Wesley Korir won the 116th Boston Marathon with a late charge, while Sharon Cherop took the women’s race in a final sprint for a Kenyan sweep under severe heat that had officials urging runners to stay home.
Korir, 29, passed another Kenyan, Levy Matebo, around the 25-mile mark and won the 26.2-mile (42.2-kilometer) race from Hopkinton, Massachusetts, to Boston in 2 hours, 12 minutes, 40 seconds. Matebo held the lead alone from around the 21-mile mark until Korir passed him, and finished second in the world’s oldest continuous marathon at 2:13:06.
Jason Hartmann, from Boulder, Colorado, was the top U.S. finisher, in fourth at 2:14:31. Temperatures rose to 78 degrees (25.6 Celsius) as the lead runners finished, according to Weather.com, and a high in the upper 80s is forecast, more than 30 degrees above normal.
“I knew that I had to keep them in sight if I had an opportunity,” Korir said in a televised interview. “When they took off, I knew the heat was very hot, so I knew that if I tried to take off at that speed, I’d top out. I said, ‘Let me just go at a consistent pace and see if I can catch up with them.’”
Cherop outkicked Jemima Jelagat Sumgong of Kenya in the final mile of the women’s race to win her first Boston Marathon by two seconds, at 2:31:50. That maintained the race’s recent string of tightly contested women’s finishes, with the last five years decided by a combined 10 seconds.
It was 73 degrees (22.8 Celsius) in Hopkinton at 10 a.m. Boston for the start of the men’s race. Temperatures rose steadily as the race moved East toward Boston, with the first runners crossing the line with temperatures around 78 degrees.
The normal high temperature for today in the Boston area is 55 degrees (12.8 Celsius), according to the National Weather Service. The record for the day is 82 degrees, set in 1976.
About 4,290 of the race’s 26,716 entrants, or 16 percent, didn’t participate in the race today, organizers announced on their Twitter page. Entrants were given the option yesterday of withdrawing from this year’s race in exchange for a guaranteed spot in 2013, because of the heat.
Last year in cooler temperatures, Geoffrey Mutai of Kenya won the men’s marathon in a course-record 2:03:02. Mutai’s time was the fastest marathon ever run, but wasn’t a world record because Boston isn’t a record-eligible course.
Mutai, 30, dropped from the lead pack today around the half-way point and withdrew from the race 18 miles in due to cramps. Caroline Kilel of Kenya, the defending woman’s champion, was walking toward the end of the race and didn’t place in the top 30.
Two days before the race, the Boston Athletic Association, the marathon’s organizer, issued a warm-weather advisory to all runners. The memo warned inexperienced athletes to pull out of the competition, and elite runners to run a slower pace and “frequently take breaks by walking.”
“This will not be a day to run a personal best,” the organizers said in the advisory. “Heat stroke is a serious issue and is related to intensity of running as well as the heat and humidity.”
Organizers also sent an e-mail to every runner with video instructions on administering hands-only CPR, which could aid a fellow runner who goes into cardiac arrest.
The last on-course death of a Boston Marathon participant occurred in 2002. In 2007, the Chicago Marathon suspended its race after about 3 1/2 hours following the death of a runner as temperatures climbed to 88 degrees (31.1 Celsius).
A Kenyan or Ethiopian has won 23 of the last 25 men’s Boston Marathons and 14 of the last 16 women’s races.
Korir and Cherop each won $150,000, $100,000 each less than the top prizes at January’s Dubai Marathon, the world’s richest. Korir, who graduated from the University of Louisville, said that he would donate most of his winnings to a charity that provides schooling for children in Kenya.
No American runner has won the Boston Marathon since Lisa Larsen Weidenbach took the women’s race in 1985. The last U.S. male to win the race was Greg Meyer in 1983.
Elite American runners, including Olympic silver medalist Meb Keflezighi and Ryan Hall, last year’s top U.S. finisher, didn’t compete today. Qualifying for the U.S. Olympic team is complete.
Joshua Cassidy of Canada won the men’s push-rim wheelchair race in a course-record 1:18:25, while American Shirley Reilly won the women’s wheelchair race in a final sprint at 1:37:36. Cassidy raced alone for the second half of the race, out-pacing defending-champion Masazumi Soejima of Japan, who finished fourth in 1:23:27.