The 2011 Boston Marathon on April 18th was nothing short of incredible for the men and women. Both races went down to the last few meters, and perfect weather conditions led to record breaking times.
Men’s Race From Start to Finish
The field for the 115th running of the Boston Marathon included top tier talent. Three runners from Kenya were expected to place high. Last year’s champion, Robert Kipron Cheruiyot, was back to defend his title. Geoffrey Mutai, the runner up from last year, and a runner up at the 2010 NYC Marathon returned. Also, Moses Mosep of Kenya made his marathon debut. Gebre Gebremariam from Ethiopia won the NYC Marathon in 2010 easily and was running in his first Boston Marathon. Finally, the American hopeful was Ryan Hall. He placed fourth last year and third two years ago at Boston.
Fast times for this year’s race were virtually guaranteed because of the wonderful weather during the 26.2 mile race. The temperature hovered around 50 degrees Fahrenheit, which is ideal for distance running, and a strong wind pushed the runners forward for most of the course.
The First 6.2 Miles (10 kilometers) – Lead Pack Time: 29:06 (4:40 mile pace – 2:02:47 marathon pace)
The leaders came through at 29:06 at the 10 kilometer mark. The pack stayed relatively tight from the start through 6.2 miles. The leaders at this point were Cheruiyot, last years champion and Hall. The pace was fast and steady. The wind was a factor, but the pack was so tight, it couldn’t have been helping all the runners all the time. “It was at our back, but it wasn’t such a big wind,” explained Mutai.
6.2 miles to 13.1 miles (halfway) – Lead Pack Time: 1:01:57 (4:43 mile pace – 2:03:54 marathon pace)
No big changes for this section of the run. All the favorites were still hanging within the pack. The pace was still blistering fast at 1:01:57. No one seemed to determined to break away, but the pace was so fast that it would take an incredibly gutsy move to try and separate from an already incredibly quick clip. Ryan Hall was leading by inches and seemed to be dictating the pace. Gebremarium stated, “He pushed it, he pushed it all the time. He was like a pacemaker; he helped us a lot.”
13.1 miles to 18.6 miles (30k) – Lead Pack Time: 1:28:23 (4:44 mile pace – 2:04:18 marathon pace)
Some jostling, a few kilometers where the lead pack separated, and then the pack came back together. The pace didn’t slacken at all, and it looked as if records were going to be broken today. At about 15 miles Cheruiyot, the 2010 champ, and Ryan Hall, the top American runner, were ten seconds behind the leader. A group of six runners created some separation. Geoffrey Mutai of Kenya was leading the charge along with Moses Mosop and Gebremarium. Some surges were made causing numerous position changes, but three miles later at the 30k mark Ryan Hall had worked his way back into the lead group. The leaders were through the 30k mark at 1:28:23. Cheruiyot lost some more time and now was about 20 seconds off the lead pack. It looked like a new champion would be crowned at the 2011 Boston Marathon.
18.6 to 26 miles. (The Pack Breaks)
Ryan Hall pushed the pace in the middle of the race, but this section of the race was dominated by Geoffrey Mutai and newcomer Moses Mosop. From the 30K mark to the 40K mark, Mutai and Mosep ran an incredible 28:22. This is faster than the first 10K of the race, and a 28:22 works out to be an average pace of 4:33 per mile. The runners left behind were still running blistering fast. Gebremariam ran alone in third place for a while, but Ryan Hall made a move and caught up to him by the 40k mark. Mosop and Mutai were through 40K at 1:56:48 and Hall and Gebremariam were over one minute behind at 1:58:20. Amazingly the pace that Hall and Gebremariam were running at was still faster than any other Boston Marathon to date and they weren’t even in contention for the win. Hall talked about the leaders, “I was out there running, and I was thinking to myself, ‘I can’t believe this is happing right now. I’m running a 2:04 pace, and I can’t even see the leaders.’ It was unreal.”
The Men's Finish
With two groups of two, the record-shattering race got even more exciting. The two Kenyans went head to head for the last few minutes. With less than 600 meters to go, Mutai put in a commanding burst and separated himself from Mosop. Geoffrey Mutai won the 2011 Boston marathon with an unbelievable time of 2:03:02. Right behind him was Moses Mosop at 2:03:06. Mutai was very humble after running this amazing time. He said, “You don’t look at world records. You just go. If you are strong, you push it.”
2:03:02 is the fastest time ever recorded in the history of the marathon. It won’t be considered a world record though, because the course doesn’t start and finish at the same location. Even though it has a lot of hills, the course has an elevation drop of over 400 feet, plus the fact of it being in one direction allows the wind to be a factor in improving race times. Don’t be confused with the time. It is the fastest marathon ever, but it won’t be called a “world record” because of the course layout at Boston. The average pace for the winning time was 4:42 per mile.
Back to the race results. Gebre Gebremariam was able to pull away slightly from Ryan Hall in the final miles. Gebre’s finished third with a time of 2:04:53. Ryan Hall placed fourth with the best time ever for an American at 2:04:58. Hall said after the race, “I just knew when I woke up, this was going to be something special.”
