BOSTON – Ethiopia’s Deriba Merga overcame the disappointment of his Olympic fade to win the Boston Marathon on Monday, and Kenya’s Salina Kosgei won the closest women’s race in the history of the event.
Americans took third in both races for the best U.S. finish since 1985.
Merga, passed in the last quarter-mile to finish fourth in Beijing, pulled away before Heartbreak Hill and won in 2 hours, 8 minutes, 42 seconds – almost a full minute ahead of Kenya’s Daniel Rono and American Ryan Hall.
“I’ve never experienced anything like this,” said Hall, who took the early lead and was shoulder-to-shoulder with the leaders until they passed from Wellesley into Newton, with about 10 miles to go. “And I’ve been in the Rose Parade, so that’s a pretty big deal.”
Kosgei won a sprint with defending champion Dire Tune, trading the lead several times in the final blocks of Boylston Street before hitting the tape less than a stride ahead of the Ethiopian in 2:32:16. American Kara Goucher led the three as they crossed the MassPike into Kenmore Square with one mile to go, but she was outkicked down the stretch and finished 9 seconds back.
“I just wanted it for everybody that wanted it for me,” said Goucher, whose voice cracked repeatedly in the postrace news conference. “I’m proud of how I did. I just wanted to be the one that won – for everybody.”
The winners will take home $150,000.
“I was little bit embarrassed,” said Colleen De Reuck, the 45-year-old four-time Olympian and naturalized U.S. citizen who grabbed the lead out of frustration and finished eighth. “You come to a … big marathon like this, you get paid a lot of money to come and run and I think you should race.”
No American has won in Boston since Lisa Larsen-Weidenbach in 1985. But the presence of Goucher and Hall among the leaders brought out fans holding “Go Kara!” signs and chanting for U.S. runners.
“People were so proud to see an American up front, and there was a lot of ‘U.S.A.!’ cheering,” Goucher said. “Two Americans in the top three is fantastic. I think once things settle in a bit … we’ll be really proud of this.”
The women’s race was the slowest since 1985, a pace that had the men’s leaders passing the female stragglers and approaching the final mile as the women were hitting the tape.
Kosgei said the weather made the challenging course even more difficult.
“The wind was a bit stronger. … So, it was very hard,” Kosgei said.
Goucher burst into tears and was consoled by her husband, and Tune fell to the pavement for several minutes after the final sprint. A race spokesman said Tune was hospitalized as a precaution; defending champion Robert Cheruiyot, who was going for an unprecedented fourth straight title and fifth overall, dropped out between the 35K and 40K markers and was taken to a hospital.
South African Ernst Van Dyk breezed to his eighth win in the men’s wheelchair race, matching the all-categories Boston Marathon record set by Jean Driscoll, who won eight women’s wheelchair races. Japan’s Wakako Tsuchida won her third straight women’s wheelchair race.
Four-time winner “Boston Billy” Rodgers, back in the race for the first time in a decade, beat his goal of 4 hours by one minute.