Peres Jepchirchir wins Boston Marathon on 50th anniversary of first official women’s race

Reigning Olympic champion Peres Jepchirchir has capped the celebration of a half-century of women in the Boston Marathon with a finish to top them all.

The 28-year-old Kenyan won a see-saw sprint in the closing stages on Monday, when the world’s oldest and most prestigious annual marathon returned to its traditional spring start for the first time since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

On the 50th anniversary of the first official women’s race, Jepchirchir traded places with Ethiopia’s Ababel Yeshaneh eight times in the final mile (1.6km) before pulling ahead for good on Boylston Street, finishing in 2 hours, 21 minutes, 1 second.

“I was feeling she was strong. I pushed it,” said Jepchirchir, who earned $150,000 and the traditional gilded olive wreath to go with her Olympic gold medal and 2021 New York City Marathon title.

In the men’s race, Evans Chebet completed the Kenyan sweep, breaking away from Gabriel Geay with about four miles to go to finish in 2:06:51 for his first major marathon victory.

The 2019 winner, Lawrence Cherono, was second, 30 seconds back, while defending champion Benson Kipruto was third, and Geay fell back to fourth.

Daniel Romanchuk of Champaign, in the US state of Illinois, won his second career wheelchair title in 1:26:58.

Switzerland’s Manuela Schär won her second-straight Boston crown and fourth overall, finishing in 1:41:08.

Manuela Schär won her second consecutive Boston Marathon title.(Getty Images: Maddie Meyer)

More than 28,000 runners returned to Boston’s streets, six months after a smaller and socially distanced event that was the only autumn race in its 126-year history.

Fans waved Ukrainian flags in support of the runners whose 26.2-mile run Monday was the easiest part of their journey.

Forty-four Ukrainian citizens had registered for the race. Only 11 started but they all finished.

“I decided to come here and show that Ukrainians are strong, we’re fighting and we hope peace will come soon,” Dmytro Molchanov, a Ukrainian who lives in New York, said.

A man kisses a Ukraine flag that is wrapped around his shoulders
There were 11 runners from Ukraine, all of whom finished. (Getty Images: Lauren Owens Lambert/Anadolu Agency)

“It’s really tough, basically, being here while all my family, my friends and Ukrainians are fighting over there for peace in my country, in Europe and the world overall,” said Molchanov, who finished in 2:39:20.

Athletes from Russia and Belarus were uninvited in response to the invasion of Ukraine. Ukrainians who were unable to make it to Boston were offered a deferral or refund.

“Whatever they want to do, they can do,” Boston Athletic Association president Tom Grilk said.

“Run this year, run next year. You want a puppy? Whatever. There is no group we want to be more helpful to.”

A runner wearing yellow gloves holds a Ukraine flag in front of his waist
The Ukrainian runners who have been unable to travel to the event will be able to defer their entries.(Getty Images: Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe)

Jepchirchir and Yeshaneh, who was third in New York last autumn, spent most of the morning running shoulder to shoulder — or even closer: Just after the 25-kilometre marker, the Ethiopian’s eyes wandered from the course and she drifted into Jepchirchir.

Yeshaneh reached out to apologize, and the two clasped each other’s arms as they continued on.

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