The next two places in the marathon were taken by Abreham Cherkos of Ethiopia, and last year’s champion, Robert Kiprono Cheruiyot. Even though Cheruiyot finished in 6th place with a time of 2:06:43, he performed very well considering he was still recovering from a recent car accident in Kenya.
Top Five Men Finishers
1. 2:03:02 – Geoffrey Mutai, KEN 2. 2:03:06 – Moses Mosop, KEN 3. 2:04:53 - Gebre Gebremariam, ETH 4. 2:04:58 – Ryan Hall, USA 5. 2:06:13 – Abreham Cherkos , ETH
Women’s Race From Start to Finish
There were several contenders in the field for the Women’s Boston Marathon in 2011. Last year’s champion, Teyba Erkesso from Ethiopia was there to defend her title. Two runners from the United States were expected to perform well. Kara Goucher, the runner up in the 2009 Boston Marathon, and Desiree Davila who was the fourth fastest marathon runner in the US going into the race. Kenya had a stable of runners looking to place high. Caroline Kilel, winner of the 2010 Frankfurt Marathon, and Sharon Cherop the 2010 Toronto Waterfront Marathon Champ looked to impress. Finally, New Zealand’s Kim Smith, who ran an incredible 1:07:36 half marathon in February looked to place high.
The first 6.2 miles (10 kilometers) – Leader Pace: 33:29 (5:23 mile pace – 2:21:17 marathon pace)
Right from the gun, Kim Smith from New Zealand took charge of the lead and was running alone. She led by nearly 100 meters in the early stages, and the chase pack was content to let her go at this point. At the 10K mark, Smith was leading the way by 25 seconds. All the other major players were bunched together at 33:55.
6.2 miles to 13.1 miles (halfway) – Leader Pace: 1:10:52 (5:24 mile pace – 2:21:44 marathon pace)
Smith’s lead grew even more over this section of the race. Her split at the halfway point was 1:10:52. The chase pack was still tight together, but were 50 seconds behind by now. One major development happened though during this stage of the race. Defending champion Teyba Erkesso dropped from the race. Kara Goucher struggled to hang with the chase pack, and looked to be out of contention for the win by the halfway mark.
13.1 miles to 18.6 miles (30k) – Leader Pace: 1:41:50 (5:24 mile pace – 2:21:44 marathon pace)
The chase pack continued to lag behind Kim Smith for a long time, until Smith started to cramp up. Her legs began to fail, and in a matter of moments, she was caught by the pack. At the 30k mark, Smith was now mixed in with the rest of the competitors. Notable runners in this group included Kilel and Cherop from Kenya, and Desiree Davila from the US. The pace slowed a touch during this section of the race and Kara Goucher was only ten seconds off the lead pace of 1:41:50.
18.6 to 26 miles. (Major Moves)
The pack continued to thin during the final stages of the race. Kim Smith dropped out and as the race pressed on, Desiree Davila pushed the lead and separated from the pack briefly. Only two runners were able to stay with this surge. Going into the final mile of the race, three people were in contention for the win: Kilel, Cherop, and Davila. “It was the most excitement I’ve had in a race ever and just carried me the last six miles,” stated Davila.
The last mile saw several lead changes. First Davila surged and separated from Kilel and Cherop. Sharon Cherop couldn’t hang on. Down the last 400 meters, Kilel took the lead. Davila responded with a surge of her own to take it back. With one last push Caroline Kilel reclaimed the lead and crossed the tape, winning by a mere two seconds with a time of 2:22:36. Placing third only eight seconds from the lead was Sharon Cherop of Kenya.
Caroline Kilel’s time wasn’t a record, but it was one of the closest and most exciting races in the long history at Boston. Afterward Kilel was still stunned with her performance. “I was very happy because I won this Boston.”
Davila ran a personal record (PR) by over three minutes. She talked about the sprint to the finish. “I thought I did great. That was all that I had. My legs were shot.“ She continued to say about the whole race, “It was the most incredible experience in my running career.”
Rounding out the top five were Caroline Rotich of Kenya and Kara Goucher from the US. Goucher gave birth to her first son in September of 2010, and still ran her best marathon to date. “I felt like the race was very hard. It was great to get a PR”
Top Five Women Finishers
1. 2:22:36 – Caroline Kilel, KEN 2. 2:22:38 – Desiree Davila, USA 3. 2:22:42 – Sharon Cherop, KEN 4. 2:24:26 – Caroline Rotich, KEN 5. 2:24:52 – Kara Goucher, USA
The mere mortal Boston Marathon runners report.
The Boston Marathon has swelled in popularity over the past few years. In 2011, Boston saw over 27,000 compete in their annual marathon. In fact, the race has become so popular, the time requirements have become more difficult in 2012 and 2013. Also, the entry fee has gone up. Look here to learn more about the Boston Marathon Qualifying Times in 2012, and 2013.
Did you compete in the 115th Boston Marathon? Share your experiences with tips4running. The professionals are fun to watch and read about, but it is the recreational runner who makes this event so great. How did your race go? Did you run fast enough to hopefully qualify for next year’s event?