There may be runners like Bob who train well enough to take the Newton hills rather comfortably. I would also submit that Bob, being from Florida and used to heat, gained extra confidence passing wilting runners late in the race that warm Patriot's Day. So the elements were there for him to enjoy the course.
Runners from the north, training all winter in arctic cold and on snowy roads and icy sidewalks, get trashed at Boston if the temps climb over even 60 degrees F. They dehydrate rapidly, which means their leg muscles don't absorb shock as well, which means their legs get hammered on the downhill sections, which leads to pain, which leads to slower times, or DNF, or medical tent.
Now for a personal story. I have a friend from Chicago, who like Bob, had to go out of his way to simulate hills in his training. Since Illinois is flat, bridges worked nicely for him too. He commented after his first Boston: "I hardly noticed the hills". With that rookie experience under his belt, he confidently returned to run Boston the very next year. Perhaps a bit too convinced about his mastery of the hills the previous year, this time he was reduced to tears by the 18th mile. The last 8 miles were pure agony for him; by far the most painful marathon he ever ran.
Are the Newton Hills a factor? Let me put it this way: Grete Waitz had a huge lead in the 1982 Boston Marathon. At the 23 mile mark, with her quads in total agony from the downhill pounding, she dropped out... stepped off the course...quit! (Grete had much more incentive to finish that race than you or I ever will.)
The crowd roared, in hopes of encouraging her back into the race, but to no avail. Charlotte Teske of Germany eventually crossed the finish line convinced she was the women's runnerup, and was stunned to be given the champion's laurel wreath.
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