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The 116th Running of the Boston Marathon - The Men's Race
by Sharon Ekstrom
The Race Overshadowed by the Heat
The 116th Boston Marathon was held on a day of historic heat. While the elite race tends to be the big story, the weather for the 2012 race took precedence. In the days before the race, organizers sent multiple emails to participants and held numerous press conferences about the danger of running in the heat. The race, which pre-2006 had started at noon, had temperatures in the 90s and was reported to top 100 degree temperatures in 1976 in the race dubbed the "Run for the Hoses"; and as recently as 2004 the starting temperature ranged from 83 degrees at the start to 86 degrees at the finish. Even with organizers offering to allow runners to defer to the following year, fewer than 400 accepted the offer and the 2012 edition of Boston nearly 22,500 started the race.
Blame global warming, strange patterns across the globe or just call it an Act of God, but the weather variable is a factor that has been gaining increased attention in the past few years as conditions are endangering the lives of athletes on the course. Officials had taken extra precautions and issued heat warnings to all runners from the inexperienced to the elites and offered deferred guaranteed entry to 2013 for its athletes - 5,000 of those athletes opted to defer until 2013. (3863 did not pick up their race packets, 427 picked up packets and did not start.)
Back To the Elite Race...
A Surprising Letdown - Geoffrey Mutai
Photo Credit: Victah Sailer/PhotoRun
Defending Champion Geoffrey Mutai was the favorite in the field. His record setting 2:03:02 fastest marathon finish ever in the 2011 Boston Marathon and his victory at the 2011 New York City Marathon jettisoned him into the spotlight. He went from "One to Watch" to "The Man To Beat". With the 2012 London Olympics looming, Mutai's Olympic berth on the Kenyan team seemed a foregone conclusion, despite the great number of top Kenyan marathoners up for consideration. But, as the old adage has it, anything can and will happen in the marathon - which may be why a great number of top distance runners put most of their faith - not in training - but in God.
Geoffrey Mutai ran in the lead pack as expected. With temperatures already on the rise, the men went out at an ultra conservative pace, hitting the 5K mark at 15:05. In 2011, the group hit the same mark in 14:32. It was not an African who would be a frontrunner - two Americans Glenn Randall (PR 2:20:40) and Nick Arciniaga (PR 2:11:30) took to the front of the pack which contained four sub 2:06 marathoners. Apparently seeking television exposure Randall maintained a six second lead in front. What was he thinking?
The race truly took shape by the 25K mark, which nine men passed through in 66:10 - Mathew Kisorio, Wesley Korir, Levy Matebo, Wilson Chebet, Geoffrey Mutai, David Barmasai, Laban Korir, Bernard Kipyego and Gebre Gebremariam.
Into mile 17, Matebo, Kisorio and Mutai pulled away from the pack, dropping all others with a 4:43 mile. Starting up the hills at mile 18, Kisorio put in another hard surge and Matebo looked back - surprised to see that Mutai was fading back. By 30K Mutai had dropped out of the race citing stomach cramps after taking water at two water stations. His dreams of going to the 2012 London Olympics may have ended at that moment - any remaining chance dependent on the performance of his compatriots at the London Marathon the following week.
A New Batch of Kenyans Step Into the Limelight
After cresting Heartbreak Hill - approaching mile 21 - Levy Matebo made a decisive move and pulled away from half marathon specialist Mathew Kisorio. Matebo, off most radar screens, but singled out by MarathonGuide.com as a good dark horse pick - was fresh off a runner-up finish at the 2011 Frankfurt Marathon where he set out on World Record pace with Wilson Kipsang only to flame out after 37K. Pre-race Matebo admitted his mistake, but it was clear he wasn't going to let this race go without a fight.
Matebo surged onward establishing distance between himself and Kisorio - knowing that Kisorio is a fierce 5000m specialist and could out-kick him if it came down to a sprint. Yet, it wasn't Kisorio that should have concerned Matebo... Wesley Korir had been 40 seconds back at one point in the race, but maintained a strong and steady pace and surprising even himself caught and even passed Matebo by mile 24. Over the next mile, Matebo and Korir switched off the lead as they headed in towards Copley Square.
The heat was a factor for those who went out too hard and Korir's steady pace left him in good shape to put in a hard final mile, putting nearly 30 seconds on Matebo. Before the race, Korir reminded MarathonGuide.com that he does well in hot weather, and that did seem to be true.
A Surprise Performance - Top American - Jason Hartmann
Photo Credit: Victah Sailer/PhotoRun
With the USA Olympic Trials held just three months prior, most top Americans chose not to enter another Spring marathon and/or were preparing for the Olympic Games or Track Trials. Three Marathon Trialists were in the field - not expected to factor in the race: Nick Arciniaga, Sergio Reyes and Jason Hartmann. Of the three, Hartmann had the fastest personal best marathon time, but had fared the worst at the Olympic Trials. With a 2:11:06 best, Hartmann believed that he had a chance to make the Olympic Team but finished a disappointing 32nd place - for Hartmann, the Boston Marathon was a chance for redemption; in his words: "Unfortunately, I had a bad day [at the Olympic Trials] and I circled THIS day (Boston Marathon) on my calendar. I wasn't going to fail today. I came here to do something." Running with the leaders, Hartmann let some go at mile 16, Hartmann, telling us later that he needed to "stay in control when the big surge occurred. I kept to my own race and picked off those who blew up due to the pace. There were so many times you wanted to throw in the towel but you just push on." And Hartmann did just what he hoped, running smart to finish in 2:14:31 and take fourth place - equalling Ryan Hall's finish placement of 2010 and 2011.
Two other Americans finished in the money (top 15), Sergio Reyes, the 2010 USATF Marathon Champion, finished 12th in 2:22:06 and Uli Steidl finished in fifteenth place and as first Masters finisher in 2:23:08.
1. Wesley Korir (KEN) 2:12:40 - $150,000
2. Levy Matebo (KEN) 2:13:06 - $75,000
3. Bernard Kipyego (KEN) 2:13:13 - $40,000
4. Jason Hartmann (USA) 2:14:31 - $25,000
5. Wilson Chebet (KEN) 2:14:56 - $15,000
6. Laban Korir (KEN) 2:15:29 - $12,000
7. Michel Butter (NED) 2:16:38 - $9,000
8. David Barmasai (KEN) 2:17:16 - $7,400
9. Hideaki Tamura (JPN) 2:18:15 - $5,700
10. Mathew Kisorio (KEN) 2:18:15 - $4,200
11. Tim Chichester (USA) 2:21:10 - $2,600
12. Sergio Reyes (USA) 2:22:06 - $2,100
13. Brendan Martin (USA) 2:22:32 - $1,800
14. Gebregziabher Gebremariam (ETH) 2:22:56 - $1,700
15. Uli Steidl (USA) 2:23:08 - $1,500 + $10,000