BOSTON — Let him be known
from Hopkinton to the Back Bay as “Robert the Younger” — the second
Kenyan named Robert K. Cheruiyot to win the Boston Marathon and the
first person ever to run the legendary course in under 2 hours, 6
Robert Kiprono Cheruiyot won the
114th Boston race Monday, finishing in 2:05:52 to shatter by 82 seconds
the course record set by four-time winner Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot,
who’s not related. American Ryan Hall, who finished third last year,
missed another spot on the podium by 2 seconds, but his time of 2:08:41
was the fastest ever for a U.S. runner in Boston.
“Today was a breakthrough day,”
said Hall, who was 6 seconds faster than Bob Kempainen in 1994. “Guys
are paving new territory, and that’s good for us, too.”
Ethiopia’s Teyba Erkesso took the
women’s title in 2:26:11, sprinting to the tape to win by 3 seconds in
the third-closest women’s finish in event history. Russia’s Tatyana
Pushkareva smiled and waved at the TV cameras as she closed what had
been a 90-second gap, but she could not quite catch Erkesso on Boylston
Cheruiyot, 21, surpassed the
course record of 2:07:14 set in 2006 by his 31-year-old countryman. A
farmer back home, he earned a bonus of $25,000 on top of the $150,000 —
and a golden olive wreath from the city of Marathon, Greece — that goes to the men’s and women’s champions.
“I am going to buy some cows,”
The Cheruiyots are not the first
namesakes to win in Boston.
When John J. Kelley won in 1957,
he was destined to be confused with 1935 and ’45 champion John A. Kelley
— “Johnny the Elder” — a beloved patriarch of the Boston Marathon who
continued to run the entire race until 1992, when he was 84. When he
could no longer complete the distance, he would serenade the competitors
at the starting line with “Young at Heart” before riding to Boston in a
convertible as the grand marshall.
A statue of him in his younger
and older days greets the runners at the base of Heartbreak Hill in
Robert Kipkoech Cheruyiot won
his first Boston in 2003 and won three more times from 2006-08 to cement
his place among the Boston Marathon greats. On Monday, acting the
advice his elder gave him in a meeting two months ago, “Robert the
Younger” produced a blistering pace to join them.
“I tried to show my talent,” he
Cheruiyot finished 91 seconds
ahead of Ethiopian Tekeste Kebede to give Kenya its 18th men’s victory
in 20 years. Defending champion Deriba Merga was third and Hall and
fellow American Meb Keflezighi, the winner in New York last fall,
rounded out the top five; no American has won the men’s race since Greg
Meyer in 1983.
“We are training hard, but that
doesn’t mean we’re going to hit a home run every time,” said Keflezighi,
who was trying to be the first American to win in New York and Boston
back-to-back. “We take big pride in being among the favorites. We put it
on the line. We don’t go for second. I think the crowd appreciated it,
because they were shouting ‘U-S-A! U-S-A!'”
A temperature of 49 degrees and a
13 mph headwind greeted more than 26,000 runners at the start in
Hopkinton, including an unprecedented 71 competitors who came from
Greece — there were three last year — to help celebrate the 2,500th
anniversary the Battle of Marathon. It was there, in 490 B.C., that a
messenger named Pheidippides was dispatched the roughly 26 miles to
Athens to deliver news of a victory over Persia — and then dropped dead.
This year’s edition of the
world’s oldest annual marathon was decided, like so many before it, at
Merga surged ahead at the
firehouse that marks the start of the Newton hills, drawing Cheruiyot
along with him while the rest of a lead pack — including Abderrahim
Gourmi, who had the fastest personal best in the field, and Keflezighi —
fell off the pace.
The two leaders ran the 21st
mile — the steepest part of the course — in a split of 4:55.
Merga and Cheruiyot ran
shoulder-to-shoulder through parts of Newton and into Brookline, before
the Kenyan inched ahead at Coolidge Corner with about 2.5 miles left and
Hall, who led most of the way
last year, led early again before falling to 17th in Natick and then
retaking the lead in Wellesley. He lost ground at the halfway point but
sprinted through the final mile and unsuccessfully chased Merga down
“I always thought I had a shot
to get back in it,” said Hall, who like Keflezighi is from Mammoth
Lakes, Calif. “If you’re trying to be the big elephant — the guy who
gets to sit wherever — you’ve got to be confident.”
Erkesso opened a lead of more
than 90 seconds and held on, grabbing her side as she ran along Beacon
Street in the last four miles. Defending champion Salina Kosgei was
third, and Paige Higgins of Flagstaff, Ariz., was the top American woman
The men’s wheelchair race was
also close, with South African Ernst Van Dyk finishing 4 seconds ahead
of Krige Schabort for his ninth win — an all-divisions record in Boston.
Van Dyk has won three in a row, and he also won six consecutive years
from 2000-06; Jean Driscoll won eight Boston women’s wheelchair races.
Wakako Tsuchida of Japan won her
fourth straight women’s wheelchair title.