Great discussion! Real wisdom from the elders. Thanks Hodgie-san and Tom D. Thanks, too, Malmo, for the deep drill-down in your statistical analysis. A little more patience with the idiots, as you're (immensely) fond of calling them, might be a good thing. But you're good with the numbers, and this is a great thread.
1) The tailwind played a large and undeniable role in the results. As someone once said to the whore in an old locker-room joke, "We've already established that. We're just arguing over the price." (A man asked a woman if he'd sleep with her for a million dollars. She smiled and said "Sure, baby." He then asked if she'd sleep with him for $25. She sneered and said, "What do you think I am, a whore?")
1a) But the precise advantage conferred by the tailwind--3:40? 2:30? "somewhere between three and four minutes"--is and will always be a matter of debate. (The idiots will always be wrong, of course.) And Mutai and Hall, among others, are clearly invested--as brilliant creative artists often are--in minimizing the effects of the environment (in this case, the tailwind-help) and focusing on individual initiative and achievement. Forgive them. There's a method in their madness. God help you if you just don't get this point. Somebody in the next town who gets it is having a good damned time--and running faster times than you, too.
2) Boston has proved itself, over many decades, to be a slower-than-average course, despite the net altitude drop. This is why very few WRs have been set there. The hills are part of this--or have traditionally been assumed to be a part of this.
3) This year's results on the "slower-than-average course," which include a world-best (but not WR) and American-best (but not AR) create a huge interpretive mess: the perfect storm for professional marathon kibbitzers. This one will be argued for the next hundred years.
4) 90%+ of those making arguments for one interpretation or another tend to work from either/or rather than both/and logics. Nobody, for example, has suggested that the tailwind--the knowledge on the part of Hall and the other front-runners that the tailwind would be with them the whole time--might have contributed to a throw-caution-to-the-wind strategy that enabled better-than-average results. (Malmo's statistical regressions, for example, fail to allow for such an effect.) In other words, it might be a good idea to remember that the word "inspire" derives from the Latin root "to breathe." Great runners aren't just aided physically by the presence of a tailwind; they're inspired by that wind. They're goaded--as Hall was--into taking risks; into trying for more than they've ever tried for.
Both/and. Allow it. It feels good.
And of course the full moon occured at 4:44 AM on Boston Marathon Monday. A perfect storm, indeed.