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The 2011 Boston Marathon will go down in history, officially or not, as the fastest marathon race ever run.
Personal, American and World Records were shattered this morning, as a significant tailwind throughout most stretches of the race fostered an ideal environment for records to be broken.
Most impressive was Kenyan Geoffrey Mutai's 2:03:02 performance, smashing the world record by almost a minute (2:03:59) and record the fastest Boston Marathon time ever by almost 2 minutes. Mutai and the rest of the pack (primarily Kenyans and Ethiopians) came through the half in just under 1:02. Even more impressive was Mutai's closing half, an astonishing 1:01:06!
The first half's record pace can be attributed mostly to the fearless tactics of American Ryan Hall. He stormed to the lead early and looked like the man to be beat up front until roughly halfway. However, a huge chase pack of 10 Kenyans and Ethiopians worked together to reel Hall in and regain contro after the halfway point. Hall looked to drop off the pace considerably, but in fact, he was still actually running on huge PR and Boston record pace.
"Having run this race several times, I've learned that when guys get away I can get them back later," Hall said. He indeed did, fighting through the final few miles to finish an impressive 4th place (backing up 3rd and 4th place finishes the last two years).
"I'm running 2:04 pace and I can't even see the leaders," Hall joked afterward about the men's hot pace throughout. The others in the race were quick to point out Hall's presence as a huge factor in the records set.
"Without Hall, we would not have made it. He was like the pacemaker," said a thankful winner in Geoffrey Mutai after the race. Mutai's time of 2:03:02 unofficially sets a new World Record. Mutai needed every second, as he battled off fellow countryman and marathon-newcomer Moses Mosop until the line. Mosop's debut, in 2:03:06, would have set a debut-marathon record by 3 minutes!
The course, however, is not officially included in world record discussion. The downhill orientation and point to point aspect of the race keep it from being an official record course. There was considerable talk and questioning afterward about the neglect of Boston in world record discussions. Joan Benoit, in her press conference afterward, still turned to Mutai and congratulated him on his world record performance.
For now, although incredible, Mutai, Mosop and Hall's marks, although great, will not be in the record books.
The women's race started with New Zealand native and longtime New Englander Kim Smith jumping out to a commanding early lead. From the gun, Smith asserted herself as the woman to beat, and held a decisive lead (upwards of 1 minute at certain points) until after 25 kilometers. After 25 km, Smith started to feel the pace and battle apparent cramping issues. At 30 k, Smith was caught, and was not an issue the remainder of the race.
However, the field benefitted from having to reel the Providence graduate in, and the last half of the race really heated up to get most of the pack on personal-record pace.
Desiree Davila of the Brooks-Hansons Distance Project took control of the lead late in the race and pushed Caroline Kilel (Kenya) and Sharon Cherop (Kenya) to the brink. Kilel did a wonderful job of responding to the surges Davila was throwing in, and it became a two-woman race with 600 to 800 meters to go. With 300 meters to go, Kilel laid on the gas, and pulled away from Davila in the final stretch just enough to secure a victory in 2:22:36. Davila ran the fastest Boston ever by an American with her 2:22:38.
Falling off the pace early, but fighting her way to a gutsy PR was American great Kara Goucher. Goucher held on strongly and wrapped up her fastest marathon ever.
The 2011 marathon was one to remember and will (either unofficially or not) go down as the fastest race ever.
Alistair Cragg, in his marathon debut, dropped out at about the half, after running his previous 5k in 17:30.
The 2nd American was Zachary Hine, in 2:16:54.
Joan Benoit just missed an Olympic Trials qualifier, running 2:51 (she was unsure if she would compete because of back trouble until this morning.)
Migido Bourifa of Italy got 14th, running 2:13:45 ... at 42 years old!!!! (3 Masters runners broke 2:20)
Teyba Erkesso, last yeat's winner, and American Blake Russell were DNFs.