Hellen Obiri Wins the 2023 Boston Marathon
Hellen Obiri won the 2023 Boston Marathon on Monday, finishing in 2:21:38, in one of the most closely contested races in recent years. Amane Beriso of Ethiopia was second in 2:21:50, and Lonah Salpeter was third in 2:21:57.
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Hellen Obiri of Kenya, a two-time world champion at 5,000 meters, won the 2023 Boston Marathon on Monday in 2:21:38, in one of the most closely contested editions of the race in its 127-year history.
Amane Beriso, 31, of Ethiopia was second in 2:21:50 and Lonah Salpeter, 34, representing Israel, with third in 2:21:57.
On a soggy, misty day in Boston, with temperatures hovering around 50 degrees, the women went out at a leisurely pace, which kept almost 30 athletes in a tight pack for the first 10K. At that point, Beriso, who came in with a personal best of 2:14:58, surged to reduce the group down to eight women—miles seven, eight, and nine were swift, in 5:08, 5:10, and 5:09.
Emma Bates, 30, was the lone American to contend for the podium—she stuck with the top group until she had about two miles left. She finished fifth in 2:22:10, a new personal best.
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Obiri, 33, didn’t make a decisive move until the last mile, trying to break Beriso just before making the turn onto Hereford. By the time they reached Boylston, it was clear that Obiri, who has one of the most decorated track careers in history and the leg speed to prove it, was about to win her first major marathon. She trains with coach Dathan Ritzenhein and the On Athletics Club in Boulder, Colorado. Prior to Monday’s victory, Obiri said she learned some lessons following her debut at the 2022 New York City, where she didn’t quite meet expectations, placing sixth—mostly she has realized how much patience the distance demands, she says.
“I was feeling like my body was ready and everything was ready,” Obiri said. “I said to myself, ‘I can’t do it in front. If I can just wait…’ because my coach told me that the marathon is about patience. So I tried to be patient until the right time.”
Ritzenhein said that Obiri’s fitness had also come a long way since her first attempt at the distance last fall. This time, after big workouts, she wasn’t feeling as beat up, he said. As for race execution? She followed coach’s orders to wait to make any moves until after the famous Newton hills, Ritzenhein said, adding that during long runs and speed workouts her challenge was to always stay behind her teammates instead of leading the way.
On Monday, that practice paid off.
“Her stride looks amazing when she starts rolling,” Ritzenhein says. “You could tell she had a lot of life in her legs there.”
It was a bit precarious for a moment as the top five continued to run in a tight pack, so much so that Ababel Yeshaneh of Ethiopia, who finished fourth, tangled with Obiri with about 5K to go, falling to the road.
“It gets a little dicey. Hellen was in front, so you worry about getting clipped in the back and going down. It didn’t seem to affect her. She got right back in it. Maybe it gave her a little adrenaline boost…she came alive and it looked like she turned on the jets,” Ritzenhein said.
Beriso said she came into Boston well-prepared and thought she ran a “very good” race. If anything slowed her down, she said, it was the weather. “If there was no rain, I could have done faster than what I expected,” Beriso said.
RELATED: How Helen Obiri Set Her Sights on Boston
Salpeter, Israel’s national record holder (2:17:45) placed second at the 2022 New York City Marathon, which she said she drew confidence from on Monday.
“They always say New York is tough,” Salpeter said. “Today was the toughest race, but I really tried to enjoy it and compete. I came here well prepared to see what happened.”
Prior to lining up on Monday, Bates indicated she was confident in her training, calling it the best marathon preparation she’s ever had. She placed seventh at the 2022 World Championships in 2:23:18, which was her previous personal best. She trains with Team Boss in Boulder, Colorado, under coach Joe Bosshard.
On Monday, Bates admitted that she didn’t follow her race plan exactly—Bosshard had told her to hang back and try to “pounce” at the end. But she felt too good to not put herself in contention, leading the race at mile 20. She spotted her coach at that point, shrugged, and smiled.
“I was just like, ‘I don’t know, I guess I’m in the front,’ and he was like, ‘Just go for it,’” Bates said. “And so instincts just kind of kicked in and that’s where I was. It just felt right today.”
Obiri earns $150,000 for the victory, Beriso takes $75,000 for second, and Salpeter takes home $40,000 for third.