Des Linden leading the women’s team, photo by PhotoRun.net
Carolyn Mather, long time writer for Racing South and Running Journal, wrote this piece for RunBlogRun, her second on the 2015 BAA Boston Marathon.
In this piece, Carolyn Mather wrote on the battle that was the women’s elite marathon race.
REFLECTIONS ON THE PROFESSIONAL WOMENS RACE AT THE 119th BOSTON MARATHON
Several days have passed since the incredible duel of two superstars of running as Mare Dibaba and Caroline Rotich left Buzenesh Deba shortly before the turn onto Boylston Street and the final stretch of the Boston Marathon. The crowds were incredible given the less than ideal conditions. I can only surmise that after a record 104 inches of snow in Boston this winter, the rain and wind were not too daunting to steadfast Bostonians. People in the northeast are just heartier than those of us who reside in warmer weather. The duel down the home stretch reminded me of the duel between Desi Davila (now Linden) and another Caroline- Caroline Kilel battling for the victory in 2011.
Caroline Rotich, photo by PhotoRun.net
Rotich and Dibaba went back and forth until Dibaba took what looked like would be the win. The announcers were conceding it to her. Rotich stated after her win “We went to like the last sprint and I knew that this was going to be the toughest sprint so I waited and waited so sprinting that I was like I have to go for it or give it everything I have”. Rotich had almost conceded the race, then saw the line and had one last kick to overcome Dibaba. It is this kind of drama that gives our sport excitement.
Watching live coverage at home I thought the professional ladies provided the viewer with a fabulous race. Hitting the first mile in 5:31 separated the contenders from the remainder of the elite field. Lisa Nemec immediately took charge at the front. Born in Connecticut, Lisa attended Columbia where she ran track and studied music theory. After graduation she moved back to her parents native Croatia and became the first Croatian to qualify for the Olympic marathon. With her dual citizenship I briefly wondered if she won, would it be an American victory?
Fortunately I had little time to contemplate that possibility as the pack of twelve of the fourteen John Hancock invited athletes settled into a large pack passing 2 miles in 10:59. At 10K (34:23) the pack was still together and only a second separated eleven women. Mare Dibaba, Buzenesh Deba, Sure Demise, Caroline Kilel, Aberu Kebede, Joyce Chepkiru,Caroline Rotich, Aleksandra Duliba, Desi Linden, Amy Cragg and Shalane Flanagan were all there. These ladies were the athletes recruited by John Hancock and they were putting on a show. For some reason at this point we lost the female feed and when it returned Linden had taken over as the leader of the pack.
Mare Dibaba, photo by PhotoRun.net
Linden was in the lead for most of twenty miles assuring an honest race. Although she lagged back to get fluids or to try and get someone else to lead, the pace would slow a bit and Linden was right back at the front. Cragg fell off at 18 then Duliba then Flanagan seemed to begin to struggle on the Newton hills and the pack was down to nine. At 35 K there were still nine strong contenders. But coming off the Newton Hills and around Coolidge Corner Deba made a surge and reduced the pack to six. As Deba continued to throw in surges the pack soon became four-Dibaba, Deba, Rotich and Linden. But the fastest mile of the day which was a 5:07 at 24 relegated Linden back as the trio forged to the finish. I cannot begin to tell you how many times I have seen these elite ladies throw down a five minute mile in the later stages of the marathon to seal the deal.
At this point I felt that Deba looked the best although pre-race favorite Dibaba was hanging right there. I suspect the series of surges finally got the best of Deba as she dropped going up the short Hereford St. grade before the left turn onto the finish straightaway. Coming down Boylston Dibaba seemed to take control. “I wasn’t going to drop her(Dibaba) at mile 25, so I knew I would have to wait until the finish line to pass her,” Rotich said. “I have been training and training for this for a long time and I knew it wouldn’t be easy.” It looked like Rotich had conceded the victory when she found one more gear. She crossed the finish line in 2:24:55 besting Dibaba by four seconds. Deba was third in 2:25:09.
Buzunesh Dibaba, photo by PhotoRun.net
Linden was the first American and 4th overall (2:25:39). Linden was very proud that she competed well and that was her best chance. “With the conditions and the course, I knew today was going to be a war of attrition,” Linden said afterward. “My goal was to go out and make it a full marathon, grind it out and hopefully there wouldn’t be a huge pack over the last five or six miles. I knew I couldn’t settle and let the race slow. I knew I had to keep pushing it and take the speed out of their legs. There is no shame in losing to the three ladies I lost to today.” Her 2:25:39 was a strong finish for the lady who did the majority of work. She whittled the contenders down to nine and she finished in the middle. Linden is looking forward to 2016 and her chance to make the Olympic team and run healthy in Rio.
Desl Linden, photo by PhotoRun.net
The race at Boston was one of the best in many a year. At 35K there was no way you could have predicted a winner. Each woman had her strengths and each was doing her best to stay in the mix. Deba’s surges after Linden’s leading separated the field and a 5:07 mile 24 always gets the race pared down to who can hold on and sprint the best after 26 miles in cold, windy and drizzly weather. I have to give Linden kudos for keeping the pace honest and making her competitors work hard. Unfortunately on this day she was not able to wear down the final three even with her brave upfront racing. Rotich had an ecstatic smile as she claimed her first Abbott World Marathon Majors title. I am sure she is glad at how hard she had worked to get here. At the end of the day all of the viewers knew we had witnessed a great race. And Rotich had the grace in her victory to message me on Facebook and thank me for covering the race. That is a true champion!!
Caroline Rotich wins the 2015 Boston Marathon, photo by PhotoRun.net