Lemma powers to Boston Marathon win, Obiri repeats as women's champ

athletics15 April 2024 20:00| © AFP
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Sisay Lemma © Getty Images

Ethiopia's Sisay Lemma attacked early and held on for a dominant victory in the Boston Marathon on Monday, gaining the redemption he sought after failing to finish last year.

Lemma seized control in the opening miles and built a lead of more than two minutes by the halfway mark on the way to victory in 2:06:17.

By the time those chasing could make any inroads on his lead it was too late and Lemma finished 41 seconds ahead of compatriot Mohamed Esa – who surged late to grab second ahead of Kenyan Evans Chebet, who was denied a third straight Boston title.

Lemma's gritty wire-to-wire victory was a marked contrast to the late push Kenyan Hellen Obiri delivered to win her second straight women's title in 2:22.37.

In a race that saw 19 women clustered in a leading group at the halfway point, Obiri and compatriots Sharon Lokedi and Edna Kiplagat finally separated themselves in the final three miles.

Obiri and Lokedi ran shoulder-to-shoulder before Obiri pulled away in the final mile, Lokedi finishing eight seconds back and Kiplagat completing the Kenyan podium sweep 44 seconds adrift.

Lemma, whose personal best of 2:01:48 makes him the fourth-fastest marathoner in history, was on pace to shatter the Boston course record of 2:03:02, set in 2011 by Kenyan Geoffrey Mutai.

However, the draining hills on the second half of the course took their toll and his lead dwindled as Chebet and Kenyan John Korir pushed the pace over the final miles.

Lemma had enough left to preserve his lead as behind him Esa charged from fifth at the 23-mile mark, passing both Chebet and Korir to seize second place.

The victory was all the more satisfying on a course where Lemma had twice failed to finish and placed 30th in 2019.

"I was able to redeem myself," Lemma told ESPN. "So I'm happy.

"My plan was to break the course record. But it's so hilly, up and down, and that took a lot and made me tired."

Lemma said the challenges posed by the course were perfect preparation for the 2024 Paris Olympics marathon.

"The reason I came to run in Boston was because Boston Marathon is similar to the Paris Marathon – up and down the hills. It will help me there."


Obiri became the first woman to repeat as Boston champion since Catherine Ndereba in 2004-05.

"It was not easy because there were so many strong ladies," Obiri said. "I say, 'Can I give up?' and I say 'No, let me fight up to 10 (kilometres)'.

"And, I say, 'Up to 40K, 2K to go, I am also strong', so I say 'Let me try to push'," added Obiri, who embraced her daughter, Tania, at the finish line and draped her medal around the eight-year-old's neck.

Obiri, a two-time world champion at 5 000m who has cemented her marathoner status with three victories in four major marathon starts, said that so far her Olympic season is going exactly to plan.

"Last year I was not familiar with the marathon. This year my training was perfect and we trusted everything we were doing," she said.

Obiri, who also has cross-country and indoor world titles on her resume, is hoping that despite the fierce competition to make the Kenyan team for Paris the marathon could be her ticket to the Olympic gold that has eluded her.

"I'm seeing myself there," said Obiri, who earned 5 000m silver at the 2016 and 2020 Olympics.