2022 Boston Marathon: A 50-year celebration of women runners
Reigning Olympic champion Peres Jepchirchir won the Boston Marathon women's division Monday in a dramatic finish. The men's winner was Kenya's Evans Chebet.
Peres Jepchirchir celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Boston Marathon women’s division by winning a see-saw sprint down Boylston Street on Monday as the race returned to its traditional Patriots’ Day spot on the calendar for the first time since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
Running shoulder to shoulder for most of the course, the reigning Olympic champion and Ethiopia's Ababel Yeshaneh traded places eight times in the final mile, with Jepchirchir pulling ahead for good in the final 385 yards. The Kenyan finished in 2 hours, 21 minutes, 1 seconds, four seconds ahead.
“I was feeling she was strong. I pushed it,” said Jepchirchir, who earned $150,000 and the traditional gilded olive wreath. “I fell behind. But I didn’t lose hope.”
Kenya's Evans Chebet pulled away with about four miles to go to win the men's race in 2:06:51, 30 seconds ahead of Gabriel Geay of Tanzania. Defending champion Benson Kipruto was third.
American Daniel Romanchuk won his second career men’s wheelchair title in 1:26:58. Switzerland’s Manuela Schar won her second straight Boston crown and fourth overall, finishing in 1:41:08.
Sharing a weekend with the Red Sox home opener — the city's other sporting rite of spring — more than 28,000 runners returned to the streets from Hopkinton to Copley Square six months after a smaller and socially distanced event that was the only fall race in its 126-year history.
Fans waved Ukrainian flags in support of the few dozen runners whose 26.2-mile run from Hopkinton to Copley Square was the easiest part of their journey. Athletes from Russia and Belarus were disinvited 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.”
Jepchirchir and Yeshaneh spent most of the morning running shoulder to shoulder — or even closer: In the first half, the Ethiopian's eyes wandered from the course and she drifted into Jepchirchir.
She reached out to apologize, and the two clasped each other's arms as they continued on.
“She's my best friend,” Jepchirchir said.
Beaten, Yeshaneh finished four seconds back. Kenya's Mary Ngugi finished third for the second time in six months, following her podium in October after the 125th race was delayed, canceled and delayed again.
This year's race marked the 50th anniversary of Nina Kuscsik's victory as the first official women's winner. (The actual first woman to finish the race was Bobbi Gibb, who first ran in 1966 among the unofficial runners known as bandits.)
Valerie Rogosheske, who finished sixth in '72, said she had been planning to hide in the bushes and run as a bandit before women got the go-ahead a few weeks before the race. She is running this year with her daughters, and served as the honorary starter for the women’s elite field.
“There was just this feeling of, ‘Boy, we’re going to do this. No one can drop out. There are eyes upon us,'" she said at the starting line on Monday. “Many people didn’t think we should be running a marathon. So that’s why we really felt that pressure but opportunity as well to finish this marathon.”
The first women who dared to attempt the Boston Marathon faced sneers and catcalls, administrative roadblocks and even physical violence from an organization originally formed to encourage the pursuit of “manly sports.”
“I think about it, if I would be brave enough to do that. I’m not sure I would have been,” said Des Linden, who herself overcame some of the worst weather in the race’s history to win in 2018. “But these guys stuck their neck out, and made it happen.”
Fifty years after eight women lined up alongside the men — the first official female entrants — more than 12,000 women entered the Boston Marathon on Monday.
Although women weren’t welcome until 1972, Bobbi Gibb is acknowledged as the first woman to run Boston, finishing it in 1966 among the unofficial runners known as bandits. A year later, Kathrine Switzer signed up as “K.V. Switzer” — there was no spot on the form for gender — and received an official bib; race director Jock Semple was so irate that he tried to shove her off the course.
“You can imagine how that must be challenging, where you are running and people don’t want to see you running,” said Mary Ngugi, who has campaigned against domestic abuse toward female athletes in Kenya.
“But now we can run, we can train, we can do whatever we want,” she said. “We’ve been given these opportunities to feel like we are equal with the men. It’s amazing. Being here and being able to run, being able to be free and as a woman, it’s a great thing.”
Gibb’s three first-place finishes from 1966-68 and three for Sara Mae Berman from 1969-71 were originally considered the Boston Marathon’s “Unofficial Era”; they have recently been upgraded in the record book to “Pioneer Era.”
But it is Nina Kuscsik’s 1972 victory that is celebrated this year.
“It sounds so outrageous to say that women are ‘allowed to run.’ That 50 years ago, ‘they finally let us be allowed to run,’” Switzer said. “But here we are.”