A Race for the Ages, reflections on the 120th Boston Marathon, by Carolyn Mather, for Racing South

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We asked Carolyn Mather to write two pieces for us, one for the women's race and one on the TV coverage.

This story is on the women's race, which was exciting through the last hundred meters!

Baysa_AtsedeFV-Boston16.JPGAtsede Baysa, photo by PhotoRun.net

A RACE FOR THE AGES


First off I need to congratulate the Boston Athletic Association for their outstanding wire to wire coverage of the 120th Boston Marathon. Without commercials the BAA has exceeded all of my expectations in covering all of the races.


After the wheelchairs started, the ladies took off at an incredibly modest pace hitting mile one in 6:03. Thirty-six elite women held together on a beautiful, sunny and cool morning with temperatures at the start in the mid forties.

By mile two, a separation started, then a surprise occurred at mile five, as defending champion. Caroline Rotich stopped and dropped out. Americans Neely Spence Gracey and Sarah Crouch found themselves now leading the pack of seventeen ladies. They appeared shocked and amused to be at the front.


However, this did not last long as thirteen separated at around forty minutes into the race, leaving the Americans behind.Twelve ladies remained in the pack as they passed the 15K mark in 53:58. They all looked extremely comfortable, running well within their capabilities.

The group of twelve became ten then eleven before the racing began. Coming into Lower Newton Falls the women lowered a 5:58 mile to a 5:37 and then hammered a 5:26 to whittle the pack to four.

Valentine Kipketer, Tirfi Tsegaye, Joyce Chepkirui and Florence Daniel looked to be the contenders for the crown as they looked comfortable and were working together. They quickly dropped the rest of the elite field.
At 1:48 into the race, Daniel began falling off the lead pack and the race was down to three. Running three abreast they crested Heartbreak Hill with Kipketer falling back then reforming the small pack. At this point, Chepkirui, who finished tenth last year and trained for the hills this year, seemed to have the edge, especially after her 1:07:41 at the NYC Half in March. Kipketer went back into the lead at the two hour mark, then Tsegaye took the lead as she got her special fluids at 35K but Chepkirui fell back into step at her side.

Huge crowds greeted the leaders as they turned onto Commonwealth Avenue for the home stretch. At twenty three miles, Tsegaye and Chepkirui were stride for stride and it appeared to come down to these two competitots. But Tsegaye kept looking back although there was no one in sight. She turned her head completely about half a dozen times and the commentators were wondering what was going on with that as the two were well ahead.


Yet, Tesgaye apparently saw something no one else did, as twenty nine year old Atsede Baysa came into view of the camera at 37K. At mile twenty two, Baysa was down by thirty seven seconds but she was coming hard. She passed Chepkirui. then gained quickly as she caught Tsegaye at 38K. They ran stride for stride until Baysa took command by 40K. She had run the 5K from 35K to 40K in 16:43. With one mile to go, at 2:23:53, she assumed control of this amazing comeback and began stretching her lead. She won the Chicago Marathon in 2012 by passing the leader at the tape. Her first marathon in Nagano ten years ago resulted in a 2:39 finish but she played the game well today as she literally stole the show.


The last year an Ethiopian won was 2010 but today Baysa and Tsegaye went one -two with Chepkirui(Kenya) holding on for third. After the race, she stated she ran "my pace only" and she was very happy to win. Never has Boston witnessed such an amazing comeback. Watching her close on the leaders was incredible as she was moving so much more quickly. She won by forty four seconds and sealed the deal with a race for the ages.

Although her 2:29:19 was not particularly fast, she is the reigning Boston Marathon champion and for the first time ever both a female and male from Ethiopia won the titles. Defending champion Lelisa Desisa was bested by twenty one year old Lemi Berhanu Hayle who ran 2:12:45. Ethiopia swept the podium in the men's race and took top two ladies. It is a day for the Ethiopians to celebrate fantastic finishes.

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