishing third, it marked the first time that the Ethiopians have swept their Kenyan rivals, and Berhanu Hayle’s easy victory made a strong case for him to make his country’s three-man team for this summer’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
On a warm day with a modest headwind, a large men's pack took a leisurely approach into Natick Center, coming through the 10-mile mark in 50 minutes 47 seconds, nearly four minutes off course-record pace.
Midway through in Wellesley Hills, they were at 1:06:43 with a trio of Ethiopians (Tsegay, Getu Feleke, and Berhanu Hayle) a stride ahead.
Then Desisa led a breakout that shattered the pack coming into Newton Lower Falls. By the firehouse turn heading into the hills on Commonwealth Avenue, Desisa and Berhanu Hayle were all by themselves and stayed side by side until the victor broke away in the final mile and a half to cruise to victory in the slowest winning time since 2007.
Last year’s women’s winner, Caroline Rotich, slowed to a walk at around the 4.5-mile mark, then dropped out. Rotich, of Kenya, was with the elite pack, which reached 5 miles in approximately 32 minutes. No reason for her withdrawal was immediately available. Rotich won the 2015 Boston Marathon by 4 seconds over Mare Dibaba of Ethiopia.
Wheelchair champions crowned
Marcel Hug of Switzerland and Tatyana McFadden of the United States won the wheelchair titles.
Down the stretch, Hug outdueled Kurt Fearnley and Ernst Van Dyk, who finished side-by-side, and crossed in 1:24:02. It was Hug’s second straight Boston Marathon victory.
McFadden posted her fourth straight Boston title.
Hug won last year’s race by more than six minutes, but didn’t have that luxury this time. He trailed Van Dyk, with Fearnley right behind, as the trio turned onto Boylston Street, finish line in sight. Then it was simply a sprint to the tape, and Hug pushed hardest. He overtook Van Dyk by the slimmest of margins, with Fearnley also coming to the front as they raced side-by-side-by-side.
Hug had just enough, winning by slightly more than a chair-length. Van Dyk and Fearnley crossed the line at about the same instant for a photo finish.
“Really, really happy to defend my title,” said Hug, a 30-year-old from Switzerland. “It’s nice to be back in Boston, and to win for a second time is amazing. Just keep going as fast as possible.”
McFadden dominated the women’s wheelchair race, and was so far in front she had time to wave to spectators cheering her to the finish line.
Japan’s Wakako Tsuchida, who won this race five straight years (2007-11) got off to a quick start, but McFadden caught her by Mile 9, and used her strength on the course’s hills to add to the separation. McFadden won in a time of 1:42:16 — not fast enough for a course record, but good enough for another win.
“It’s quite amazing. I had a little bit of a rough start,” McFadden said. “I had to relax and remind myself that it’s a long race. I knew the hills were coming.”
Wahlberg on location
Actor Mark Wahlberg was spotted at the finish line early Monday morning filming scenes for the Boston Marathon bombing movie, “Patriots Day.”
Wahlberg, who was dressed in Boston Police gear, plays a composite of several officers who were on duty when the blasts hit three years ago. Wahlberg said recently he feels “huge pressure to get this right, but we’re committed to doing that.”
“Patriots Day” has been filming scenes in Weymouth, Dorchester, and Jamaica Plain in recent weeks.
Tom Meagher has been making sure everything is in place at the Marathon finish line for 20 years, and this year, it was no different.
“I’m out here rain or shine,” said Meagher, standing among police officers and the crews setting up, his hands stuffed in his pockets. Meagher said getting everything ready and organized for the race went “perfect,” but said that this year there was a slight impact because of the filming for Wahlberg’s movie.
“It’s different, but they make adjustments and we make a little bit of adjustments,” he said.
But he’s not worried about the film; Meagher said Monday is all about the runners.
“For me, it’s the average runner who’s running for a cause,” he said, referencing what his favorite part about the race is. “That’s the most important thing to me, that human emotion.”
Early start in Hopkinton
At the start line in Hopkinton, race director Dave McGillivray said everything was on schedule.
“The weather is really cooperating,” said McGillivray, who is in his 29th year managing the race. “Everything now is totally on schedule. I feel really good about this one right now.”
McGillivray said crews sprang into action shortly after roads were closed in Hopkinton at 7 a.m. They were busy setting up the start area — barricades, signs, and more — and had only about an hour and a half to accomplish it.
Security teams in action
At a news conference on the corner of Hopkinton Common just before the race, Hank Shaw, special agent in charge of the Boston FBI office, said there are “no specific credible threats against the event.” He said that after the recent attacks in Paris and Brussels officials have honed their skills on tracking possible attacks and how to respond to them.
“Strategically, we’re a well-oiled machine at this point,” said Colonel Richard McKeon, superintendent of State Police.
The number of officers stationed at the race is consistent with last year, said McKeon. There are plainclothes officers throughout the crowd, as well as uniformed state and local police all along the route.
“Law enforcement is here — uniformed officers and officers you may not see,” McKeon said.
McKeon’s message to the public was: “Remember the restrictions that are in place” and enjoy the race. Hopkinton Police Chief Ed Lee said officials were hoping for a normal marathon, but “everyone has to be vigilant.”
The 2016 Boston Marathon field included runners from all 50 US states and 81 countries. It is 54.1 percent men and 45.9 percent women. The average age of the men’s field is 44.88. The women’s average age is 40.09.
Steve Annear, Christina Prignano, Tim Healey, and Ellen Ishkanian of the Globe staff contributed to this report.