BOSTON— For the first time in 1,099 days, the Boston Marathon returned to Patriots’ Day on a picture-perfect day for racing. A total of 25,314 athletes started in Hopkinton bound for Boston, with participants from 120 countries and all 50 U.S. states aiming to earn their coveted unicorn medals. In one of the most gripping duels down Boylston Street in race history, Peres Jepchirchir of Kenya fought off surge after breathtaking surge by Ababel Yeshaneh of Ethiopia to claim the women’s open race, while Kenya’s Evans Chebet avenged a 2018 DNF to finish in front of the men’s open race.
The wheelchair divisions were won by American Daniel Romanchuk in 1:26:58 and Manuela Schär of Switzerland in 1:41:08. It was the third victory here for Romanchuk and the fourth for Schär.
By contrast, Jepchirchir earned the olive wreath in her debut here, becoming the first athlete to win an Olympic marathon gold medal, the TCS New York City Marathon and now Boston. A quartet of Jepchirchir, Yeshaneh, 2021 TCS London Marathon winner Joyciline Jepkosgei and Degitu Azimeraw broke away from the pack around 15K, running on a pace to break the course record of 2:19:59. Azimeraw, whose personal best of 2:17:58 made her the third-fastest woman in the field behind only Jepchirchir and Jepkosgei, wasn’t able to hang on for long, but the remaining trio ran together – often literally side-by-side-by-side – until mile 23, when Jepkosgei would fall back.
From there, it was a battle for the ages. For a moment, it appeared that Yeshaneh would pull away, but Jepchirchir bore down to regain the lead. Yeshaneh retook it, only to see Jepchirchir blast ahead in Kenmore Square with a mile to go. But the race wasn’t over yet: the 1:04:31 Ethiopian half marathoner surged ahead again and seemed to be taking control until Jepchirchir slipped past on the inside as the pair turned onto Hereford Street. The determined duo traded leads all down the 600 meters of Boylston Street before Jepchirchir took command in the final meters to defeat her persistent rival by four seconds.
Asked if this was the most hard-fought victory of her career, Jepchirchir nodded. “I can say that this was a difficult race for me. I came to realize, Boston is Boston. It’s a tough course.”
Finishing third was Kenya’s Mary Ngugi, in 2:21:32, a personal best by almost four minutes over her third-place time here last fall. Placing fourth – and smashing the masters course record she set last year – was 42-year-old Edna Kiplagat, in 2:21:40. Top American for the second-consecutive year was Nell Rojas in a personal best 2:25:57, finishing 10th.
The men’s race played out very differently, with a pack of 15 still together on Heartbreak Hill. It wasn’t until mile 21 that Evans Chebet, determined to make up for the DNF in his only previous appearance here four years ago, surged ahead.
“I was confident that move would do it,” he said later.
Although Gabriel Geay of Tanzania briefly went with him, it would be past Boston champions Lawrence Cherono (2019) and Benson Kipruto (2021) looming in the distance who posed the most-credible threat.
But Chebet never looked back, breaking the tape in 2:06:51. Cherono followed in 2:07:21, with Kipruto third in 2:07:27. The top American, Scott Fauble, was seventh in 2:08:52, a personal best.
The morning was less suspenseful for Romanchuk and Schär. The former defeated runner-up Aaron Pike, 1:26:58 to 1:32:49; the latter bested American Susannah Scaroni, 1:41:08 to 1:46:20. Scaroni was competing for the first time since being hit by a car while training last year.
“This one was special,” said Schär, barely recovered after a bout with COVID-19 just two weeks ago. “The crowd kind of saved my life today.”
It was Romanchuk who summed up the morning: “It’s just amazing to be back here on Patriots Day.”
Participants continue to complete the 126th Boston Marathon; finisher totals will be available once the event comes to a conclusion. Results and leaderboards for today’s race can be found here.