BOSTON — A hearty lead pack of 15 to 20 runners, including Americans CJ Albertson and Elkanah Kibet, pushed an aggressive pace for the first 21-plus miles Monday at the 126th Boston Marathon, which helped spur Evans Chebet of Kenya to victory in 2 hours, 6 minutes, 51 seconds — the race’s fastest time in 11 years.
Scott Fauble, however, stayed behind that pack, a strategy that paid off in recording his best marathon time, and again finishing as the top American, seventh overall in 2:08:52.
Because of the pandemic, this was the first April Boston Marathon in 1,099 days, after the 2020 event was canceled and the 2021 race was postponed to October. About 30,000 entries started the race from Hopkinton, Massachuse.
“It’s a course that the more times you run it, the better you’re going to get at it,” said Fauble, who also placed seventh overall in 2019, in 2:09:09. “There’s some nuances out there, and I think I do well with the hills.”
At the midway point, Fauble crossed in 1:04:26, a minute behind the lead pack.
Not long after that, Fauble started making his move, again using his experience on the course. He finished 13th last October in 2:13:47. “I wanted to go out as calm and smooth as possible,” he said.
Trains in Flagstaff
The steady approach paid off for Fauble, who hails from Golden, Colorado, and trains in Flagstaff, Arizona.
“It was about 15 miles until I started pushing,” Fauble said. “Once I got to mile 16, I was figuring it was time to bring it home, one person at a time. I was catching someone every couple of minutes. And the crowd’s great, they’re only going to push you.”
Albertson, who in October’s Boston Marathon bolted to a huge lead and stayed there until the chase pack caught up to him at 20 miles, used the same strategy Monday, which paid off in a personal-best marathon time of 2:10:23, good for 13th overall, third American.
While the pack joined him in the second mile, Albertson, who placed 10th last October, remained with the lead runners and even had an edge atop Heartbreak Hill, at about 21 miles.
“I don’t know if there’s anything untraditional about going out to win,” Albertson said. “You kind of have to run like that, within limits.
Albertson maintains it’s attack with that kind of confidence.
“I have the mindset that I’m invincible, you kind of have to run like that,” he said. “I was exactly where I wanted to be at the top of the hill. There’s nothing untraditional about trying to go out to win.”
Kibet lives in Colorado Springs
Kibet, who was born in Kenya but now calls Colorado Springs home, is a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army and wore a camouflage Army singlet on the course. He was the second American to finish in ninth overall, in 2:09:07, taking more than two minutes off his previous best at the 26.2-mile distance.
Massachusetts native Colin Bennie, last October’s top finishing American, placed 19th overall in 2:12:08 and was the seventh U.S. finisher.
Meanwhile, Grafton’s Chaz Davis successfully defended his Para Athletes T-11/T12 division title in 2:45:45.
After the descent from the Newton hills at 22 miles, Chebet began pulling away, with Tanzania’s Gabriel Geay joining him. Chebet soon after pulled away down Beacon Street, with the Boston skyline in sight.
A pair of former Boston Marathon champions began a pursuit in the final miles, but Chebet, who dropped out in the 2018 Boston, continued to increase his lead while winning by 30 seconds.
Kenya’s Lawrence Cherono, the 2019 champ, finished second in 2:07:21, followed by 2012 winner Benson Kipruto, also of Kenya, in 2:07:27.
Jepchirchir wins women’s race
In the women’s race, 2021 Olympic champion Peres Jepchirchir of Kenya outlasted Ethiopia’s Ababel Yehsaneh in a Boylston Street sprint to the finish, breaking the tape in 2:21:02, with Yehsaneh crossing 3 seconds later.
For the second time in six months, Nell Rojas of Boulder, Colorado, was the top American finisher in 2:25:57, good for 10th overall.
Olympic bronze medalist Molly Seidel, who had weathered some problems with her right knee in training, dropped out between 25 and 30 kilometers.
In the men’s wheelchair competition, 23-year-old American Daniel Romanchuk won his second Boston Marathon after taking the lead three miles in, finishing in 1:26:59.
Marcel Hug of Switzerland, the defending men’s wheelchair champion and five-time Boston winner, was a race-day scratch.
Switzerland’s Manuela Schar repeated as women’s champion in 1:41:08, her fourth victory in Boston.