When Boston Marathon turned into a sprint, Kenya’s Lawrence Cherono was ready
BOSTON — Sometimes a race is both a marathon and a sprint.
Lawrence Cherono paced himself for 26 miles from Hopkinton to Boston, making the turn from Hereford Street for the last 600 meters on Boylston shoulder-to-shoulder with two other runners. From there, it was a footrace.
“I’ve never run on the track before,” the 30-year-old Kenyan said on Tuesday after picking up a check for $150,000 as the winner of the 123rd Boston Marathon. “To me, it was a lesson. I never lost hope.”
A six-time marathon winner, Cherono was the fastest man in the field by virtue of his victory in Amsterdam last fall in 2 hours, 4 minutes, 6 seconds. That speed came in handy Monday when the pack ran faster in the second half than the first, and Cherono completed the final mile in 4:29 to get to the tape before two-time Boston winner Lelisa Desisa.
In fact, at the 30K checkpoint there were still a dozen runners in the lead pack, including three of the last four champions: Desisa, who won in 2013 and ’15, Geoffrey Kirui (’16) and Lemi Berhanu Hayle (’17).
“I was not thinking of what they did last year,” Cherono said. “I was running my own race.”
Cherono finished in 2:07:57, the fastest winning time in Boston since Geoffrey Mutai’s 2:03:02 set a course record and a world best. Desisa slowed up, grimacing in agony, and finished 2 seconds behind.
Worknesh Degefa won the women’s race in 2:23:31 after pulling away from the pack in the outer suburbs and running alone for more than 20 miles.
“This is going to change my life,” she said Tuesday. “This marathon throws me onto the world stage. Winning the Boston Marathon is everything.”
A year after dealing with some of the foulest weather New England has to offer — temperatures in the mid-30s, an icy rain and near-gale headwinds — organizers lucked into a pretty nice day. Temperatures were in the high 50s at the start, and the rain held off until late in the afternoon.
That led to some new challenges.
Forecasts of cold and rain forced the Boston Athletic Association to prepare again for the worst, and heavy rains and lightning overnight led organizers to delay some of the buses shuttling runners out to the start. An early-morning military march was delayed for 90 minutes, but had the lightning continued the whole race could have been canceled.
Para athletes and others with imperfect contact with the ground were offered a deferment; not a single one took it, race director Dave McGillivray said.
The skies remained clear for the entire elite race and a light rain began falling mid-afternoon. But instead of the hypothermia that had been feared from anticipated cold weather — extra heaters were ordered for the medical tents — temperatures soared into the low 70s and doctors were dealing with exertion heat stroke.
One runner had a core body temperature of 109 degrees, medical coordinator Chris Troyanos said. A total of 2,217 runners needed medical attention on the course or at the finish line; 103 people were transported to hospitals and 13 were admitted overnight.
All were expected to be released Tuesday, Troyanos said.
McGillivray said the changing forecasts put pressure on organizers that last year’s dreadful — but predictable — weather did not.
“It was a moving target all week long,” he said. “But pressure is a privilege. And the B.A.A. team is at its best when we are challenged.”
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