Desiree Linden and Yuki Kawauchi Pull Off Upsets in Rainy Boston Marathon

Linden and the rest of the field faced a headwind of about 10 miles per hour and temperatures of 38 degrees at the starting line on Monday. But the conditions did not stop Linden and Yuki Kawauchi, 31, who came from behind to win the men’s race. He is the first Japanese man to win the race since 1987, the year Kawauchi was born.

Linden had to chase down Mamitu Daska of Ethiopia, also 34, who had bravely separated from the lead women’s pack before the halfway mark and led by as much as 30 seconds, running alone in the rain and wind.

Early in the race, though, Linden was doubting whether she would even finish. When her fellow American Shalane Flanagan made a quick stop at a portable toilet about 45 minutes in, Linden slowed. She had told Flanagan she might drop out and that if her countrywoman needed anything — someone to block the wind, for example — to let Linden know before she quit.

“She nudged me and was like, ‘I’m going to hit the bathroom,’” Linden recalled. “I was like, if it slows up, great. If not, I will try to tuck in and bring you back to the group.”

Linden helped Flanagan rejoin the lead pack when she returned. Flanagan soon tired and wound up seventh, and Linden surged ahead.

“I was in third or fourth, and I thought, ‘I probably shouldn’t drop out,’ so I kept going,” Flanagan said. “I mean honestly, I felt miserable, and sometimes when you pick it up and just forget about how you’re feeling and just engage for a little bit, it can kind of turn everything around.”

Kawauchi, who won in 2:15:58, defies the typical standard of elite runners entering just two or three marathons a year. Many of Japan’s top marathoners compete for corporate teams that dictate very different schedules.

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Yuki Kawauchi of Japan won the men’s race in 2:15:58. It was his fourth marathon win of 2018.

Credit
Brian Fluharty/USA Today Sports, via Reuters

But Kawauchi is not a full-time marathon runner. He has a job working as an administrator at a high school in Saitama Prefecture. His victory on Monday was his fourth in four marathons in 2018.

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He welcomed the cold and rainy weather, even calling it “instrumental” to his win. “If they had been regular conditions, it might have been a little bit tougher to beat some of the competition,” he said through a translator.

Data suggests that marathoners run their fastest races when the temperature is in the 40s — but the study did not take wind into consideration. Others did not share Kawauchi’s opinion on the conditions.

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“The cold, the wet and the rain — that’s the three worst things you can have, and you have that in one race,” Abdi Abdirahman, a four-time United States Olympian who finished 15th on Monday, said on Sunday night. “A lot of guys have been talking about it, trying to be the tough guy and say, ‘Oh, I’m not worried about it, I will just have to deal with it.’ But you know, we will find out how many people are still intact after 30K.”

The temperatures and winds led to slower race times. Runners were mostly reluctant to move in front of the pack early on. Geoffrey Kirui of Kenya finished second in 2:18:23, and Shadrack Biwott of the United States was third in 2:18:35.

Tim Don, the world-record holder in the Ironman triathlon, who broke his neck six months ago, finished in 2:49:42.

The rain was so bad that the traditional Patriots’ Day Red Sox game was postponed for the first time since 1984.

And there were certainly fewer fans than usual cheering along the course. Some who braved the weather taped plastic bags to their sneakers and wore trash bags in lieu of waterproof jackets.

At the starting line, runners crossed their arms over their chests, rubbing their forearms and jumping up and down in an attempt to stay warm. The athletes were all given two bib numbers so they could put one over each layer of clothing.

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The wheelchair races went at a significantly slower pace than usual, as athletes were cautious on wet roads. Marcel Hug of Switzerland won the men’s push-rim race for the fourth straight year in a time of 1:46:26, the slowest since 1987. Tatyana McFadden won her fifth women’s push-rim title, in 2:04:39, the slowest since 1988.

Ernst Van Dyk, the men’s push-rim second place finisher from South Africa, put sandpaper on his gloves to gain traction between his hands and the wheel of his chair.

“I feel I really had to be Boston strong today,” McFadden said after the race. “It just got so slippery.”

It was not the first time runners endured harsh weather for the race. During a potent winter storm in 2007, winds gusted at 30 m.p.h. and temperatures hovered in the mid 40s. In 2015, there was also a strong headwind.

“If it hadn’t been difficult,” Linden said, “it probably wouldn’t mean as much.”


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