Wheelchair winners won battles of endurance

Runners crossed the Boston Marathon finish line Monday afternoon limping, shivering, grimacing, and even weeping, looking like they had survived a tremendous physical ordeal — and, of course, they had.
Runners crossed the Boston Marathon finish line Monday afternoon limping, shivering, grimacing, and even weeping, looking like they had survived a tremendous physical ordeal — and, of course, they had.

Marcel Hug and Ernst Van Dyk. It was a common refrain through 19 miles of Monday’s Boston Marathon, the two former wheelchair champions neck-and-neck amid treacherous elements on the road to Boylston Street.

Hug began to pull away on Heartbreak Hill, creating eight seconds of separation by Mile 20 en route to his fourth consecutive victory. Hug’s time of 1 hour 46 minutes and 26 seconds was the slowest winning mark in 31 years in the men’s wheelchair division.

“It was so tough,” said Hug, a Switzerland native. “I was so freezing.”

Van Dyk, a 10-time winner in Boston, finished second, 48 seconds behind Hug. Daniel Romanchuk, a 19-year-old from Baltimore, was third (1:50:39).


Hug took advantage of the hilly terrain in the final third of the course, using Van Dyk’s broad frame against him on the uphill portions and maintaining his distance on downhills. A drenched Van Dyk cited difficulty maintaining his grip on the wheels for his inability to surge back into contention.

Men’s winner Marcel Hug said of the conditions: “It was so tough. I was so freezing.”
Men’s winner Marcel Hug said of the conditions: “It was so tough. I was so freezing.”Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff

Hug enjoyed yet another victorious ride down the homestretch, surrounded by an admirably peppy contingent of fans.

“I was just so glad that I finished the race, I didn’t realize that I had won,” Hug said. “I just went as fast as possible. I wanted to go home.”

Hug’s title is the 11th for Switzerland in the men’s wheelchair division, second only to the United States (12).

Hug and Van Dyk have a storied history on these roads, finishing first and second, respectively, the last four years. The two notched identical times in 2017, finishing in 1:18:04 to shatter both the course and world records.

On Monday, water splashed back into Hug’s face with each rotation of his front wheel.

“I think it was the toughest race I’ve had in my career,” said Hug, who owns the world record for the 800 and 10,000 meters and won two golds at the 2016 Rio Paralympics. “I don’t remember winning [in] a slower time than today.”


Hug is no stranger to the Copley Plaza podium, and the 32-year old has earned the right to be frank when peppered with questions by media. So was “The Silver Bullet” able to enjoy himself at any point Monday, given the conditions?

“To be honest, not really,” he said.

McFadden makes move

Tatyana McFadden made her decisive move at the 11-mile mark, overtaking defending champion Manuela Schar, and went on to win the women’s wheelchair division.

McFadden pulled far ahead by Mile 13 and went on to win in 2:04:39. The cold and rainy conditions made for the slowest winning time in 30 years.

“I am so happy and so overwhelmed,” McFadden said. “The past month, I’ve been putting in a lot of hard work, lots of two-a-days. I just kept consistent speed and I’m so, so happy. I was really patient with myself.”

It was McFadden’s fifth Boston victory and a gratifying return to the top spot after finishing fourth in 2017 during a year in which she battled blood clots in her legs that could have been fatal.

“It’s been a really tough year getting back,” McFadden said. “I didn’t know what this race would be like, or how strong I’d be physically.”

Tatyana McFadden breaks the tape, sealing her victory.
Tatyana McFadden breaks the tape, sealing her victory.charles krupa/AP

Schar, who set the course record last year in 1:28:17, led for the first 10 miles.

The rest of the race belonged to McFadden, who won four consecutive titles from 2013-16.


Perhaps her most memorable victory came in 2015, when she competed for Team MR8, the charitable foundation started by Bill and Denise Richard after their 8-year-old son, Martin, was killed in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings.

After McFadden won that race, she gave her olive wreath to Bill Richard, a moment that brought him to tears.

“I love coming back to this community,” McFadden said. “I love the people that I’ve met along the way. Nothing’s impossible, and I really like spreading that message. It’s always good to be back.”

Big day for Americans

Women’s champion Desiree Linden headlined a group of seven Americans who finished in the top 10, including a surprising second-place finish for Sarah Sellers, who finished 4:10 behind Linden in 2:44:04.

Rachel Hyland took fourth in 2:44:29, followed by Jessica Chichester in fifth (2:45:23), Nicole Dimercurio in sixth (2:45:52), Shalane Flanagan in seventh (2:46:31), and Kimi Reed in eighth place (2:46:47).

On the men’s side, Shadrack Biwott made the podium with a third-place finish in 2:18:35 and was one of six Americans in the top 10. Tyler Pennel finished fourth (2:18:57), Andrew Bumbalough finished fifth (2:19:52), Scott Smith finished sixth (2:21:47), Elkanah Kibet finished eighth (2:23:37) and Daniel Vassallo was 10th (2:27:50).

Burfoot goes distance

Amby Burfoot, who celebrated the 50th anniversary of his 1968 victory by going the distance for the 24th time, finished in 4:53:22.

“I spent all winter getting lean and mean and fit and I should have gotten fat and insulated because that’s what you needed today,” said Burfoot, whose 1968 triumph came amid 70-degree sunshine. Burfoot, who ran with half a dozen companions, took it nice and easy amid the chilly and wet conditions.


“We all stuck together and cheered for each other,” he said. “After we got over Heartbreak Hill we didn’t push it at all. We just celebrated the last 4 miles down Beacon.”

Burfoot, who’d been running here at five-year intervals, has been an annual participant since 2013.

“Once you’ve run here and you’ve had some success and you’ve witnessed the incredible community suppport then of course you want to come back as much as you can and be part of it,” he said. “Because there’s no other celebration in running like this.”

Bennett Beach, who holds the record for most consecutive Boston Marathons, finished his 51st in a row with a clocking of 5:48:35. The 68-year-old Maryland resident, who ran his first race here on the same day that Burfoot won his, now is seven shy of matching John (The Elder) Kelley’s record of 58 completed marathons.

Rupp drops out

Galen Rupp, the top US men’s hope who was second last year, dropped out around the 20-mile mark, just before Heartbreak Hill. The Olympic bronze medalist, who’d won in Chicago last fall, had said that he was looking forward to running in the unfavorable conditions. “Being an Oregon boy I’m not too fazed by the weather,” he’d said. “Cold and rain is what it is most of the time where I’m from.” Rupp was with the lead pack coming out of Wellesley but began to fall off the pace going up the Route 128 overpass and was out of contention by the firehouse turn into the Newton trimountain. He wasn’t alone as a DNF among the elites. None of the seven top contenders by personal-best times completed the course . . . Carlos Arredondo, a hero in aiding those wounded in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, ran the race for the first time, finishing in 6:50:06 . . . William Evans, the 59-year-old Boston Police Commissioner, ran his 20th Boston Marathon and 53rd overall, finishing in 4:21:54.


Globe correspondents Anthony Gulizia and John Powers and Nora Princiotti of the Globe staff contributed to this article.