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Fast Women: Everything Boston Marathon
Hellen Obiri and Susannah Scaroni lead the way
Issue 233, presented by OOFOS
This is a special Boston Marathon newsletter, to avoid covering the race a week after the fact. Fast Women will return to its regular once-a-week schedule on Monday. (And this is not an ideal time to send a newsletter, but I wanted to get it out before the end of the day.)
Hellen Obiri pulls off a win in her first Boston Marathon
Twenty-five miles into yesterday’s Boston Marathon, there were still four women in the lead pack: Kenya’s Hellen Obiri, Ethiopia’s Amane Beriso and Ababel Yeshaneh, and Israel’s Lonah Chemtai Salpeter. Salpeter was the first to fall off the back, then Yeshaneh, and with about three-quarters of a mile to go, Obiri began to pull away from Beriso, her only remaining companion. I love the photo above, from about 1K to go, because Amy Roberts took it shortly after Obiri made her move, as she took a quick glance back to gauge how effective it had been.
Obiri’s last mile, 5:00 flat, was her fastest of the race, and she ran unchallenged to the finish line, winning in 2:21:38. Beriso, who ran an eye-opening 2:14:58 in December in Valencia, finished second in 2:21:50. Salpeter moved up to third (2:21:57) and Yeshaneh, who said she was hampered by her fall with two miles to go, took fourth in 2:22:00.
Obiri was greeted at the finish line by her husband and 7-year-old daughter, who recently moved from Kenya to Boulder, Colorado, to be with her while she trains with the On Athletics Club. (This pre-race article about Obiri, from The New York Times, is a good read.)
Obiri wasn’t announced as part of the Boston field until 19 days before the race; apparently another runner’s withdrawal from the race freed up some appearance money, and Obiri decided to go for it. (LetsRun reported that when NYC champ Sharon Lokedi scratched, it opened the door.) Obiri, a world champion and Olympic medalist in the 5,000m, made her marathon debut last November in New York City, where she finished sixth in 2:25:49.
Given her accomplishments at the shorter distances, it seemed likely that Obiri would eventually have similar success in the marathon, but for her to knock it out of the park in her second marathon and first time on the Boston course was impressive. (Post-race interview | All results)
The ninth time’s the charm for Susannah Scaroni
Susannah Scaroni’s story is one of my favorites to come out of this year’s Boston Marathon. In her ninth try, she came away with her first Boston Marathon win. Scaroni, who has been on fire recently, dominated the wheelchair race, winning by more than five minutes, but it wasn’t without drama.
After sticking with her competitors for several miles, Scaroni had opened up a sizable lead. But in the ninth mile, in Natick, a near-disaster struck. You can watch the video of her pulling over to the side of the road here. Scaroni said after the race that because the course is bumpy, her axle came loose. And she was prepared. She whipped out an Allen wrench, did some adjustments, and she was on her way. As my husband said, it was like a NASCAR pit crew, but she was her own crew.
Scaroni said that she has learned from past experiences to always have the wrench with her. And once she got going again, her lead mostly grew, and she won in 1:41:45, 5 minutes and 10 seconds ahead of runner-up Madison de Rozario of Australia.
Four-time Boston champion Manuela Schär of Switzerland was in second place 20 miles into the race, but she said on Instagram that she got a flat tire around that point and she did not finish the race. She said she couldn’t quite cope with the wet conditions. Being out on the course, I noticed that some of the heaviest rain of the day came not long after the women’s wheelchair racers passed halfway.
Paralympic medalist Amanda McGrory provided excellent commentary on the TV broadcast, and I learned a lot from listening to her. I hope that she’ll continue to be part of more broadcasts in the future. Around the time McGrory retired from racing, Scaroni needed a new racing chair after hers was damaged when she was hit by a car. McGrory gave her chair, which she no longer needed, to Scaroni, and she has been racing in it ever since.
Thanks to OOFOS for supporting Fast Women this month!
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Emma Bates runs the race of her life
If I’m being honest, Emma Bates’ pre-race talk about going out hard on the Boston course made me nervous (Runner’s World link). But she backed it up with the race of her life, finishing fifth in 2:22:10, the second-fastest time an American woman has run on the Boston Marathon course (behind only Shalane Flanagan’s 2:22:02 from 2014).
Apparently Bates’ pre-race talk made her a little nervous, too. She said Dana Giordano’s More Than Running podcast that she “kind of had a mental breakdown” the day before the race, after speaking with confidence at the press conference, but her coach, friends, and family helped her get back into a better headspace.
