Desiree Linden and Yuki Kawauchi Pull Off Upsets in Rainy Boston Marathon

Desiree Linden became the first American woman to win the Boston Marathon in 33 years.
Charles Krupa/Associated Press

BOSTON — Teeming rain, strong winds and the coldest temperatures in 30 years upended the Boston Marathon on Monday, contributing to upset finishes, including the victory of Desiree Linden, the first American woman to win the race in 33 years.

The temperature hovered at 38 degrees, and a headwind of 10 miles an hour or more blew in runners’ faces. But the conditions did not stop Linden — at 34, it was her first major marathon win — and Yuki Kawauchi, 31, of Japan, who came from behind to win the men’s race.

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Mamitu Daska of Ethiopia had bravely raced away from the lead women’s pack before the halfway mark and led by as much as 30 seconds, running alone in the rain and wind. But Linden and Gladys Chesir of Kenya gradually wore her down, and Linden won in 2 hours 39 minutes 53 seconds.

When her fellow American Shalane Flanagan made a quick stop at a portable toilet about 45 minutes into the race, Linden slowed, apparently to wait for Flanagan and help her rejoin the lead pack when she returned. Flanagan soon tired and wound up seventh.

Lisa Larsen Weidenbach was the last American woman to win, in 1985.

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Kawauchi’s winning time was 2:15:53. “For me, these are the best conditions possible,” he told reporters after the race.

Kawauchi defies the standard custom of elite runners of entering just two or three marathons a year. Many of Japan’s top marathoners compete for corporate teams that dictate very different schedules. The victory on Monday was his fourth marathon, and fourth victory, of 2018.

“The cold, the wet and the rain — that’s the three worst things you can have, and you have that in one race,” Abdi Abdirahman, a four-time United States Olympian, said on Sunday night. “A lot of guys have been talking about it, trying to be the tough guy and say, ‘Oh, I’m not worried about it, I will just have to deal with it.’ But you know, we will find out how many people are still intact after 30K.”

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Yuki Kawauchi of Japan won the men’s race in 2:15:53. It was his fourth marathon win of 2018.
Brian Fluharty/USA Today Sports, via Reuters

Data suggests that marathoners run their fastest races when the temperature is in the 40s — but the study excludes wind.

There were fewer fans than usual cheering racers on the course. The fans who opted to brave the weather taped plastic bags to their sneakers and wore trash bags in lieu of waterproof jackets.

At the starting line, runners crossed their arms over their chests, rubbing their forearms and jumping up and down in an attempt to stay warm. As a precautionary measure, the athletes were all given two bib numbers so they could put one on each layer of clothing.

The temperatures and winds led to slower race times. Runners were mostly reluctant to run out in front of the pack early on.

The rain was so bad that the traditional Patriots’ Day Red Sox game was postponed for the first time since 1984.

The wheelchair races went at a significantly slower pace than usual as athletes were cautious on wet roads. Marcel Hug of Switzerland won the men’s push-rim race for the fourth straight year in a time of 1:46:26, the slowest since 1987. Tatyana McFadden won her fifth women’s push-rim title in 2:04:39, the slowest since 1988.

“I feel I really had to be Boston strong today,” McFadden said after the race. “It just got so slippery.”

It was not the first time runners endured harsh weather for the race. During a nor’easter storm in 2007, winds gusted at 30 m.p.h. and temperatures hovered in the mid 40s. In 2015, there was also a strong headwind.

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