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The 126th B.A.A Marathon

Patriots' Day / 18 April 2022

 4 16 22 Boston

Chebet_Evans-Boston22.jpg

Evans Chebet takes his first win in Boston, April 18, 2022,

photo by Kevin Morris / @kevmofoto

 

 

Even before the starter's pistol was fired in Hopkinton today, the April return of the Boston Marathon and all that surrounds it just felt right. No falling leaves - just blooming flowers. No MLB playoff game under the Fenway lights, but the traditional late morning ball game which would accommodate those fans who want to scramble out to watch the decisive final 5K of the race. The caution required by the pandemic's foreboding presence since March of 2020 has been replaced by the springtime hope that COVID might, at last, be coming under control. Back to its traditional Patriots Day calendar slot, the Marathon assembled star-studded athletes who were eager to engage in a 26 mile, 385 yard battle on arguably the world's most revered course. Once again, all was right in Beantown.

Patriots' Day dawned with terrific weather conditions: chilly for the spectators yet cool for the athletes whose Marathon effort would keep them comfortable. Sunday's blustering and pesky wind had disappeared, and clear skies suggested that the thermometer, 43 degrees at sunrise, would likely crawl into the low 50's before the end of the race

The 2022 Boston Marathon presented the fastest field in marathon history with 10 athletes sporting personal bests below 2:06. In the days leading up to the race, there had been wide speculation about which of these talented men might be in the hunt for the laurel wreath. In the Boston Marathon last fall Kenya's Benson Kipruto, the 31-year-old defending champion with a personal best of 2:05:13, punished the other front runners by cranking out an eye-popping 14:06 split from 35K to 40K, vanquishing all remaining opponents as he sailed on to victory in 2:09.51. Look for fellow Kenya countryman Lawrence Cherono, with a sizzling PR of 2:03.04, to be up in the mix. Ethiopia's Lemi Berhanu, a 2:04 marathoner, could surprise. He is the 2016 Boston champion and was the runner-up last year. But he had puzzling DNFs here in both '17 and '18. Which Berhanu will show up today? Another 29-year-old Kenyan and often-overlooked dark horse Geoffrey Kamworor [PR 2:05.23], former world record holder in the half marathon, is a superb competitor who is a savvy racer. Look for him upfront.

The American men, who have won only one race here since 1983 [Meb Keflezighi in 2014], just don't appear to have the octane to surprise. California's CJ Alberston [PR 2:11:18], who last October hammered from the gun in an effort to steal the race only to be finally reeled in on the Newton hills by a pack of East Africans, has vowed to replicate last October's strategy. A top-ten finish by an American would be a commendable American performance against the backdrop of this highly talented international field. But, as the saying goes: that's why we run the race.

With the crack of the starter's pistol, Albertson, as promised, dashed right to the front and quickly spaced himself ahead of the chase pack of about twenty athletes. During a steady diet of miles in the 4:40 to 4:57 range through 11 miles, Albertson and Bethwell Yegon took turns setting the tempo upfront. Nobody seemed in a hurry. They were plenty of miles ahead. When the half marathon was passed in 1:03.24 there were still 14 elite men bunched up and settled in the lead pack. Even a 4:34 mile when the leaders descended down into Lower Newton Falls failed to thin the herd. This group was locked in working to stay calm and poised for the racing challenges that lay ahead. Albertson, now joined by Lieutenant Elkanah Kibet, broke ahead as the climb out of Lower Newton Falls approached. The pack, now down to 15, covered that moved as the leaders raced on to the Newton Fire Station.

The upcoming climb in the Newton Hills to Boston College usually breaks up a pack, sending stragglers out the back door. But not today. With Kamworor, Yegon, joining Chebet in the lead, the pack began climbing the hills with the race pace in the 4:50/mile range. At 19 miles, defending champion, Kipruto moved to the front to join Yegon, Kamworor, and Gabriel Geay. After the 20th mile [5:11] and the 21st mile [5:16], the leaders had crested Heartbreak Hill on their way to the Chestnut Hill Reservoir and the raucous downhill that follows.

4 16 22 Chebet

Chebet_Evans-FH-Boston22.jpg

Evans Chebet takes his first win in Boston, April 18, 2022, photo by Kevin Morris / @kevmofoto

But then it happened. At the 35K mark, Kenya's Evans Chebet stepped on the gas and roared away, cranking out a 4:27 22nd mile. It was a move that caught many in the elite pack off guard and it took them a while to pick up the chase. And when the flat-footed pack did respond, it was too little too late. Chebet knew he was fully committed now as he strung together further punishment: the 23rd mile in 4:27; the 24th mile in 4:26, and the 25th mile in 4:38. The Kenyan's bold move was reminiscent of Benson Kipruto's decisive surge executed at the same location at last fall's 125th Boston Marathon. Benson's savage move last October, racing from 35K to 40K in 14:06, left the field and the media gasping. Chebet's identical move today was covered in 13:55. Chebet, never in further danger, continued to pour it on, breaking the banner in 2:06:51. It was a podium sweep for the Kenyans as Cherono grabbed 2nd in 2:07:21 with last year's victor Benson Kipruto getting up for 3rd in 2:07.27.

Two American men finished in the top 10. Flagstaff athlete Scott Fauble, the top American male finisher in October's race, was again the first American male across the line today, finishing 7th in a PR time of 2:08:52. Army Lieutenant Elkanah Kibet came in 9th at 2:09:07.

4 16 22 Boston Fauble

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Scott Fauble, runs 2:08.52 PB, taking seventh, as first American, in Boston, April 18, 2022, photo by Kevin Morris / @kevmofoto

 

Q&A in the post-race press conference spanned the range of emotions. When asked about his 2nd consecutive top American placing and PR performance, Fauble was clearly overjoyed but nonetheless humble and brief. He concluded his remarks with brevity. "I like this course a lot."

A clearly disconsolate CJ Albertson when asked about his "unconventional training and racing style" was a little testy. "I don't see anything unconventional about trying to win. It was a very talented field. The only chance for me to win or to be on the top is to kind of break some people. I had to have a mindset that I'm invincible. You kind of have to run like that. I did exactly what I wanted to do. I was exactly where I wanted to be at the top of the hill feeling fairly good. But then just - I don't know - super unexpected I was just terrible coming down the hill. I cramped up. It's disappointing. I've got to figure it out. There is nothing untraditional about trying to win. You can't just sit there and make things up."

3rd place finisher Benson Kipruto was polite and gracious."I am happy to be here for the 2022 Boston Marathon," said last year's winner and today's 3rd place finisher. "I am happy [with my result}. I prepared well. I didn't win but I give credit to my friend Evans Chebet for winning. I am so happy. It is a good chance for me because I will be determined for the next race for me which I hope will lead to a championship.So I am so grateful. My training has been good. I am happy for myself. And I hope to be able to continue racing in this marathon."

The victorious Chebet was grateful and humble in outlining how his 2018 Boston Marathon DNF disappointment helped fuel his resolve to prepare properly and to race at his finest in 2022. "I want to thank God. I ran here in 2018 and I did not perform well," confided the new champion. "Today my performance was better, good. So this is commendable. Thank you so much. Benson [Kipruto] was my training mate. I had the faith that was needed to win today."
/ Dave Hunter /

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Dave Hunter

Dave HunterDave Hunter is a track & field journalist, announcer, and broadcaster.  Dave reports on the premier track & field gatherings around the globe, frequently serves as an arena or stadium announcer for championship events, and has undertaken foreign and domestic broadcast assignments in the sport.

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