The 2017 Boston Marathon: What we think we learned
“I don’t know, fuck up some smart kids?”: Our Boston Recap
The 2017 Boston Marathon won’t be entombed in the annals of history as the fastest, most dramatic, or as a pithy title like “The Duel in the Sun.” But it was still a damn fine race on both the men’s and women’s sides. So with that in mind, here are a few quick takes before I turn things over to Kersh for the race recaps.
- It seems the top three male and two of the top three female finishers (Rose Chelimo being the exception) all wore the new, slightly controversial Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4%, which was described by Citius founder Chris Chavez for Sports Illustrated.
- And men’s champion Geoffrey Kirui slugged down that high-density carbohydrate drink, Maurten, that our own Chris Chavez also wrote about. (Luddite fans of running, this was not your day.)
- The women’s race was way more interesting to follow than the men’s.
- It was a great morning for Nike Oregon Project athletes making their marathon debuts.
- And it was also a great morning for Meb, who is doing his version of a marathoner’s farewell tour, and doing it very well. He did not running slowly by any stretch of the imagination (he ran 2:17:00), and put himself in there from the gun, and stuck until he couldn’t (but still finished 13th). It’s refreshing to see; he clearly loves the sport and just wants a last hurrah, instead of the usual retirement path of stopping amidst consistent disappointment. And of course it was an emotional day for him, as he’s got a personal history at Boston that I’m sure will be made into a film soon.
After a blazing fast opening kilometer (at 2:03 marathon pace), things quickly settled down, and a massive pack of more than twenty dudes remained within spitting distance of the leaders through 10K (30:27 or so). But shortly thereafter the heat began to play a factor and the herd was thinned.
Guys dropped off slowly but surely, without any major moves being made. It was just attrition for a while, despite the pace gradually growing slower.
Really, nothing that interesting happened until the guys neared the Newton hills. Abdi (now a masters runner!) made a bold push to the lead, swung to the side of the course, and gave his sunglasses to a troop clad in full military fatigues. Shortly thereafter Abdi dropped, which seemed to give Rupp the green light to press down on the gas a little bit.
And that was enough. Between the quickened pace (which had for a while been slowing) and aptly named Heartbreak Hill, eventual champ Geoffrey Kirui, Galen Rupp, and his training partner Suguru Osako broke away from the handful of guys still with it. Suguru quickly realized he wasn’t about that pace, and so we had a two man battle with about four miles to go.
For a few minutes it seemed Rupp might win. But ultimately, Kirui — on the strength of a 4:26 split for his 24th mile — made Galen Rupp look like he was walking over the closing stages of the race.
Kirui looked incredibly efficient over the late stages, when even Rupp-the-automaton showed signs of fatigue. So his victory really wasn’t a huge surprise.
Behind them, Suguru finished strong in third, running 2:10:28 for an impressive debut. Then Shadrack Biwott (4th; 2:12:08), Abdi Abdirahman (6th; 2:12:45), Luke Puskedra (9th; 2:14:45), and Jared Ward (10th; 2:15:28) all ran well, for a solid American situation in the top-10.
Coming into this race, the collective consciousness of the domestic distance-runner was a shared hope, and a strong belief that Desi Linden would not only be the first American female finisher, but the winner of the 2017 Boston Marathon.
Desi’s approach to her training and racing is full of truth, and lacks anything to the contrary. Her running career is not currently suspended in a bizarro gray area of “has-she-or-hasn’t-she,” and her consistency, especially on the world’s biggest stages, will be lauded for the foreseeable future.
She is, however, a robot. Her matching 1:12:33 half-marathon splits rewarded her with a 4th place finish. Watching Desi race was frustrating at times, though, because of how stubborn she was to stick to HER pace. No, she couldn’t cover the devastating move at 30K from eventual winner Edna Kiplagat, but the resolve and the trust Desi has in her training and what she needs to focus on in those decisive moments is continually agonizingly fun to watch.
As alluded to earlier, Edna Kiplagat torched the field over the last 12K when she starting clicking off low five-minute miles. In the midst of the firestorm she unleashed on her competitors, she experienced a now-hilarious-because-it-was-not-disastrous moment at one of the last fluid tables. Her bottle was not in the correct place so, instead of taking a competitor’s bottle and almost certainly having a hand in their dehydration, Kiplagat came to a complete stop for a few seconds to take account of her situation, collect her sense, and nab the correct bottle. It was silly.
Kiplagat ended up crossing the finish in 2:21:52 and looked strong as hell doing so, which should not be a surprise as she is — in addition to a world-class runner — a policewoman, a stalwart for proper waste removal practices in her native Kenya, and a mother to five children. She is a tough lady.
Jordan Hasay continued to cement herself as an American road-racing legend with a third-place finish in her marathon debut. I have not been around this sport long enough to make such bold claims, but I cannot remember an athlete who has responded so positively to road racing. Hasay’s last few track season left something to be desired from a talent like her but, since switching to the roads, she has won several U.S. Championships, scorched the Czech Republic earth with a 67:55 half marathon two weeks ago in Prague, and a podium finish at the Boston Marathon. Truly unbelievable performances, and we are now experiencing the rebirth of Jordan Hasay as the next Great American Distance Runner.
What will you remember about the 2017 race?
Well, those dumb Nike shoes sure seem to work. Paul, what about you?
How quickly Kiplagat’s big move gapped the rest of the remaining contenders, and how early in the race it took place. At the point in the course where Rupp and Kirui began dueling in a two-man contest, Kiplagat had already been running solo for miles. Her surge was early enough too, to seem possibly ill-fated, so it was especially intriguing to follow. Did anybody really surprise you or let you down, there, Stephen?
Nice insight, Paul. I’d say the gaggle of American men in the top-10 (with USA’er Sean Quigley at 11th overall) was a surprise, albeit a good one. Aside from Galen who I was sure would do well, Biwott and Abdi built on their strong NYC Marathon performances, Maiyo came outta nowhere for 7th, and Puskedra and Ward really put on strong performances. I’ll take this opportunity to end on a positive note and stop blogging for the day!
Way to blog, baby. Way to blog.