Updated April 17, 2012 11:00 am
The Boston Globe reports that, just before Heartbreak Hill on the route of the 2012 Boston Marathon, a spectator shouted to Wesley Korir that he was in sixth place. After the race, he explained his thinking at the time: “I thought, if I finish No. 5 in Boston that would be awesome. After I passed No. 5 I thought, let me get to fourth. I wasn’t thinking about winning. I was thinking about counting one person at a time. One by one, it just happened.’’ And so it did, so it did.
Before long, 29-year-old Korir was the winner of the 116th Boston Marathon, on one of the hottest days the race has been run. His winning time of 2 hours 12 minutes 40 seconds was a record of sorts: it was the third slowest time in 27 years. In 1985, Geoff Smith won in 2:14:05. Five years ago, compatriot Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot was slower, completing the race in 2:14:13, but that was in driving rain and wind.
Korir is a permanent resident of the US — he hopes to become a citizen soon — and graduated from University of Louisville with a degree in biology. This was his debut year at the Boston Marathon; he has previously won the Los Angeles Marathon twice and finished second in the Chicago Marathon last October, behind Moses Mosop.
Compatriot Geoffrey Mutai, who was hoping to finish strong, if not win, in order to have a realistic chance of the making Kenya's Olympic team for the 2012 London games, dropped out at mile 18 with stomach cramps. Mutai won the 2011 Boston Marathon in a sizzling, world-best 2:03:02, when conditions were nearly perfect conditions. Said Mutai afterwards: “I can’t blame anything or anyone. I am still happy.’’
In the women's part of the race, Sharon Cherop, who couldn't quite close the deal in the race a year ago and finished third, this time around paced herself carefully, despite the intense heat and a minor knee injury, biding her time as her top competitors fell back. She kicked up speed after the turn into Boylston Street, the final segment, to break away from compatriot Jemima Jelagat Sumgong, and won in 2 hours 31 minutes 50 seconds, just two seconds ahead of Sumgong (2:31:52). Georgina Rono finished third in 2:33:09.
After the race, Cherop said that course familiarity — and a keen sense of who she was up against — helped her win. “This time I knew the course,’’ said Cherop. “I had already decided. I was going to start my sprint at the corner. We work together, so I knew how [Sumgong] runs.’’
The Boston win, worth $150,000, is Cherop's third in international races; she took the titles in Toronto and Hamburg in 2010. The win also almost cements her changes to get onto the Kenyan Olympic team. Of the six women up for consideration for the squad, Cherop was the only one to run Boston.
Selection of the men's three-man Olympic squad will done after the London Marathon, to be held on Sunday, April 22. Four of the five Kenyan men being considered will be in that race.
Though the racing world was focused on the Boston marathon, Africans were dominant elsewhere over the weekend. On Sunday, April 15, Ethiopian Yemane Adhane won the Netherlands' Rotterdam Marathon in 2 hours, 4 minutes and 48 seconds, ahead of fellow countryman Getu Feleke (2:04:50) and Kenyan Moses Mosop (2:05.02). Tiki Gelana of Ethiopia won the women's race in 2:18:58, the fastest time of the year.
In Paris, Stanley Biwott of Kenya won the city's marathon in a record time of 2 hours, 5 minutes, 11 seconds, beating the old mark of 2:05:47 set by compatriot Vincent Kipruto in 2009. Ethiopia's Beyene Tirfi won the women's race in 2:21:40.