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The 117th Running of the Boston Marathon - The Men's Race
by John Elliott
The field for the Boston Marathon is always one of the strongest and deepest of any race in the world. That said, the race must compete with the incredible wealth and fast course of its partner and rival marathon, the London Marathon, when trying to build its pro field. Boston, and John Hancock who wholly manages its elite field, does have good fortune in bringing back past champions and runners-up and attracting some of the best Americans for patriotic reasons. The 2013 field was such a field: the winners of the 2009/2010/2012 Boston Marathons (in order Deriba Merga (ETH), Robert Kiprono Cheruiyot (KEN) and Wesley Korir (KEN)) were returning to be joined by the three Americans who represented the USA at the Olympics. Missing from the field was the 2011 champion, Geoffrey Mutai (KEN) (who chose to go to London), whose wind-aided time that year resulted in the fastest finish for any man in history ever to traverse 26.2 miles: 2:03:02. But even without that 2011 champion, the close runner-up from that year, Moses Mosop (KEN) and his 2:03:06 time would be in the field... Add to that the 2012 runner-up, Levy Matebo (KEN). To round out the field, Gebre Gebremariam (ETH), third in 2011 and a past New York City Marathon winner would also run.
With the field seemingly set and just a few weeks remaining before the race, things started to change. The three American men, one after the other, withdrew for injuries. And late, Moses Mosop also withdrew from the race. With the field dwindling, John Hancock found and added an athlete just one month before the race, Lelisa Desisa who had run just one marathon before: the 2013 Dubai Marathon only 2-1/2 months before Boston; but Desisa's one marathon had been a win with a time of 2:04:45 - this runner was a nice addition. In the field was one other interesting runner: Micah Kogo, a 59:07 half marathoner, who would be running his debut marathon. Much talk centered around Kogo - could he succeed at the longer distance?
America and Canada?!?
Photo Credit: Victah Sailer/PhotoRun
With the USA Olympians out of the field, it was known that this would be a race of only Kenyans and Ethiopians - but from the start, something strange began to emerge. Immediately from the opening gun, Jason Hartmann (USA) who held on for fourth place in 2:14:31 in the hot 2012 Boston race; and Robin Watson whose prior marathons included a 2:16:17, a 2:13:37 at Rotterdam and two DNFs - took the lead. These two men were running at something like a 2:11 marathon pace - something that would not be good enough to win the race, but also a pace that was at the top or over their abilities. The main pack - with thirteen men in it - ignored these runners who at one point were more than twenty seconds ahead. And while most would not expect this to be real, it was nice to see America and Canada represented on television leading the race. The main pack caught Hartmann and Watson and pushed forward - but amazingly the Canadian and American later caught the field again and after the halfway point, Watson was again leading and by himself running ten seconds ahead of the rest of the runners - were these guys for real?
Kenya and Ethiopia
Leading into the hills - by mile 17 - Dickson Chumba, a Kenyan, decided the pace would need to increase and began to surge to break the field apart. Ultimately the race was enfolding as expected: Kenya vs. Ethiopia - with three Kenyans and three
Ethiopians running to represent their countries and themselves. In the race were those we had mentioned at the beginning of this article with the substitution of Dickson Chumba in the front for Wesley Korir who was falling off the pace. Six runners...from Kenya: Chumba, Matebo and Kogo; from Ethiopia: Desisa, Gebremariam and Merga. Merga would be the first to fall off the pace - and ultimately fall all the way back to 27th place... Chumba and Matebo - both outmatched by the other runners in the front pack would be the next to fall back and the race became a race of three men...and the certainty of who would make up the top three was set by mile 22.
Photo Credit: Victah Sailer/PhotoRun
Speaking Another Language
Micah Kogo, running his debut marathon, would later tell us that he was a bit confused. Before the race he had committed to his plan of simply following the other runners. He would respect the knowledge that he had never run a marathon before and didn't really know what to expect. As the race progressed, he felt that the first half was too slow - this from a man whose Half Marathon run time is nearly six minutes faster than the time these runners were taking to cross the halfway point of the Boston Marathon. Kogo liked the company of other Kenyans when the field was still at six runners, then five, then four. But when there were three runners remaining, he realized that he was the only Kenyan and felt uncomfortable. He saw Desisa and Gebremariam talking, but could not understand what they were saying. For a while Kogo set the pace - he was strong, but none of the three would make the first decisive move.
It comes Down to the Sprint
Photo Credit: Victah Sailer/PhotoRun
In the final mile, Lelisa Desisa - the late entrant and the man with the fastest marathon time in the field - made the first move. And his move was decisive. Gebremariam and Kogo half-heartedly tried to keep up and then determined that their race would be for second or third place...Desisa would be the winner. Kogo seemed to be tiring and Gebremariam was getting away for the second position, but amazingly Kogo seemed to gain a second wind and catch back to Gebremariam and stay slightly ahead - enough to finish in second place. And that would be the race: Desisa Lilesa would be two for two in lifetime marathon wins, winning the 2013 Dubai Marathon and following up with the 2013 Boston Marathon win in 2:10:22. That time - 2:10:22 - was not a fast one for Boston, It was only the 90th best time ever run at Boston; but the race started slowly (1:04:54 for the first half) and finished no faster (1:05:28 for the second half) - but it was a race and no one can deny that the top three are world class competitors. Micah Kogo took the runner-up spot in his debut marathon in 2:10:27 and vowed that now that he understands the marathon he will win his next. Gebre Gebremariam took third in 2:10:28.
Having run 2:11:06 at the 2010 Chicago Marathon, Jason Hartmann had a poor Olympic Trials Marathon at the beginning of 2012, finishing 32nd in 2:16:44 and he was devastated. To redeem himself, he ran the 2012 Boston Marathon and finished a remarkable fourth place in 2:14:31. Many attributed that fourth place finish to the heat and to a number of "better" runners dropping because of the heat. But after leading some of the 2013 race and then dropping as far back as 10th place by the 30K mark, Hartmann again showed his courage and stamina by passing many runners and running strong to the finish - repeating his fourth place finish, this time in a time of 2:12:12. Hartmann's is already a great continuing comeback story and his second fourth place finish is a great finish for an American, especially when the three featured Americans chose not to start.
1. Lelisa Desisa (ETH) 2:10:22 - $150,000
2. Micah Kogo (KEN) 2:10:27 - $75,000
3. Gebregziabher Gebremariam (ETH) 2:10:28 - $40,000
4. Jason Hartmann (USA) 2:12:12 - $25,000
5. Wesley Korir (KEN) 2:12:30 - $15,000
6. Markos Geneti (ETH) 2:12:44 - $12,000
7. Dickson Chumba (KEN) 2:14:08 - $9,000
8. Jeffrey Hunt (AUS) 2:14:28 - $7,400
9. Daniel Tapia (USA) 2:14:30 - $5,700
10. Craig Leon (USA) 2:14:38 - $4,200
11. Robin Watson (CAN) 2:15:33 - $2,600
12. Levy Matebo (KEN) 2:15:42 - $2,100
13. Tomohiro Tanigawa (JPN) 2:16:57 - $1,800
14. Carlos Carballo (USA) 2:17:05 - $1,700
15. Lee Troop (AUS) 2:17:52 - $1,500 + $10,000