NEW YORK, April 16, 2012—The 116th running of the Boston Marathon saw record high temperatures and tough performances by winners Sharon Cherop and Wesley Korir of Kenya. It was Kenya’s day in Boston, as runners from the east African nation swept the top three spots in both the women’s and men’s competitions. Heat certainly played a factor in the race, as the temperature rose to 82 degrees during the race, matching the heat record for the day set in 1976.
The women’s race was off to a slow start in the early miles, with a large lead pack of 15 women running cautiously as the temperatures hit 70 degrees in the first 15 minutes of the race. Favorite and 2011 champion Caroline Kilel of Kenya lead early in the race, but dropped back into the pack in the middle miles. Kilel and Kenyan Sharon Cherop traded leads for much of the early miles with Ethiopian favorite Firehiwot Dado, the 2011 ING New York City Marathon champion, just a step behind.
The women picked up the pace incrementally every mile until the pack dwindled to eight frontrunners 16 miles into the race, when the temperature hit 80 degrees. An hour and 45 minutes into the race, just five women were left in the chase for the win: Dado, Kilel, Cherop, and Georgina Rono and Jemima Jelagat Sumgong of Kenya.
Favorite Kilel fell behind before mile 18, and four women were left in the chase. Two hours in the race, Dado also fell off pace at the course’s famous Heartbreak Hill, leaving Kenyans Cherop, Rono and Sumgong fighting for the win.
At the 23-mile mark, Cherop and Sumgong dropped Rono, and continued to run stride for stride over the last three miles. In the last mile and the last turn of the race, Cherop surged into the lead with a huge kick. She managed to hold off a gaining Sumgong to win in 2:31:50. Sumgong finished second in 2:31:52 and Rono took third in 2:33:09.
The men ran more aggressively out of the gate than the women, but slowed the pace by the halfway mark as the temperature hit 80 degrees. American Glenn Randall, a non-elite runner, took an early lead running 16 seconds ahead of the pack at mile 3. But a dozen runners caught him at the 10K mark, roughly 6.2 miles into the race, soon leaving him far behind.
Favorite Geoffrey Mutai of Kenya moved to the front for the first time near the 9-mile mark. American Jason Hartmann took a slight lead at mile 14 before falling back into the pack of a dozen men.
Matthew Kisorio of Kenya made a move 15 miles into the race, pushing the pace and breaking up the lead pack to nine men.
Kisorio, Mutai and Levi Matebo of Kenya broke away from the pack near the 17th mile. But Kisorio and Matebo quickly dropped Mutai going into mile 18, turning the race into a two-man battle as Mutai dropped out of the race due to cramping.
Matebo pulled away going up Heartbreak Hill before the 21 mile marker, quickly gaining 6 seconds on Kisorio. Despite repeatedly grabbing his side, he increased his lead to 15 seconds at the 22-mile mark even as his pace dropped.
Wesley Korir of Kenya passed Kisorio, moving into the second spot. He eventually reeled in Matebo as well, who responded with a small surge to lead the race again with a little more than 1 mile left in the race.
Korir retook the lead near the 25-mile mark and cruised into the finish to win in 2:12:40. Matebo finished second in 2:13:06 and Bernard Kipyego placed third in 2:13:13. American Jason Hartmann in a surprising performance finished fourth.
In the wheelchair competition, Canadian Joshua Cassidy set a new course record of 1:18:25 as the winner of the men’s race. American Shirley Reilly edged out Wakako Tsuchida of Japan in a sprint finish with a time of 1:37:36 in the women’s race.
With temperatures expected to peak at 88 degrees, the Boston Athletic Association urged less experienced runners to stay home, offering them deferments for next year’s race. Over 16,000 of the 26,700 entrants were running Boston for the first time. Approximately 22,400 runners opted to start, roughly 84 percent of the field.
The average temperature for April 16 in Boston is a much cooler 55 degrees. As the day’s temperature moved above 80 degrees, professional runners grabbed water at nearly every aide station, an unusual move at the elite level of competition.
The Boston Marathon is the oldest continuously run marathon in the world. It is also the only marathon with stringent qualification standards for non-professional runners. Except for charity entries, runners must meet certain qualification times broken down by age and gender. Approximately 10 percent of American marathoners qualify for Boston according to Runner’s World magazine.
Karla Bruning is a veteran journalist and running nerd. She has completed four marathons, trains with the New York Harriers and is a member of New York Road Runners. Follow Karla’s “Notes From a Running Nerd” at RunKarlaRun.com, Facebook and Twitter@KBruning.
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