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The 115th Running of the Boston Marathon - The Men's Race
by John Elliott and Sharon Ekstrom
There are two camps of people: some who say that, with the downhill bias and straight-line course, the Boston Marathon is a super-fast course. Others say that with the rolling hills, Boston can be difficult. The 2011 Boston Marathon settles that debate once and for all: Boston is fast!
For years, Boston had lagged behind the other World Marathon Majors races with a relatively slow course record. That changed with the 2:05:52 course record set in 2010 by Robert Kiprono Cheruiyot. With that record, more runners realized that Boston was fast and the limits were off for what could be established on the course. With a new emphasis on speed, more fast runners than usual seemed to be coming to Boston, including the return of the course record holder, eleven men who had run sub 2:08 and six who had run sub-2:07.
In 2009, Ryan Hall in his first Boston Marathon, pushed the initial miles to sub-world record pace, but folded as the pace slowed leaving Deriba Merga to a decent finish of 2:08:42. The following year, Merga took the role of leader and pushed hard leading to the course record finish for Kiprono Cheruiyot. With Merga out and the defending champion and record holder telling us he was injured, the question of whether the Boston would finish would be slow or fast remained.
Photo Credit: PhotoRun
But for 2011, the weather and Ryan Hall conspired to ensure the most exciting Boston Marathon finish ever... As he did in 2009, Hall assumed the lead from the start, although not as recklessly as he had in 2009. With Hall doing the lead work, the weather turned to be the best ever in support of the marathon. From the start, the runners had a direct 20 mile per hour tailwind pushing them along.
Led by Hall, a pack of fourteen ran together, ticking off each mile at a speed well faster than the previous course record and also just a bit faster than the pace of the world best of 2:03:59. Mathematicians could extrapolate that the pace of the runners multiplied by 26.2 would result in a finishing time of around 2:03:05 - but anyone who knows Boston would know that could not be possible and that the first miles are downhill and then comes an ugly uphill at mile 22.
But the pack moved along dropping runners through 15 miles (1:10:55), including dropping Ryan Hall - and it was down to five runners: Geoffrey Mutai had pushed the pace to break the pack and with him went Robert Kipchumba, Bekana Daba, Moses Mosop, Gebre Gebremariam and Philip Kimutai Sanga. Ryan Hall, top American, was already ten seconds back at this point.
The front pack changed complexion, and somehow Ryan Hall worked his way back to the lead - how it was possible for someone to catch a group running faster than anyone had ever run before seems impossible... But there it was a group of 7 men.
Through the first of the Newton Hills the group stayed together, but then Mutai - the fastest man in the field - again surged forward and at first only two men could maintain contact: Moses Mosop in his debut marathon and the NYC Marathon champion, Gebre Gebremariam. Gebremariam was quickly dropped and in short order, Mosop as well. Mutai seemed destined to run alone to the finish: a course record and well under the world best.
Mosop caught Mutai again - and Mutai would tell us later that he was a bit confused. He knew Mosop and knew that Mosop was not a marathoner - "could that be Mosop" he asked.
It seemed at any time that either man could win, but Mutai was clearly the stronger - and he would run in to run 2:03:02, the fastest marathon ever run; and significantly faster than Haile Gebreselassie's official world record of 2:03:59 set at the 2009 Berlin Marathon. Oddly, the day of the 2011 was, in fact, Gebrselassie's 38th birthday - we'd say that Mutai's beating the best marathon time ever was not such a nice birthday present.
Moses Mosop, in his debut marathon, finished in 2:03:06 - he might as well just quit marathoning now and have the fastest average marathon time of any man now or ever into the future.
Further back, Ryan Hall had caught back to Gebre Gebremariam and the two worked together to both run sub-2:05, Gebremariam posting a 2:04:53 finish and Hall posting a 2:04:58 finish.
After the race, all runners thanked Hall publicly... Mutai thanked Hall for pushing the pace and effectively acting as pacemaker for the race. He stated that without Hall, the time would not have been so great. Gebremariam similarly thanked Hall for working with him in the final miles. And Hall thanked Gebremariam - despite not ending on the podium, Hall could not help but be happy with being the first American to ever run 26.2 miles in under 2:05.
After years of being the slow stepchild of the major marathons, Boston has re-emerged as the fastest of all - at least when the weather cooperates. And while Boston could always claim to be the oldest continually run marathon, it can now lay strong claim to be the fastest.
Photo Credit: PhotoRun
1. Geoffrey Mutai (KEN) 2:03:02 - $150,000 + $50,000 + $25,000
2. Moses Mosop (KEN) 2:03:06 - $75,000
3. Gebregziabher Gebremariam (ETH) 2:04:53 - $40,000
4. Ryan Hall (USA) 2:04:58 - $25,000
5. Abreham Cherkos (ETH) 2:06:13 - $15,000
6. Robert Kiprono Cheruiyot (KEN) 2:06:43 - $12,000
7. Philip Kimutai Sanga (KEN) 2:07:10 - $9,000
8. Deressa Chimsa (ETH) 2:07:39 - $7,400
9. Bekana Daba (ETH) 2:08:03 - $5,700
10. Robert Kipchumba (KEN) 2:08:44 - $4,200
11. Peter Kamais (KEN) 2:09:50 - $2,600
12. Juan Carlos Cardona (COL) 2:12:17 - $2,100
13. Gilbert Yegon (KEN) 2:13:00 - $1,800
14. Migidio Bourifa (ITA) 2:13:45 - $1,700
15. Toyoyuki Abe (JPN) 2:15:48 - $1,500