Boston, Ma. – The Marathon is such a challenging distance that most athletes have no desire to take it on solo. Instead, they form up in packs, serving as confederates through much of its length, working as one until they come to the final third of the course where the real racing begins and the winning is generally done.
That’s exactly how the men’s race played out yesterday at the 123rd Boston Marathon with the outcome in doubt til the final 5 meters when Kenya’s Lawrence Cherono prevailed against two-time Ethiopian winner Lelisa Desisa. It was thrilling stuff, indeed.
But as my broadcast partner on WBZ-TV4 Shalane Flanagan said, “the women’s race was the polar opposite.”
In that competition, the short but powerful Worknesh Degefa of Ethiopia gently but convincingly went to the front in Ashland and began to turn the screw after reaching only the second of eight cities and towns that make up the historic Boston course.
“After 4 miles the pace was too slow,“ 28 year-old Degefa said at today’s day-after press conference. “So I decided to take off. I kept going and that made me a winner.”
The last time we saw a move this bold this early in a major race was way back in 1984 when Maine’s Joanie Benoit pulled away from the inaugural Women’s Olympic Marathon field in Los Angeles at 5km and ran alone to win the first women’s Olympic Marathon gold-medal. Her time of 2:24:52 stood as the Olympic record for many cycles. It was only bested as the fastest time west of the Mississippi River this past March at the Los Angeles Marathon.
Yesterday it was with seeming ease that Worknesh Degefa gradually eased away from a pack that included four previous Boston women champions. They knew that this was the fastest woman in the field with her 2:17:41 performance at the January 25th Dubai Marathon. But maybe because it was her first attempt on the technically challenging Boston route with its rolling hills and iconic Heartbreak Hill, that they figured she would come back and they could reel her back in. (more…)