Kirui stunner, Kiplagat delivers Boston Marathon title

Edna Kiplagat crosses the finish line at the 2017 Boston Marathon. (PHOTO/Courtesy)
Edna Kiplagat crosses the finish line at the 2017 Boston Marathon. (PHOTO/Courtesy)

Running in only his third marathon ever, Geoffrey Kirui was Kenya’s unlikely hero as he defied a daunting field to deliver the country’s first gold medal in Boston since 2012.

That was Kenya’s longest gold drought the annual event – now in it’s 121st edition – since Ibrahim Kipkemboi’s inaugural triumph in 1988.

Facing a compelling field including defending champion Lemi Berhanu Hayle of Ethiopia and eight other men who hold lifetime bests under 2:07, Kirui ran a winning 2:09:37 in only his third marathon ever, ahead of American Galen Rupp and Japanese Suguru Osako.

In the corresponding women’s race, two-time world champion Edna Kiplagat tore the field to finish in winning 2:21:52 ahead of Kenyan-born Bahraini Rose Chelimo and American Jordan Hasay.

With defending champion Atsede Baysa of Ethiopia having dropped out, the certainty was the race – in it’s 121st edition – would witness the crowning of a new champion and it was Kiplagat that delivered for Kenya.

Kirui, 24, produced a devastating sprint with four miles to go to settle an enthralling tactical battle with American rival Galen Rupp, the 2016 Olympic bronze medallist.

Kirui waved and smiled as he took the tape in a time of 2hr 9min 37sec, with Rupp finishing in second.

It was a masterful performance from the young Kenyan, who made his move with a 4:52 mile at the 22-mile mark that saw him pull clear of Rupp.

Rupp battled desperately to stay in touch but was unable to respond as Kirui kept the pace up to leave the Oregon-based American in second in 2:09:58. Japan’s Suguru Osako was third in 2:10:28.

Kirui’s time was well outside the world marathon record of 2:02:57 set by Kenya’s Dennis Kimetto in Berlin in 2014.

In the women’s race, Kiplagat conjured a similarly decisive burst over the closing stages to claim the race for the first time.

The 2011 and 2013 world marathon champion took the tape in 2:21:52 after breaking away from the field with around eight miles to go.

Kiplagat, 37, won back-to-back world marathon titles in Daegu in 2011 and then in Moscow in 2013.  Since then she has run six marathons, scoring podium finishes in three and taking the win at the Virgin Money London Marathon in 2014.

Her most recent result was a second place finish at the Bank of America Chicago Marathon last October in 2:23:28.  She has five career marathon wins, including the 2010 TCS New York City Marathon.

She was greeted by her children and family members as she crossed the line.

Rose Chelimo, the Kenyan-born runner who now represents Bahrain, was second in 2:22:51 while Jordan Hasay of the United States was third in 2:23:00.

The Kenyan double came as a welcome boost for the East African superpower of long-distance running. Kenyan athletics was left reeling earlier this month after news that Kenya’s 2016 Olympic women’s marathon champion Jemima Sumgong had failed a drugs test.

Sumgong’s drug test was another black eye for Kenyan distance running. Sumgong’s former training partner, the 2014 Chicago and Boston Marathon champion Rita Jeptoo, is serving a four-year ban after also testing positive for EPO.

Kenya was last year admonished by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), which accused the country of non-compliance with its anti-doping code.

The Boston Marathon is the world’s oldest annual marathon and one of the most prestigious races over the distance on the athletics calendar.

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Story By Matthews Mutai
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