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Hellen Obiri claims back-to-back Boston Marathon titles, leading Kenyan women's podium sweep

Hellen Obiri claims back-to-back Boston Marathon titles, leading Kenyan women's podium sweep
Hellen Obiri, of Kenya, raises the trophy after winning the women's division at the Boston Marathon, Monday, April 15, 2024, in Boston   -  
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Charles Krupa/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved


Hellen Obiri's legs were carrying her closer to Boston, but her mind was thinking about Paris.

“I'm not giving up. I'm not going to let this one go," the two-Olympic medalist recalled thinking still miles away from arriving at the Boston Marathon finish line.

She didn't relent, and her latest trip down the world's oldest annual marathon course put her in rare company and in line to add to her Olympic medal count.

Obiri broke away from a large pack late to become the first woman to repeat as Boston Marathon champion since 2005, crossing the finish line in 2 hours, 22 minutes and 37 seconds on Monday.

“Defending the title was not easy. Since Boston started, it’s only six women. So I said, ’Can I be one of them?' If you want to be one of them, you have to work extra hard,” she said. “And I’m so happy because I’m now one of them. I’m now in the history books in Boston.”

The 34-year-old Obiri split from more than a dozen runners in the second half of the race, then outfought a challenge from Kenyan Sharon Lodeki over the final three miles for the victory. It led a Kenyan sweep of the podium, with Lodeki crossing second in 2:22:45. Two-time champion and 44-year-old Edna Kiplagat was third in 2:23:21. Kiplagat finished 30th a year ago.

Kenya’s Catherine Ndereba was the last repeat Boston champion in ’05, part of her run of four titles in five years. Obiri won both her Boston debut last April and last year's New York Marathon. She is a provisional member of Kenya’s Olympic team.

Emma Bates, who led in the second half of the race, was the top American finisher in 12th (2:27:14). Sara Hall came in 15th (2:27:58), followed by 2018 Boston winner Des Linden in 16th (2:28:27).

Bates surged into the lead between the 18th and 19th mile, ahead of a chase pack of more than a dozen runners. That group included Linden, who also led briefly and appeared to say something to Bates between the 14 and 15-mile mark in Wellesley before falling off the pace.

Bates said Linden came up and asked her what pace she was running.

“I said around 5:30. She said, ‘OK, let’s do this,'” Bates said.

For awhile, she did.

Spectators chanted, “Emma! Emma! Emma!” as Bates attempted to add to her advantage just past 20 miles. She embraced the moment, even slapping high-fives with members of the crowd near Wellesley College. But a group led by Mary Nugui (Kenya), Vibian Chepkirui (Kenya) and Obiri (Kenya) closed the gap to about three seconds.

"I was really just trying to test myself and I didn't really have anything to lose," Bates said.

But her edge evaporated in the next mile on Heartbreak Hill, as Kiplagat and Sharon Lokedi ran to the front of a group while Bates quickly fell back and out of contention.

“I wasn't able to have the wheels at the end,” Bates said.

Obiri pushed to the front in Mile 23, followed closely by Lokedi and Kiplagat. Obiri stayed in front in Mile 24, as Lokedi stayed on her shoulder and Kiplagat fell back by 20 seconds.

Obiri began her kick soon after, pulling away over the final mile.

She's now hopeful of representing Kenya in France, with the triumph in Boston serving as the perfect proving ground.

“(The) Paris course is a tough course. It’s even tougher than Boston,” she said.

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