The oldest marathon in the world, founded in 1897, the Boston Marathon originally attracted only 15 participants. Today, it is one of the most popular marathons in the world, with 30 000 participants and over 1 million fans.
The race starts in Hopkinton and finishes in the centre of Boston, at Copley Square. Runners pass several cities on the way: Ashland, Framingham, Natick, Wellesley, Newton, and Brookline. At mile 20, athletes face the final and the most difficult challenge of the course: the Heartbreak Hill. It is the 88 feet half-mile ascent after which the course continues downhill.
The 122nd edition of the Boston Marathon took place on April 16, in weather conditions that, to put it mildly, were absolutely terrible. It was a freezing, windy and rainy day, with a starting temperature at 2℃: the coldest Boston Marathon has seen in over 30 years. The inhumane conditions put off many participants, and by the afternoon many of those who decided to embrace the challenge had to be treated by medical staff for symptoms of hypothermia, including many elite runners.
One of them was Molly Huddle, a 33-year-old Olympian and the American record-holder in 5,000m and 10,000m. She had to stop when her vision became blurry from hypothermia. Another favourite, Shalane Flanagan, the champion of the New York City Marathon, also did not perform as usual. 36-year-old American finished seventh in what may be her last Boston.
The winner of the Women’s Race was Desiree Linden, who finished the race in 2:39.54, becoming the first American woman to do so in 33 years. Linden, who was uncontested for the final 6 miles, shared what Boston meant to her at the press conference after the race: “This race is a marathon. It’s not a 26.2-mile road race; it’s where marathoners come to do their stuff. To win on this course and to have it be significant for American marathoning means everything.”
In a surprising turn of events, the next five contestants to finish were all more or less anonymous: Sarah Sellers, Krista DuChene, Rachel Hyland, Jessica Chichester, and Nicole Dimercurio.
Even more shockingly, the winner of the Men’s Race was a relatively unknown Yuki Kawauchi, a 31-year-old runner from Japan, who works at a high school. He finished in 2:15:58 and he wasn’t even aware that he was in the lead, until he saw the finish line. After busting the finisher’s tape, Kawauchi’s comment was: “I think the conditions were instrumental in pulling off this victory. I bet there’s not a single person in Boston who thought that I would win today. But, in the marathon, anything can happen.”
Kawauchi finished ahead of the defending champion Geoffrey Kirui and Shadrack Biwott, who finished third.
The winners of the wheelchair race were Tatyana McFadden and Marcel Hug. McFadden, a Women’s wheelchair champion, won her fifth Boston Marathon in 2:04:39. “I just tried to stay mentally tough and just really relaxed and go the pace I knew I could go,” said she after the race. This is Hug’s fourth Boston win, and he finished in 1:46:26. “It was so cold, I was freezing all the time. I don’t know how I made it. It was so tough and I’m so glad I made it,” commented he.