Though this was Bates’ first time racing the Boston Marathon, she was familiar with the second half of the course because she lived in Boston and was a part of the B.A.A. High Performance Team from 2015 to 2017. She delivered a masterful performance, only falling off the lead pack in the 40th kilometer of the 42.195K race. “I think I’m definitely somebody to contend with now and somebody to not be messed with now,” Bates told Giordano.
Bates said after the race that she’s considering taking a shot at Emily Sisson’s American record of 2:18:29 in the fall. Yesterday’s run was a personal best by 68 seconds, and given the challenging course and the wet conditions, that sounds like a realistic goal. Plus Bates beat some 2:17 and 2:18 marathoners. It’s such a fun time in American marathoning that several different women have a shot at the record.
Bates said that she’s off to London now, where she’ll support her teammate, Dom Scott, as she makes her debut at the London Marathon.
The rest of the U.S.
Aliphine Tuliamuk was the next American runner across the finish line, finishing 11th in 2:24:37, and she had mixed feelings about her result. On one hand, it was a personal best by 1 minute, 41 seconds. And she finished sandwiched between a 2:17 and a 2:18 marathoner. She became the sixth-fastest American woman ever to run the Boston course.
On the other hand, she didn’t go with the lead pack and she was never in contention for a top spot. I appreciated that she allowed reporters to listen in and record as she processed the result. After sleeping on it, she said on Instagram that she was proud of hanging tough. “I hope to stay healthy and really take a swing at training fast to match with where women's marathoning is at right now, both in the U.S. and the world,” she wrote.
And I was impressed by Tuliamuk’s ability to simultaneously be a little disappointed in her run while being genuinely happy for Emma Bates’ success. It’s not a job requirement, but cheering for her competitors’ accomplishments seems to come naturally to her.
Nell Rojas was the next American, finishing 14th in 2:24:51. Rojas was the top American woman in both 2021 (fifth, 2:27:12) and 2022 (10th, 2:25:57). This time, she ran 66 seconds faster, but finished farther down the field. Considering that she started off her buildup by getting sick during her trip to Kenya, it was a strong result.
In her first marathon back after a long-lasting IT band injury, Sara Hall finished 17th in 2:25:48 and won the masters division. Yes, Hall is a masters athlete now. She turned 40 two days before the race. Her time was an American masters record for the course. “Would have loved to be (much) further up the results (what a field of women, just wow!) but proud of my time,” she wrote on Instagram. “Super thankful to finish strong and feel my body healthy and giving its all. Excited to keep building off this!”
And New York Times best selling author Des Linden was the fifth American across the line, finishing 18th in 2:27:18. I can’t imagine any of her competitors had a busier schedule leading up to the race, as she was touring to promote her book in recent weeks. Linden told Erin Strout that she was encouraged by her result and tweeted, “Eighteenth sucks but a big step forward after (the) NYC Marathon.”
With this race, the list of top American women all-time in Boston (performers, not performances) changed quite a bit:
1. Shalane Flanagan 2:22:02, 2014
2. Emma Bates 2:22:10, 2023
3. Des Linden 2:22:38, 2011
4. Joan Benoit Samuelson 2:22:43, 1983
5. Jordan Hasay 2:23:00, 2017
6. Aliphine Tuliamuk 2:24:37, 2023
7. Nell Rojas 2:24:51, 2023
8. Kara Goucher 2:24:52, 2011
9. Sara Hall 2:25:48, 2023
10. Kim Jones 2:26:40, 1991
Willis, Herring, and Loomer earn Para Athletics titles
Liz Willis, competing in the T62/T64 division (lower limb impairment), earned her third consecutive Boston Marathon win, covering the course in 4:05:25. It sounds like Willis had quite the adventure out on the course. She said on Instagram that because of the wet conditions, she had a lot of trouble keeping her running leg on. “I never knew I could be so happy to finish without having a leg fall off,” she wrote.
Jennifer Herring won the T13 division (vision impairment) in 3:38:55, and Jessica Loomer won the T11/T12 category (a different type of vision impairment) in 4:21:04.
Jeannie Rice sets an age-group record
Ohio’s Jeannie Rice, 75, won the 75–79 age group in 3:33:15 (3:33:38 gun time) and set a course record for the 70–79 age group. Rice’s time is faster than the 75–79 world record, but Boston’s course is not record-eligible.
Canadian Olympian Carmen Hussar won the 45–49 age group in 2:45:01. Claire Howard won the 50–54 age group in 3:06:32, Lisa Veneziano won the 55–59 age group in 2:57:38, and Heather Knight Pech topped the 60–64 year-olds with a 3:10:37. Lucie Rochon won the 65–69 age group in 3:25:58, Debbie Clark was the top 70–74 year old (3:38:26), and Helen Sabourin won the 80+ age group in 5:04:06.
