Helen Obiri wins Boston Marathon in her second go at the distance

Helen Obiri wins Boston Marathon in her second go at the distance

Kenya’s Helen Obiri, the final entry into the 2023 Boston Marathon elite field, took the laurel wreath on a rain-soaked Boston Marathon course on Monday, in only her second-ever marathon. Her time was 2:21:38. Her husband and her seven-year-old daughter were at the finish line to congratulate her.

Obiri battled Amane Beriso of Ethiopia to the final kilometer of the race; Beriso, who had by far the fastest personal best heading into the race (2:14:58 from the Valencia Marathon in 2022), crossed the line in second place, in 2:21:50. Lonah Salpeter of Israel was third, in 2:21:57.

Obiri finished sixth in her first marathon in New York City in 2022 after dealing with fueling issues. She is the only woman in the world to have won gold medals at the World Athletics Championships (2017 and 2019), World Athletics Indoor Championships (2012) and World Cross Country Championships (2019), and she has run a 2:00-flat 800m–and that speed came in handy as she pulled away from Beriso to run down Boylston Street.

“I am so happy to be here,” Obiri said during the post-race press conference. “I tried to be patient. I was confident in my training.

“Since I moved to Boulder, training has become a lot more personal, Dathan [Ritzenhein] is always checking up on me and the training group is strong.” Obiri trained in Kenya throughout her career, joining the On Athletic Club, coached by three-time US Olympian Dathan Ritzenhein, moving her family to Boulder, Colo. in the last year; she returned to Kenya to train for the last few months. “New York didn’t go the way I planned,” she added. “It was foreign to me. I tried to go in front and lead. I wanted to be patient in Boston and wait for the right time to make it happen.”

Helen Obiri NYC
Helen Obiri was sixth in the 2022 New York City Marathon. Photo: Kevin Morris

It was a drizzly day in Boston for the 127th running of the marathon, which may have played a role in some of the less-expected outcomes, such as double Olympic champion and world record holder Eliud Kipchoge’s sixth-place finish.

A leading pack of 11 hung together from around the 15 km mark through more than 25 km, led by American Emma Bates and including all the top names: besides Obiri and Beriso, reigning world champion Gotytom Gebreselase, Salpeter and Joyciline Jepkosgei. Twenty-five seconds back was the chase group, including Aliphine Tuliamuk, Rojas and Hall. By mile 22 (35 km), the pack was down to eight, with Bates still leading. Then Yeshaneh fell on the course, which cost her a few seconds, after clipping the back of Obiri’s heel, but quickly reattached, while Jepkosgei fell off her back. Then Bates.

Helen Obiri Boston Marathon
Ethiopia’s Ababel Yeshaneh falls at Mile 24 of the 2023 Boston Marathon. Photo: Kevin Morris

With a mile to go, Obiri and Beriso pulled away from Yeshaneh and Salpeter, and Obiri poured on a finishing kick that shouldn’t have surprised anyone, considering she has run a two-minute 800m.

Liza Howard of Toronto was the first Canadian female to finish, in 37th place. Her time was 2:40:14. “I was super happy with my result,” says Howard. “I was on my own for most of the race and the energy helped pull me along.”

women’s top 10

  1. Helen Obiri (KEN) 2:21:38
  2. Amane Beriso (ETH) 2:21:50
  3. Lonah Salpeter (IL) 2:21:57
  4. Ababel Yeshaneh (ETH) 2:22:00
  5. Emma Bates (USA) 2:22:10
  6. Nazret Weldu (ERI) 2:23:25
  7. Angela Tanui (KEN) 2:24:12
  8. Hiwot Gebremaryam (ETH) 2:24:30
  9. Mary Ngugi (KEN) 2:24:33
  10. Gotytom Gebreslase (ETH) 2:24:34

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