By Jill Geer
USA Track & Field
Perfect weather, a generous tailwind and fabulous competition made the 115th Boston Marathon the fastest men's marathon ever run, while American Desiree Davila came within two seconds of history in the women's race on Monday.
Geoffrey Mutai of Kenya ran the fastest marathon in history with a spectacular win in 2 hours, 3 minutes and 2 seconds, outsprinting countryman Moses Mosop (2:03:06). Both times were nearly a full minute better than Haile Gebrselassie's world record of 2:03:59, but due to the elevation drop and point-to-point measurements of the Boston course, Monday's performances are not record-eligible.
Tailwinds at roughly 10 miles per hour and gusting higher buffeted ING New York City Marathon champion Gebre Gebremariam to third in 2:04:53, and Stanford product Ryan Hall became the fastest American in history with his fourth-place time of 2:04:53. Khalid Khannouchi's American record of 2:05:38, like Gebreselassie's world record, likewise still stands due to technical record requirements.
Given his slower-than-usual Boston prep races, Hall was perhaps looked upon skeptically when he led the early portions of Monday's race. As is his wont, he faded back and returned to the lead periodically, leading the pack through the halfway mark at 1:01:57. Mutai led at 25km, but Hall was once again out front at 1:28:23. Mutai took the lead for good shortly before 35km, and the race was on. Mutai and Mosop made it a two-man race and dueled it to the finish.
In the women's race, Davila's composed, well-paced and gutsy performance compelled the press room to break the cardinal journalistic rule that forbids cheering.
The race that led to that breach of etiquette was both compelling and unpredictable. New Zealand's Kim Smith took a big lead from the start, putting as much as 50 seconds between herself and the lead pack at the halfway mark, which she passed in 1:10:52. But Smith suffered what appeared to be leg cramps at roughly 20 miles, and Davila, who had been comfortably in sixth for much of the race, eventually took the lead.
Davila led three Kenyans in the four-woman pack that included Caroline Kilel, Sharon Cherop and Alice Timbilili. They passed 35k in 1:58:37 as Timbilili fell off, leaving a three-woman race remaining. At 2:10 into the race, Kilel made a break and Davila fell to third.
The first press-room gasp came with Davila moved back into the lead, but an outright cheer erupted with she surged around a right turn onto Hereford street less than a mile from the finish. Kilel took back the lead as they turned to the final stretch down Boylston, and Davila's legs looked to be tiring and appeared unlikely to be able to respond. So when the 5-foot-2 Davila - whose leg speed was illustrated by her runnerup finish in the 3,000m at the 2010 USA Indoor Championships - came up with one more surge halfway down Boylston, the room again erupted.
Alas, the long-striding Kilel found the speed she needed to edge past Davila. At the finish Kilel collapsed to the ground in tears and was taken to the medical area. Although Davila looked relatively fresh, she admitted: "I gave it all I had. It was the most incredible experience of my running career. My legs were shot. There was nothing left."
Kilel won in 2:22:36, with Davila second in 2:22:38 to become the third-fastest American woman in history behind Deena Kastor and Joan Benoit Samuelson. Cherop was third in 2:22:42, Caroline Rotich of Kenya was fourth in 2:24:26, and Kara Goucher was fifth in a personal-best time of 2:24:52. It was Goucher's first marathon since having a child in September.