The women’s race at Monday’s Boston Marathon was decided in the fifth mile.
The men’s race was decided about five steps before the finish line.
Ethiopia’s Worknesh Degefa, running in her first Boston Marathon, took the lead in the fifth mile and had a three-minute cushion before slowing a bit in the Newton hills. She was never challenged and breezed to the win in 2:23:31.
In contrast, the men’s race came down to the wire. Lelisa Desisa, the 2013 and 2015 Boston winner from Ethiopia, was patient, letting others take the lead, but put the hammer down right before the left turn onto Boylston Street toward the finish line. Still, he may have kicked a bit early. Lawrence Cherono of Kenya stuck with Desisa, and the two charged down Boylston Street. In the last few strides, Cherono surged ahead and raised his arms to break the tape and win his first Boston Marathon in 2:07:57. Desisa was two seconds behind, but it seemed a lot closer.
“It was amazing,” said Cherono, 30, who had the fastest time in the field (2:04:06) coming into the race. “At the end, I matched the winner. I’m so grateful, so happy.
“I’m poor in finishing races. Today I did a fantastic job. It was nice for me.”
Cherono had won his last three marathons, finishing in 2:05:09 in Amsterdam in 2017, 2:08:27 in Honolulu last year and running his personal record and setting the course record last October in Amsterdam.
Desisa finished second in 2016 at Boston. Like many, he did not finish last year due to the bitterly cold and rainy conditions. He thought he had it Monday.
“After 40K (25 miles), I decide to sprint to win,” he said. “I tried at the last minute, but I saw him suddenly. I’m No. 2. I’m very happy.”
Two American men — Scott Fauble of Flagstaff, Ariz., and Olympian Jared Ward of Mapleton, Utah — finished in the top 10. Fauble was seventh in 2:09:09 and Ward eighth in 2:09:25. Both had led the race.
Asked what he was thinking while leading the pack, Fauble laughed.
“Holy beep, I’m leading the beeping Boston Marathon,” he said. “It was such a surreal experience to be leading a race I grew up watching on TV. I tried to soak in the moment.”
Degefa’s only marathon prior to Boston was Dubai, which she ran three times, winning in 2017 and finishing second and setting an Ethiopian national record (2:17:41) in January. That time was the fourth fastest in women’s marathon history.
Nobody could catch her Monday.
“I’m so happy that I won,” she said through an interpreter. “Today was wonderful. I knew that I had some speed, so I pushed myself after five miles.”
Edna Kiplagat of Kenya, an Olympic marathoner, world champion and 2017 Boston Marathon winner, finished second in 2:24:13, and American Jordan Hasay was third (2:25:20).
“I thought maybe if we keep increasing the pace, we might reach her before the finish line,” Kiplagat said. “At 35 [kilometers], I decided to make a strong move, but when I was at 38 [kilometers], I realized the race is almost over. I knew I’m not going to make it.”
Monday, it was rainy and windy as the runners made their way to the start at Hopkinton, but the rain stopped and it was 60 degrees and fairly humid at the start and eventually the sun came out.