Geoffrey Kirui Soars to Victory

Kenyan Kirui took home the title after battling American Galen Rupp

By James O'Brien

As runners assembled in Hopkinton for the 121st running of the Boston Marathon, it was the weather as much as the competition that was the focus of greatest conjecture. As the elite men toed the starting line, the mercury in Hopkinton hovered close to 65F with hardly a cloud in the sky.

Yet the warm temperatures did not deter Kenya’s Geoffrey Kirui, who stormed to victory in 2:09:37 in his Boston Marathon debut. American Galen Rupp was second in 2:09:58, followed by teammate Suguru Osako of Japan in third (2:10:28).

Through the opening 10K in 30:26, raucous crowds were out in full force spurring the elites on as they clicked off mile after mile. All the main contenders were content working together, saving energy for the hills and anticipated heat to come. The pack had stayed close all the way through Wellesley, passing halfway in 1:04:35.

Those who know the Boston Marathon course well understand that the Newton Hills often serve as the turning point in races year after year. Yet again the famed inclines served to shake up the pack, dropping top contenders one by one. What was a ten-man group at 25K (15.5 miles) turned into a three man show by 20 miles: American Rupp, Kenya’s Kirui, and USA Masters ace Abdi Abdirahman.

Shortly past 20 miles (1:39:52), a surge by Rupp was followed up by a strong acceleration by Kirui, upping the ante and forcing Abdirahman to fall behind. Soon the aforementioned Osako had shifted into third, but the battle to watch was up front between a pair of Boston debutants in Rupp and Kirui.

The contrast in styles was marked: Kirui, short, compact and efficient; Rupp, tall, loping, fluid as water. Common to them both, though, was the relaxed nature of their strides, remarkable at so late a stage in the race. Both appeared consummately at.

It was a short incline at 22.5 miles that decided the outcome of the 121st Boston Marathon: Kirui surged - wickedly - Rupp responded, then faltered, and that was it. A 15 meter gap instantly opened, thanks to the 4:28 split Kirui recorded between miles 23 and 24.

Rupp fought valiantly all the way to the line, as did his Oregon Project teammate Osako, but there was no denying the new champ. In only his third marathon and his first Abbott World Marathon Majors appearance, Kirui crossed the line in a time of 2:09:37, becoming the first Kenyan men’s winner in Boston since Wesley Korir in 2012.

Rupp finished second in a personal best 2:09:58, while Osako held on for third in a time of 2:10:28 – an exceptional finish in his marathon debut.

“I’m so happy and so grateful” said the winner Kirui. “I knew I was going to run against people who have run in Boston many times, so I was not confident to win. But because of my training, I knew I would challenge. I was well prepared.”

Rupp conceded that it was not the result that he wanted, but was justifiably thrilled with the outcome. “I had an incredible time,” he enthused. “The race exceeded any expectations that I had. I wouldn’t say that my training has been optimal, but I take nothing away from this guy [indicating Kirui, seated alongside]. He ran a hell of a race. I just didn’t have it in the last couple of miles. I’m very happy with this result, but I think I have a lot more room to grow. Now, I just have to recover and get ready for the track season. After this year, it’s full time with the marathon.”

Placing fourth overall was American Shadrack Biwott in 2:12:08, followed by Wilson Chebet (2:12:35) and Abdirahman (2:12:45). While six Americans finished in the top ten, the loudest ovation went to Meb Keflezighi as he crossed 13th in 2:17:00 in his final competitive Boston Marathon. Keflezighi waved to the crowd and thanked everyone on Boylston Street for supporting him over the years.

“Winning the 2014 Marathon has changed my life,” he said. “The community has embraced me. There was so many people thanking me throughout the course. To hear ‘Meb is our hero’ and see the signs means a lot to me. I wanted to go for the win, or top three, or ten, but today was not my day. I congratulate those who finished ahead of me.”

Even with Keflezighi’s tough day, American distance running shined on Marathon Monday.

“It’s so exciting to see Americans running well here in Boston,” said Rupp, a two-time Olympic medalist. “It’s awesome to see American distance running on the upswing.”

Even so, there was no disputing that this Patriots’ Day belonged to Geoffrey Kirui, the pride of Kenya.