Defending Boston Marathon champion Evans Chebet wasn’t focused on beating Eliud Kipchoge, the world record holder considered the greatest marathoner of all time.
Conquering the course was the goal.
Chebet won the world’s oldest and most prestigious marathon on Monday for the second year in a row, leaving Kipchoge behind at Heartbreak Hill to spoil the two-time Olympic gold medalist’s much-anticipated debut and win in 2 hours, 5 minutes, 54 seconds.
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Gabriel Geay of Tanzania won a footrace for second, finishing 10 seconds behind the winner and two seconds ahead of Kenyan Benson Kipruto. Kipchoge finished sixth — just his third major marathon loss to go with 12 victories.
“When we race, we don’t race against an individual,” said Kipruto, the 2021 winner and Chebet’s training partner. “When we woke up this morning, we were going for a race, not for an individual. … And that’s what happened.”
Hellen Obiri, a two-time Olympic silver medalist in the 5,000 meters, won the women’s race in 2:21:38 to complete the Kenyan sweep. Amane Beriso of Ethiopia was second, 12 seconds back, followed seven seconds later by Israeli Lonah Salpeter.
“I tried to be patient and wait for the right time to happen,” said Obiri, who finished sixth last fall in New York in her marathon debut. “Today was my time.”
It was the third straight Kenyan sweep. Obiri is the 15th Kenyan to win the distaff division since 1966. Chebet is the 25th Kenyan men’s champion and fourth in a row; he is the first man to defend his Boston title since Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot won three in a row from 2006-08.
Chebet’s time was the sixth-fastest in course history. Kipchoge finished in 2:09:23, the slowest marathon of his career.
“In a marathon anything can happen,” Obiri said of the men’s race. “It was a strong field, and everybody was there to race.”
Chebet was in a lead pack that dropped Kipchoge around Mile 20, shortly after he missed his bottle at a water station. Geay, Kipruto and Chebet pulled away with about three miles left, and Chebet made his move in the final mile.
“Most of them blew up. Even Eliud Kipchoge blew up,” said Scott Fauble, who finished seventh and was the top American. “I almost caught him.”
Kipchoge had been hoping to add a Boston Marathon victory to his unprecedented running resume. The 38-year-old has won four of the six major marathons; Boston is the only one he has competed in and failed to win. (He has never run New York.) He also broke 2 hours in an exhibition in a Vienna park.
Fighting a headwind and rain that dampened the roads, Kipchoge ran in the lead pack from the start in Hopkinton until the series of climbs collectively known as Heartbreak Hill. But to the surprise of the fans lined up along Boylston Street for the final kick, he wasn’t among the three leaders.
“I live for the moments where I get to challenge the limits,” Kipchoge said in a statement distributed by the race organizers. “It’s never guaranteed, it’s never easy. Today was a tough day for me. I pushed myself as hard as I could, but sometimes, we must accept that today wasn’t the day to push the barrier to a greater height.”
He also congratulated the winners and thanked the fans for their support.
“In sports you win and you lose and there is always tomorrow to set a new challenge,” said Kipchoge, who has stated a goal to win all six major marathons but did not announce any plans on Monday. “Excited for what’s ahead.”
Marcel Hug of Switzerland won the men’s wheelchair race in a course record time — his sixth victory here. American Susannah Scaroni won her first Boston title despite having to stop early to tighten a wheel that began to wobble on the bumpy pavement.
“It’s better to pull over losing that time tightening it,” she said. “The speed you lose when your wheel is (loose) is much greater than the time you would lose by not tightening it. I was disappointed. I just tried to get back to the … pace as quickly as I could.”
Kae Ravichandran finished in 2:38:57 to win the new nonbinary category, which included 27 entrants. Runner-up Cal Calamia, who wore a transgender patch on their singlet, said they heard spectators cheering for them all along the course.
“To be able to do it in this way, in this category, makes it so much more special,” said Calamia, who was running their sixth marathon and first Boston. “Knowing how much work has gone into getting this category — in a way, that was already a win.”
Also running were former Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara, who finished in 3:38:23, and celebrity chef Daniel Humm, with a time of 2:58:53. Olympic tennis gold medalist Monica Rakitt, who was known as Monica Puig when she won the Rio Games, wore bib No. 2016 and finished in 3:49:47.
Heisman Trophy winner Doug Flutie, who wore No. 22 at Boston College and No. 2 for much of his NFL career, had bib No. 222 while finishing in 5:28:34.
Chara, who wore No. 33 for the Bruins, had bib No. 3333.
No one was assigned bib No. 2013 in remembrance of the 2013 finish line bombings that killed three people and wounded hundreds more. The race included 264 members of the One Fund community — those injured by the attack, their friends and family and charities associated with them.
The city marked the anniversary in a ceremony on Saturday.
A robotic dog named Stompy belonging to the Department of Homeland Security patrolled the start line before the race began, trailed by photographers capturing the peculiar sight. Officials said there were no known threats.
At 6 a.m., race director Dave McGillivray sent out a group of about 20 from the Massachusetts National Guard that hikes the course on the state holiday of Patriots’ Day commemorating the start of the Revolutionary War.
Capt. Kanwar Singh, 33, of Malden, Massachusetts, said the race reminds him of Boston’s resilience.
Ten years ago, the city came to a halt. It’s an incredibly strong comeback, as a group together,” he said. “I tell people, never bet against Bostonians.”