BOSTON — Monday’s 119th Boston Marathon marked Tatyana McFadden’s ninth straight major marathon victory as well as her third straight win on Boylston Street.
But winning on the 40th anniversary of Boston becoming the first major U.S. road race to recognize wheelchair participation was significant for another major reason: Monday was also the first time the Abbott World Marathon Majors included wheelchair athletes in its circuit.
Also featuring marathons in Tokyo, London, Berlin, Chicago, New York, as well as the Paralympic Games and IPC Athletics World Championships when they are on the calendar, the circuit will pay $50,000 to the top man and woman wheelchair racer at the end of the season.
“It definitely changes everything,” McFadden said after winning in 1 hour 52 minutes 54 seconds on Monday. “I think it makes the sport better, stronger and faster and each year it’s going to keep growing. And it makes the sport exciting to watch.”
The Russian-born athlete who was raised in Maryland also launched her campaign to complete her third straight marathon grand slam — Boston, Chicago, London and New York — on Monday. She became the first athlete to claim all four titles in a calendar year in 2013 and then repeated it in 2014. McFadden is also a four-time U.S. Paralympian with 11 medals in track and Nordic skiing.
Her U.S. teammates, Susannah Scaroni and Amanda McGrory, finished with the identical time of 1:57:21 to place third and fourth, respectively, behind Japan’s Wakako Tsuchida (1:53:48).
Despite a strong headwind, Monday’s women’s open division saw another strong performance by an American woman in the world’s oldest annual marathon.
Desiree Linden, who lost by two seconds in a sprint down Boylston Street in 2011, led most of the way Monday before finishing fourth in 2:25:39. Kenyan Caroline Rotich (2:24:55) won ahead of Ethiopians Mare Dibaba (2:24:59) and Buzunesh Deba (2:25:09).
“With the conditions of the course I knew today was going to be a war of attrition,” said Linden, who made the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team but could not compete due to injury. “My goal was just to go out there and make it a full marathon and grind it out.
“I think I beat some really good athletes today, and there’s no shame in getting beat by these three ladies, that’s for sure.”
Massachusetts native Shalane Flanagan, another U.S. Olympian, finished ninth (2:27:47) one year after recording the fastest time ever (2:22:02) by an American woman in Boston last year.
“It’s obviously a huge accomplishment to beat her,” Linden said. “That’s not the goal of the day, it’s to race the field, but I have a ton of respect for her.”
Linden, who sat out the 2013 season injured, saw Monday as a major milestone in her comeback.
“I’m really proud of myself, you don’t get those moments too often,” she said. “So I’m going to soak it in and be happy and go back to being a competitor and try to make that step forward and try to race down Boylston Street again.”
|Meb Keflezighi reacts after crossing the finish line during the 119th Boston Marathon on April 20, 2015 in Boston.
While the 31-year-old Linden has plenty of Boston Marathons left in her, Monday might have been Meb Keflezighi’s last time running Boston. Keflezighi — who will be 40 next month — finished eighth (2:12:42) despite stopping to vomit several times. He shocked the world last year by winning one year after the bombings that killed three people and injured many more.
The silver medalist at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games said he has four more marathons left in him, including next February’s U.S. Olympic Team Trials in Los Angeles, which will make it impossible to run Boston in 2016.
“I’ll be 40, so the pressure is off me to do things,” he said. “I’ll see if I can make the Olympic team at 40 years old and compete at 41, and after that my marathoning is narrowing down. I’m privileged and honored to have represented the United States the best that I can.”
That fact made Monday’s run down Boylston Street emotional. But he found the energy to chase down a woman ahead of him so he could cross the line holding her hand.
“I saw this lady up in front and I said you know, ‘I have to work hard (to catch her),’” he said. “I was crying on Boylston Street because I was very emotional, there are so many memories on Boylston Street, good and bad, and I didn’t think I was going to catch her but I had to have a better surge and it was fun to be able to do that.”
Keflezighi finished one place behind teammate Dathan Ritzenhein (2:11:20), who actually briefly led the pack before falling off after the Newton Hills.
Ultimately Lelisa Desisa won Monday’s men's race in 2:09:17. The Ethiopian also won in 2013, when he donated his medal to the City of Boston after the bombing.
The bombing was an emotional touchstone for McFadden, as well. For the second year she wore an MR8 bib in honor of the 8-year-old boy, Martin Richards, who was killed in the bombing. She has become close to the Richards family over the last two years and hugged Martin’s father at the finish line this year.
“Since the first day that I met them I knew that this race is not about me,” McFadden said, “it’s about community and it’s about strength, courage and hope and it’s about Boston and Boston Strong.”
Justin A. Rice is a Boston-based freelance writer who covers sports and local news. He has been a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org since 2010 on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.