Geoffrey Kirui and Edna Kiplagat on Monday led a Kenyan clean sweep at the 121st Boston Marathon, both timing late bursts to perfection to claim the men’s and women’s races of the prestigious event.
Kirui, 24, produced a devastating sprint with four miles to go to settle an enthralling tactical battle with American rival Galen Rupp, a bronze medalist at last year’s Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
Kirui waved and smiled as he took the tape in a time of 2 hours, 9 minutes, 37 seconds, with Rupp finishing in second.
It was a masterful performance from the young Kenyan, who made his move with a 4 minute, 52 second mile at the 22-mile mark that saw him pull clear of Rupp.
Rupp battled desperately to stay in touch, but was unable to respond as Kirui kept the pace up to leave the Oregon-based American in second in 2 hours, 9 minutes, 58 seconds. Japan’s Suguru Osako was third in 2 hours, 10 minutes, 28 seconds.
Kirui’s time was well outside the world marathon record of 2 hours, 2 minutes, 57 seconds set by Kenya’s Dennis Kimetto in Berlin in 2014.
Kirui later revealed he had pulled clear of Rupp after deciding to “test” his own finishing power.
“I saw he [Rupp] was a strong guy. Not easy,” Kirui said. “So I tried to push a little bit to test myself. And I saw that he had not come with me, so I pushed a little bit more.”
Kirui said he plans to concentrate on marathon running after failing to find success in track events.
“I tried many times in the track, but I see my future in marathon,” he said.
In the women’s race, Kiplagat conjured a similarly decisive burst over the closing stages to claim the race for the first time.
The 2011 and 2013 world marathon champion took the tape in 2 hours, 21 minutes, 52 seconds after breaking away from the field with about eight miles to go.
Kiplagat, 37, was greeted by her children and family members as she crossed the line.
Rose Chelimo, a Kenyan-born runner who now represents Bahrain, was second in 2 hours, 22 minutes, 51 seconds, while Jordan Hasay of the US was third in 2 hours, 23 minutes.
The Kenyan double came as a welcome boost for the east African superpower of long-distance running. Kenyan athletics was earlier this month left reeling after news that Jemima Sumgong — Kenya’s women’s marathon champion at least year’s Rio Games — had failed a drug test.
Sumgong’s drug test was another black eye for Kenyan distance running. Sumgong’s former training partner, 2014 Chicago and Boston marathons champion Rita Jeptoo, is serving a four-year ban after also testing positive for banned hormone erythropoietin.
Kenya was last year admonished by the World Anti-Doping Agency, which accused the country of noncompliance with its anti-doping code.
The Boston Marathon is the world’s oldest annual marathon and one of the most prestigious races over the distance on the athletics calendar.