Boston’s back: Kenya’s Kipyogei wins women’s marathon

BOSTON (AP) — A pack of about a dozen elite women traversed more than half of the Boston Marathon course together Monday, passing crowds that were smaller than normal but no less enthusiastic.

They were greeted by a singer performing “Teddy Bear” by Elvis Presley, Santa Claus shouting “Ho! Ho! Ho!” and a line of children jumping on small trampolines. Spectators blew horns and rang bells. There were fewer Wellesley College students at the school’s iconic “scream tunnel” near the halfway mark, but those that were there were still quite loud.

Thirty months after athletes last raced from Hopkinton to Copley Square, Kenya’s Diana Kipyogei won the women’s race Monday in a time of 2 hours, 24 minutes, 45 seconds.

Making her major marathon debut, the 27-year-old Kipyogei stayed in the pack until she broke away at the sharp turn heading into the Newton Hills, a strategic spot where race outcomes have been sealed in the past.

Ethiopia’s Netsanet Gudeta caught up near Boston College, but Kipyogei took a commanding lead by Mile 23 and finished 23 seconds ahead of 2017 Boston Marathon winner Edna Kiplagat.

Benson Kipruto won the 125th men’s race in 2:09:51 to deliver the eighth Kenyan sweep since 2000.

Asked if she was surprised to win such a big race, Kipyogei simply replied, “Yes.” She said she knew people at home were watching her and she’s still figuring out what’s next in her racing career.

Nell Rojas, 33, was the top American woman, finishing sixth in 2:27:12 in her fourth marathon. She said she typically hangs in the back of the pack, but she found herself in the front during the first half of the race.

Rojas said no one seemed to want to lead — a runner would come up to the front, the pack would go a little faster, then slow down, repeat.

“I didn’t expect that race at all,” she said.

Kiplagat, 41, set a master’s course record in 2:25:09. She said it has been a blessing to stay in the sport for so long, which she credited to her team and her focus. The Kenyan said she wants to keep running to motivate young girls at home.

Last year’s race was postponed until September because of the pandemic, then called off for the first time in its history. Registered runners were encouraged to complete the distance by themselves as a virtual event.

This year’s race was moved from Patriots’ Day in April in hopes that the pandemic would abate. The field was about one-third smaller for social distancing — with roughly 18,000 runners instead of 30,000 — and without defending champions Lawrence Cherono and Worknesh Degefa.

It included more Americans than normal since many athletes from countries with strict quarantine rules couldn’t attend. Nearly 30,000 people signed up to run the virtual event.

Race Director Dave McGillivray said he was relieved the marathon is back.

“It’s a great feeling to be out on the road,” he said.

Meb Keflezighi was one of the past champions sharing grand marshal duties with hospital employees who worked through the pandemic. Keflezighi helped the running world reclaim the Boston Marathon with a sensational American victory the year after the deadly 20 bombings.

He described the running world during the pandemic by saying, “We were injured, wounded.”

“Now is the comeback story,” he said.

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