Boston's greatest annual tradition took place Monday. The Patriots' Day celebration, highlighted by the Boston Marathon, was used as a way to look back at our history as a nation, how our world was shaped in 1775 and where it is going in the future.
This year's marathon was won by Lelisa Desisa from Ethiopia on the men's side and Caroline Rotich from Kenya on the women's side. The race lasted more than eight hours from when the first competitors started just before 9 a.m. to when the last competitor crossed the finish line.
Whether you finished first or just crossed the finish line after the clocks were stopped, competing on the Boston Marathon stage is an accomplishment in its own right.
Here's how the list of winners appeared from Monday's event in Boston as well as the storylines that had everyone talking.
|2015 Boston Marathon Results|
|Pos.||Men (Country)||Time||Women (Country)||Time|
|1||Lelisa Desisa (Ethiopia)||2:09:17||Caroline Rotich (Kenya)||2:24:55|
|2||Yemane Adhane Tsegay (Ethiopia)||2:09:48||Mare Dibaba (Ethiopia)||2:24:59|
|3||Wilson Chebet (Kenya)||2:10:22||Buzunesh Deba (Ethiopia)||2:25:09|
|4||Bernard Kipyego (Kenya)||2:10:47||Desiree Linden (United States)||2:25:39|
|5||Wesley Korir (Kenya)||2:10:49||Sharon Cherop (Kenya)||2:26:05|
|6||Frankline Chepkwony (Kenya)||2:10:52||Caroline Kilel (Kenya)||2:26:40|
|7||Dathan Ritzenhein (United States)||2:11:20||Aberu Kebede (Ethiopia)||2:26:52|
|8||Meb Keflezighi (United States)||2:12:42||Shure Demise (Ethiopia)||2:27:14|
|9||Tadese Tola (Ethiopia)||2:13:35||Shalane Flanagan (United States)||2:27:47|
|10||Vitaliy Shafar (Ukraine)||2:13:52||Joyce Chepkirui (Kenya)||2:29:07|
Full results via the Boston Athletic Association website.
The Lelisa Desisa Win
It's impossible to think of the Boston Marathon without turning back to the horrific tragedy in 2013. Lelisa Desisa recalls the bombings as well as any runner because he was the male winner that year.
Prior to last year's Boston Marathon, Jere Longman of The New York Times wrote about how Desisa made the decision to give back to the city that was seeking to find answers for a tragedy that didn't have any:
Last June, Desisa returned his first-place gold medal—gold-plated with a diamond stud and framed—to the city of Boston in a public ceremony on Boston Common. Privately, he gave his racing bib to a woman who lost her lower leg and her husband who was also seriously injured.
Desisa also told Longman, "Sport holds the power to unify and connect people all over the world." He became one of many to embrace the city of Boston and helped serve as a symbol of the hope sports can provide in the midst of great tragedy.
With a win on Monday, Desisa was afforded the opportunity to celebrate a monumental accomplishment with Boston and its people.
After Desisa's win, Boston Athletic Association Chairman Jack Fleming said this was a chance for the city to give him the proper celebration a victory of this kind so richly deserves, according to Jimmy Golen of The Associated Press.
"Lelisa did not get to have the kind of victory celebration that a champion of the Boston Marathon should have," Fleming said. "Lelisa, we want you to get your due today."
Sports have a funny way of providing moments when you are looking for them. Desisa's win feels appropriate not just because he's a talented runner but also because he was so selfless in giving back to Boston in a time of tragedy and understood how important his gesture could be to those people.
Now, those people are able to return the favor to Desisa by celebrating what he was able to do on Monday. It may not have the same national impact returning his medal to Boston Common did two years ago, but it's going to have a profound impact on him.
The Instant-Classic Finish
While Desisa got his moment in the sun, he won by 31 seconds. It speaks to his ability as a runner, though it didn't leave much room for drama.
Fortunately, the women provided more than enough spectacle to make up for things. Rotich crossed the finish line first, defeating Ethiopian Mare Dibaba by a total of four seconds. Even that margin of victory doesn't tell the whole story, which was laid out by Steve Buckley of the Boston Herald:
The race had been reduced to a sprint between (Rotich) and Mare Dibaba of Ethiopia, and it was after the Boylston turn that we saw Rotich fall behind and then empty out the tanks and take a thriller in 2:24:55.
Dibaba came across in 2:24:59 — just four seconds late — but it was closer than that. It was two women, two determined women, two women turning a marathon finish into the last frantic round of a Rocky fight, two women jockeying for position, trading leads, until Rotich made that last burst at the finish line.
The old saying "It's not a sprint; it's a marathon" got flipped on its head with the way Rotich and Dibaba closed out the Boston Marathon. Being able to do that after running approximately 26.1 miles is incredible, as Shalise Manza Young of The Boston Globe noted on Twitter:
It's easy to marvel at the feats of athletes, such as a football player who can run over a 300-pound defensive lineman for a touchdown, a basketball player who defies gravity to throw down a huge dunk or a baseball player who golfs a breaking ball 425 feet into the air.
Marathon runners are just as impressive, if not more so, for being able to maintain a high level of performance after 26 miles. The fact that Rotich had that much left in her tank in the home stretch to pull out the win could end up being the most amazing athletic feat this year.
Triumph of the Human Spirit
Sport is a funny thing. It's something that we—all human beings from all over the world—put all of our hope and faith in. For whatever reason, a connection develops between people and these events that happen every day.
Yet no one can say sport has no meaning. These are games, and they can appear silly when trying to explain them to someone who "just doesn't get it."
One person who understands the healing power of sport better than most is Rebekah Gregory. She survived the 2013 Boston Marathon attacks, and despite losing her left leg, Gregory took part in last year's race with the help of a wheelchair as part of the tribute walk.
On Monday, with a prosthetic leg, Gregory took the next step in her recovery from that day two years ago. According to Amy Van Deusen of espnW.com, Gregory made plans to cross the finish line on her own:
When last week a doctor told her not to run the entire distance because of the damage it would cause her leg, she revised her plans to the last 3½ miles of the race.
At mile 25 Gregory began to run again, and the Boston crowd embraced her fully. She was hard to miss as she ran alongside her trainer, Artis Thompson III, a fellow amputee from a motorcycle accident, and even spectators unfamiliar with her story were compelled to cheer as she crossed the finish line.
Speaking to Van Deusen after the race, Gregory said this was her way to make a statement about reclaiming her life:
It wasn't exactly what I wanted to do and I didn't run as far as I wanted to run, but I still did what I came here to do and I have to be proud of myself for that. I took my life back today. I want people to know that there's life after bad things that happen to you. And if I can be someone's hope or inspiration, that's what I want to do.
Gregory also said she's planning to run the entire race in 2016. This is what a marathon is supposed to be about. You can have triumphs for athletes such as Desisa and Rotich as well as Gregory, who is just trying to cross the finish line as a way of putting an exclamation point on her new life's mission statement.
Gregory's story is the kind that could easily be sold to some Hollywood studio, but it's not one that should be made, as it's impossible to convey the impact that is felt in real life.
Sports can be regarded as a reality show, for obvious reasons. Gregory's story is far from over, but she's provided a great closing sentence to end this particular chapter of her life.