Four Thoughts on the Women’s Race: Shalane’s Bid for Glory, Jeptoo’s Incredible Final 3 Miles, The 2:18 and 2:19 Clubs, and Desi Linden

April 21, 2014

Boston, MA – We’re assuming you know what happened in the women’s race at the 2014 Boston Marathon. If not, the Race Results Weekly recap of the women’s race is here. Video highlights are here.

Below is our analysis.

Flanagan Spent at the Finish Flanagan Spent at the Finish

1) Shalane Flanagan Blows It Runs Strong, Runs a 3:28 PB and Gives It Everything She Possibly Had

Shalane Flanagan wasted no time in this one and led the first 19 miles of the race, pushing the pace. Immediately, many of you on the message board felt uneasy. ‘What the hell is she doing?’

Running like she belonged would have been our answer. Flanagan may have only had a 2:25 pr coming in, but she is an Olympic silver medalist at 10,000m and a World Marathon Major runner-up. She showed no fear today.

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While it is fair to question whether it is wise to lead nearly every step of the first 20 miles of Boston, Shalane’s tactics did not cost her today. Rita Jeptoo ran phenomenally well today.

Shalane wasn’t going to win today, regardless of the tactics, and ran pretty well herself. Flanagan may have only finished 7th, but she ran 2:22:02, a time fastest enough to win every Boston marathon but two, 1994 and 2002. Before today only three women had ever run faster at Boston.

Flanagan’s coach Jerry Schumacher might have said it best when he texted, “She ran great today, unfortunately Jeptoo is the best in the world right now.”

Let’s rewind 31 years to 1983. Ratchet up the wind so there is a huge tailwind. An American goes out even faster than Shalane, clocking the first mile in 4:47. She then hits ten miles in 51:38, a minute and 10 seconds FASTER than Shalane ran today. That American dies much more in the second half than Shalane did today and ends up 41 seconds slower than Shalane today in 2:22:43.

The only difference was that American’s name was Joan Benoit Samuelson and her time in 1983 was a world record. The next year Samuelson went on to even greater glory by becoming the first women’s marathon gold medalist.

Shalane’s tactics may have been better suited to a different era, but the absolute end result today was still a pretty good run. We’re not going to criticize someone who led a race for nearly 20 miles and ran a 3:28 pb just because the result didn’t end up the way we wanted.

Shalane rightly after the race was very proud of the effort she put forth after the race. She thought there was no way she’d out-kick the incredible kicker Jeptoo late, so she tried to break her early:

I have a good friend in Joan Benoit Samuelson. For years now, she’s has told me to run my own race so today I just wanted to go out and do just that. And to see if it was good enough to win the laurel wreath. Sp I went for it. It was a no excuse day (the conditions were great).

The fans were deafening. I felt like my insides were hurting it was so loud.

I just wanted to put on my best performance and whatever I had in me to be poured out into the streets. I literally ran as hard as I could.

It definitely was worth it to give it my best. I don’t wish it was an easier (paced) race, I just wish I was better.

Below are Shalane’s and Rita Jeptoo’s 5k splits.

Shalane Flanagan Rita Jeptoo
5K 16:12 (16:12) 16:13 (16:13)
10K 16:22 (32:34) 32:35 (16:22)
15K 16:34 (49:08) 49:09 (16:34)
20K 16:41 (1:05:49) 1:05:50 (16:41)
Half 1:09:27 1:09:28 (3:38)
25K 1:22:26 1:22:26 (12:58)
30K 16:54 (1:39:20) 1:39:20 (16:54)
35K 17:18 (1:56:38) 1:56:22 (17:02)
40K 17:22 (2:14:00) 2:12:06 (15:44)
Finish 2:22:02 2:18:57 (6:51)

2) Rita Jeptoo Absolutely Crushes It – Her Last 3 Miles Were Almost Faster Than Meb’s

Rita Jeptoo became only the sixth women in the world to ever run sub 2:19, and by doing so she stamped her claim to being the best marathoner in the world currently.

The layman thinking was Flanagan’s first half in 1:09:27 was suicidal. Yet Jeptoo ran only four seconds slower 1:09:31 on the much more difficult second half that includes the Newton Hills and famed Heartbreak Hill.

Even more impressive were Rita Jeptoo’s final 3.2 miles. She covered them in 15:56. What did Meb Keflezighi cover his final 3.2 in? 15:49.

4:48 (mile 24), 5:02 (mile 25), and 5:02 (mile 26). That’s what Jeptoo did her final three miles in. Good luck to anyone in the world trying to beat that. Last year in a much slower race that we all rightfully forgot about after the bombings, Jeptoo got the win, but she closed even faster here, even though the opening pace was faster today.

Not bad for a woman who cut her foot after she dropped a frame six weeks ago and missed a week of training as she had stitches in her foot and said she didn’t feel good today during the first 10k.

Paula Radcliffe in her prime would have been a good match-up for Jeptoo today. No one else was beating her.

3) Buzenesh Deba 2:19:59

While the sub 2:19 clock is extremely rare, the sub 2:20 club is rare as well and Buzunesh Deba became its second member in Boston (and 19th ever according to statman Ken Nakamura) by the narrowest of margins – one second, clocking 2:19:59. Deba had two runner-up New York finishes before today, but today’s run solidified her status as one of the best in the world. She’s gone from being a cool human interest story: the woman who trains in the Bronx and got runner-up at the NYC Marathon one year, to the woman who almost stole the New York City Marathon last year, to a sub 2:20 woman – a time that Deba herself said she was surprised by.

One more bit of information, you’ll only get from

If you are looking for the next American winner of Boston, Deba might be your pick. We asked her and her husband on Friday if US citizenship might be in the works and her husband Worku Beyi said he’s getting his US citizenship this Fall and Deba should get her green card. The wait for citizenship after that is normally three years, but Khalid Khannouchi had it expedited.

4) Desi Linden Runs Game 2:23:54

5k into today’s race Desi (Davila) Linden was 1:22 behind Shalane Flanagan. The pace was hot and Desi Linden is a lot of things including nearly the 2011 Boston Marathon Champion, but she’s not someone capable of running a sub 2:20 marathon. Realize, her half marathon pb is 70:34. As Desi told us on Saturday:

It’s always you versus you. You can’t control if someone goes out there and runs 2:18. I don’t think I’ll be running 2:18 even if I have the best day ever. I can’t control that. I can control me. I’ve done everything I possibly could to put myself in a position for the win.

She smartly held back and ran her own race. Thankfully, she’s very good at running alone as she was virtually all alone the entire race, but she kept running her own pace, waiting for some of the women in front of her to fall apart.

Desi kept waiting, and waiting and waiting for the masses to come back to her. It never happened. Amazingly, almost none of the top women really hit the wall. Desi finished in 10th place in 2:23:54 running very impressive splits (1:11:41 on the easier first half, 1:12:13 on the much tougher second half).

The runner-up in 2011, Linden was not at all disappointed with her run today, as she knew she ran an impressive race.

In 2011, Desi did run faster, 2:22:38, but that was with a massive tailwind at her back. 2011 also came after years of uninterrupted training, while Desi this year was coming back from the injuries that sidelined her for much of 2012 and 2013.

Less than six months ago, she was capable of just 2:29:15 on the super flat Berlin course. Just last month, she managed only a 71:34 half marathon. Today she averaged 71:47 for a full marathon. That’s big-time progress.

Video with Desi Post Race Below:

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