I was excited to spot former Notre Dame All-American Anna Rohrer, who started with the masses in wave one, way up there during the race. She went through halfway in 1:14:33 and then slowed a little in the second half, but she hung on to run 2:30:52 (2:31:00 chip time), which placed her seventh among the American women. She PRed by more than five minutes, and I enjoyed her post-race Instagram post. Rohrer, 26, was a high school national champion and has dealt with many ups and downs throughout her career. As she has begun to put together some healthy running, her times have continued to drop. And she now has a business mentoring and coaching others.
In her debut marathon, Erika Kemp finished 28th in 2:33:57 and became the fastest American-born Black woman ever in the marathon. She moved ahead of Samia Akbar (2:34:14, at the 2006 NYC Marathon), who held that distinction for more than 16 years. “I promise I won’t be at the top of the list for too long—there’s a lot more coming,” she tweeted. Kemp talked to WCVB after the race, saying she isn’t looking to run another marathon any time soon, but she plans to run the Trials next February.
The race produced no new Olympic Marathon Trials qualifiers. I am so impressed by Dani Moreno, who decided to go for a Trials qualifier in Boston because she likes a challenge. She didn’t quite get there—she ran 2:38:23 and missed out by 83 seconds—but I have no doubt she can run the time on a different day.
For the first time, the fastest Bostonians to complete the race were recognized. Shannon Lamarre, who ran a PR of 2:54:34, was the women’s winner.
Kae Ravichandran became the first winner of the Boston Marathon’s newly-created nonbinary division, running 2:38:57 (2:39:06 gun time).
It rained earlier than I was expecting yesterday, so the roads were wet throughout the race. I am so curious how different super shoes performed on the wet roads, and how much footwear factored into the results.
Runners honored Boston Marathon dogs Spencer and Penny, who recently passed away, as they ran by early in the race. And some additional golden retrievers showed up to help carry on the tradition of supporting the runners.
I took more than 10,000 photos (eek) during the race, and as I edit and post them on Instagram in the coming weeks, I’ll dive a little deeper into some of the results and highlights.
There were some positives in the ESPN/WCVB coverage of the race, but for the most part, this year’s TV coverage was a step backward, especially if you cared about what was going on in the women’s race. Last year, even when the coverage wasn’t showing what viewers wanted, at least Peacock gave everyone access to a “race mosaic,” which included the media feeds of all four races, without commentary. Plus the coverage caught the big moves in the women’s race. I thought this tweet from Kara Goucher summed up this year’s coverage pretty well. Hired experts Carrie Tollefson, Amanda McGrory, and Meb Keflezighi did the best they could with what they had, so this isn’t in any way criticism of them. They don’t control what’s on the screen, but I’d really like to see the race go back to NBC.
Incident casts a shadow over the race
Near mile 21 of the race, a group of predominantly Black spectators, many of them from the TrailblazHers Run Co and Pioneers Run Crew, were subject to a level of policing seen nowhere else along the course. Videos and photos show a line of police officers with bikes blocking the group’s access to the road. Jean Mike Remy posted a video about the experience that has gone viral. He also discussed it on The Rambling Runner Podcast (starting around the 22:00 mark) and on his YouTube channel. I don’t know the details, but apparently the police were called to this cheer zone last year as well.
I appreciated what Lauren Fleshman wrote about the incident on Instagram: “Reportedly some of them repeatedly ran onto the course cheering for friends after being asked not to. Even if that’s true, and even though that’s not allowed, in what world are white people policed in this way for such a thing to this degree? It doesn’t happen.”
They were in Newton, but it could have happened in any of the towns along the route and many other places in this country. As race organizers and brands make the push to diversify the race—and there’s still a long way to go—there needs to be a simultaneous effort to make sure it’s as safe and welcoming as possible for everyone who takes part. (I appreciated Brooks posting this on Instagram.) In response to our request for comment, a B.A.A. representative wrote, “The B.A.A. is committed to creating a safe and enjoyable experience for athletes, volunteers and spectators across all our events.” I hope that they’ll have more to say in the coming days.
A huge thanks to my editor, Sarah Lorge Butler, who edited this while flying across the country (and edited two newsletters in three busy days). I appreciate Amy Roberts and Derek Call, who stood out in the rain to get some of the photos I’ve used here, and my sister, who held an umbrella over my camera for much of the race. Thanks also to everyone who helps make Fast Women possible via your support on Patreon and Venmo. And thanks to OOFOS for sponsoring. Enjoy the rest of your week!