This is the second piece by David Hunter on this year’s BAA Boston Marathon. This is his piece on the men’s elite race. Photos are courtesy of Kevin Morris of Kevmofoto.
David Hunter gives us the minute by minute details on how the race developed and how Benson Kipruto won his first Boston marathon.
125th BAA Marathon
Kenya’s Benson Kipruto Wins Boston Marathon
Patience Foils Attempted Laurel Wreath Theft October 11th, 2021
After a hiatus of nearly two and a half years, the Boston Marathon – the daunting race from Hopkinton to Boston’s Back Bay – is back. The in-person return of the world’s oldest-run annual marathon has been greeted with open arms. Yet in a number of respects the multiple-day celebratory gathering – while joyful – was still somewhat different. Instead of a blooming rite of spring on Patriots’ Day, this year’s autumn running features fall colors on Indigenous Peoples’ Day. The Red Sox normally play an early season home game on the morning of the race day. Shortly after this year’s race has been completed, the Bosox are poised to play a critical Game Four in the second round of the MLB playoffs under the lights at Fenway. Instead of an array of gatherings and even reunions, this year’s edition has been rightfully focused on safety: no athletes’ village; attention to social distancing; extensive mandatory masking; and thorough COVID vaccination validation for all with required wristbands to prove it. But when the starter’s pistol was fired, the course was lined once again with roaring fans, and the international field of the world’s elite marathoners embarked on the 26.2 mile battle for the laurel wreath, one conclusion was undeniable: Boston Is Back, Baby!
The men’s professional athletes set sail under dry conditions, cloudy skies, virtually no wind, and temperatures in the low 60’s. California’s CJ Albertson, free-wheeled out of Hopkinton and jumped out to an early lead, crossing 5k in 14:29, nearly a minute ahead of the more patient chase pack. The 2:11 marathoner, looking comfortable, continued to glide along, hitting 10k in 29:32 and stretching out his lead to 1:37. Albertson, who finished 7th in the USA Olympic Marathon Trials, looked well within himself at 15k, passing in 45:01 and extending his margin over the field to 1:43. At that point, if anyone in the chase pack had become concerned about Albertson’s growing lead, no one seemed inclined to do anything about it.
The California leader, who notched his 28th birthday today, kept it rolling, speeding past Wellesley College and passing 20K in 1:00:43 to stretch out his lead even further to 2:09 over the patient pack (1:02:52) that followed. While he was showing the effort, Albertson, a former world record holder in the 50K run, still looked under control as he hit the halfway mark in 1:04:08 as the group in pursuit lost a little more real estate as that bunch passed 13.1 miles in 1:06.21 (pushing the gap out now to 2:13).
But then a chink in the armor began to appear. At the 25K mark just before a precipitous downhill into Lower Newton Falls, the leader’s gap was starting to shrink. Albertson rushed on to the race’s dramatic hills in Newton. He swung right, passing the Newton Fire Station, and pushed onward to the 30K mark which the targeted leader passed in 1:33:03. Meanwhile, the chase pack, which had earlier accelerated its pace, was at last catching the former Arizona State athlete, trimming the former Sun Devil’s lead to only 54 seconds.
On Boston Marathon race day, the Newton Hills humbled many. And today was Albertson’s turn. By the time Albertson began the ascent up Heartbreak Hill, it was clear his moment in the sun would soon be over. Kenya’s Geoffrey Kirui, the 2017 Boston champion, led a pack of 10-12 athletes past a flagging Albertson as the new leaders headed toward Boston College.
With Albertson out the back door, the chase pack athletes which had worked in concert to reel in the upstart, began looking around, perhaps suspecting that now it would be every man for himself. Often the decisive moves in the Boston Marathon take place in the Newtown Hills. But in the men’s race this year, the dagger came after the new leaders had crested the hills and were racing downhill toward Cleveland Circle. Benson Kipruto, exhibiting unmatched turnover, made his move just past the 35 kilo mark and forged a meaningful 8 second lead by the time he reached the Cleveland Circle train tracks. No one could cover Kipruto’s move. Not only was the 30 year-old Kenyan never seriously challenged, Kipruto, whose owns a marathon PR of 2:05:13, increased his tempo [running an eye-popping 14:06 between 35K and 40K as he sailed on to cross the Boylston Street finish line in 2:09.51.
Ethiopia’s Lemi Berhanu (2::10.37) won a scintillating battle for 2nd. The 2016 Boston champion outdueled his countryman Jemal Yimer (2:10:38) who rounded out the podium finishing 3rd. The eastern African nations performed well as expected grabbing 8 of the top ten finishing spots with Kenya finishing 1-5-9 and Ethiopia going 2-3-4-6-8.. The final two top ten finishes were grabbed by Americans. Former Syracuse athlete Bennie Colin (2:11:26), not anywhere in the top ten at 40K, turned on the jets over the final 2 kilometers to finish 7th. C.J. Albertson (2:11:44), the aggressive early leader, grabbed the final top 10 spot. “I definitely didn’t expect that to happen,” said Albertson who was surprised he was not challenged earlier in the race, was finally caught in the Newton hills, yet hung on to finish 10th. It might not have been the birthday present he was seeking, but he exuded joy in the post-race interview. “It was fun,” smiled Albertson. “I knew I just had to give it everything I had.” / Dave Hunter /
Benson Kipruto, Diana Kipyogei, 2021 BAA Boston Marathon, photo by Kevin Morris / Kevmofoto