Geoffrey Kirui flew completely under the radar before the race, his best previous marathon being a third-place debut in Rotterdam last year and his PB a 2:06:27 for seventh in Amsterdam. But the 24-year-old asserted after the race, “In my mind, I was sure that one day I would win this race.”
The men’s pack stayed together much longer than the women, with former world record holder Emmanuel Mutai doing much of the pace work as the field wandered towards Boston. Unlike Linden, Mutai seemed disinterested in setting a fast pace, with the average mile hovering around 4:55 well past halfway.
Things began getting interesting in much the same part of the race as the year before, around 25 kilometres as the course descends into Lower Falls to cross the Charles from Wellesley into Newton. Olympic bronze medallist Galen Rupp moved to the front of the pack and although the pace didn’t improve, the size of the pack began to shrink. Mutai, defending champion Lemi Berhanu Hayle, and several others came off the pace.
The faces remaining, in addition to Kirui, Rupp, and Wilson Chebet, were not ones who would have been picked to be in the lead pack this late. American veteran Abdi Abdirahman, dominating the masters race; Colorado-based Augustus Maiyo, wearing the improbable bib number of 63; and Oregon-based Japanese Suguru Osako.
Eventually a duel developed between Rupp and Kirui, with the duo putting a dozen seconds on Osako coming up to 35 kilometres. After passing that marker, Kirui stomped on the accelerator, covering the 24th mile in 4:28, by far the fastest of the race. Rupp couldn’t answer the bell at that point, and the remaining two miles for Kirui were an extended victory lap.
Rupp came in second at 2:09:58, with Osako third in 2:10:28.
“I knew, coming here to Boston, I was going to face my colleagues who have run many times here,” said Kirui. “I was not aware that I was going to win, but I knew that I would challenge some of the champions who have been competing here.”
Osako was also thrilled with his performance. “I was very nervous and grateful for the Boston experience,” he said. “Once I relaxed, I started doing better.”
Although the athletes enjoyed a tailwind in many parts of the course, winds were gusty and occasionally met the runners head on. More challenging, especially for the mass participants, was the heat, with temperatures around 20 C at the start and rising slightly during the race.
Some 27,228 runners in four waves crossed the starting line in Hopkinton to make the trip in to Boston this year.