Diana Kipyogei of Kenya Blasts 70:34 Second Half To Win 2021 Boston Marathon In 2:24:45

By LetsRun.com
October 11, 2021

BOSTON —  Change was in the air at the 2021 Boston Marathon, the first one in 125 editions ever contested in the fall.

Thus it was fitting someone making their Abbott World Marathon Major debut got the win as Diana Kipyogei of Kenya, the 2019 Istanbul champion, triumphed in 2:24:45.

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After a pedestrian 74:11 first half, the 27-year-old Kipyogei, running the third marathon of her career, was the aggressor in the 70:34 second half. She took the lead in the 18th mile and got caught by 2018 World Half Marathon champion Netsanet Gudeta on Heartbreak Hill before pulling away again to win thanks to a 5:12 23rd mile, 5:12 24th mile, and 5:08 25th mile. Fatigue would set in and she’d run a 5:26 25th mile and 5:30 the final mile of the race, but by then the Boston Marathon victory was hers. Gudeta would pay the price for trying to hang with Kipyogei and fade to fifth in 2:26:09 as the runner-up for the second straight Boston, albeit 910 days apart, was 41-year-old Edna Kiplagat of Kenya, the 2017 Boston champ, who ran 2:25:09.

32-year-old Mary Ngugi of Kenya, the 2014 World Half silver medallist and wife of the late Sammy Wanjiru, rounded out the podium in 2:25:20 — her first top 3 finish in a marathon. American Nell Rojas, who led most of the first half and ran with the lead pack until Kipyogei broke it up, was top American in seventh in a pb of 2:27:37 (previous pb of 2:28:09). 

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Analysis below results.

Top 25. Deeper results here.

1 Kipyokei, Diana (KEN) 2:24:45
2 Kiplagat, Edna (KEN) 2:25:09
3 Ngugi, Mary (KEN) 2:25:20
4 Ngige, Monicah (KEN) 2:25:32
5 Gudeta, Netsanet (ETH) 2:26:09
6 Rojas, Nell (USA) 2:27:12
7 Edesa, Workenesh (ETH) 2:27:38
8 Baysa, Atsede (ETH) 2:28:04
9 Eshetu, Biruktayit (ETH) 2:29:05
10 Abayechew, Tigist (KEN) 2:29:06
11 Rotich, Caroline (KEN) 2:29:54
12 Tabb, Elaina (USA) 2:30:33
13 Lindwurm, Dakotah (USA) 2:31:04
14 Dibaba, Mare (ETH) 2:32:29
15 Chepkoech, Caroline (KEN) 2:33:03
16 Sullivan, Susanna (USA) 2:33:22
17 Linden, Desiree (USA) 2:35:25
18 Stoner, Paige (USA) 2:35:55
19 Spencer, Emma (USA) 2:36:33
20 Phillips, Caitlin (USA) 2:37:01
21 Dionne, Hilary (USA) 2:37:06
22 Kaneshige, Shiho (JPN) 2:37:12
23 Pomaranski, Andrea (USA) 2:37:27
24 Kebede, Sutume (ETH) 2:37:45
25 Kiprop, Helah (KEN) 2:38:05

Quick take: Deserved win for Kipyogei

The women’s field was wide-open this year with a lot of women who had run fast in the past but not recently. Thus maybe it shouldn’t be a total surprise Kipyogei won as she had run 2:22:06 last year to win in Istanbul.

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However she hadn’t raced since then.

She was in fine form today, showing when it comes to the marathon, prep races really aren’t necessary. She blasted down from Heartbreak Hill going 5:07, 5:12, 5:08. She’d slow to 5:26 and 5:30 at the end of the race, but she clearly was super fit today and made the move she had to to put away the race.

Quick Take: Edna Kiplagat has been running at a world-class level for more than a quarter of a century

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When (if?) she retires, Edna Kiplagat is going to go down as having one of the most remarkable careers in the history of running. On August 22, 1996, Kiplagat finished second in the 3,000 meters at the World Junior Championships in Sydney. Today, more than a quarter-century later, Kiplagat finished second in the Boston Marathon in 2:25:09, taking almost three minutes off the women’s masters course record (h/t Steven Mills). The only woman to beat Kiplagat today in Boston, Diana Kipyogei, was all of two years old when Kiplagat earned that silver medal in Sydney. The woman is remarkable.

She also knows how to run the hell out of the Boston Marathon. When she won in 2017, she clobbered the field by ripping of a string of 5:0x miles late in the race. In 2019, she again closed like a monster (16:08 from 35k to 40k) but couldn’t quite reel in winner Worknesh Degefa. And today, she was in fifth place at 35k, 22 seconds back of Netsanet Gudeta in second, but again closed hard (16:14 from 35k to 40k) to move up for second place.

Kiplagat turns 42 next month. How much longer does she plan to run? 

“I will try to stay in the sport for more years to come,” Kiplagat said. “The sport has been a passion…I’m grateful because I am still doing very well…I want to stay in the sport so that I can still motivate the younger ones.”

Nell Rojas: Unsponsored, but the first American

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With all the training groups in the US today and runners sponsored by shoe companies, the first American was an unsponsored runner whose Twitter profile (which hasn’t been updated since 2019) lists herself as a “Professional Triathlete”. (Her Instagram profile does list Rojas as a “Running + Strength Coach”).

Indeed, Rojas was a triathlete when she signed up to run the 2018 California International Marathon. She was getting ready to run her first Ironman, and felt that CIM — her first marathon — would be good preparation.

“I ran 2:31, which was the Olympic A standard at the time,” Rojas said. “And so basically after that, I was like, well, I’m just gonna run. Because I didn’t want to buy a bike and I didn’t want to train for an Ironman.”

Make no mistake about it, Nell Rojas is a very good runner now. Forget about the triathlon and obstacle racing in her past, her future is in running. She comes from a running family, with her dad Ric winning a USA National XC Title and setting the 15k road world record

It just took Nell longer than most to figure out this running thing (she turns 34 next month), but it’s going very well in 2021. She won the US 10-mile title at Cherry Blossom, then won the Cooper River Bridge Run, then was 6th in Boston today, her first marathon since her 9th place at the US Olympic Trials.

Rojas said that today was the biggest running accomplishment of her life, but she’s not satisfied. She said she learned a lot about the Boston course and how to run it today. Rojas expected the race to go out hard and that she would just be hanging on at the back. Instead, the race ran more like a fartlek and Rojas wound up leading as late as 17 miles. 

“Prepare for anything,” Rojas said, when describing what she learned.

Rojas is unsponsored and did not have much of an entourage trailing her in the media room, only her dad. It was delightful to see Ric Rojas, clad in a mask and red-and-yellow running cap, watching proudly as his daughter addressed the media following the race of her life.

“He’s a supporter, cheerleader, coach, he comes to all my races with me,” Nell said. “He follows me around with a video camera everywhere I go.”

Quick Take: Shoutout to the #2 American today, Elaina Tabb

The top American in Boston today, Nell Rojas, was unsponsored. The second one soon will be. Elaina Tabb, who finished 12th in 2:30:33 in her debut, was a runner for the B.A.A.’s High Performance Team but her contract expired after the Olympic Trials in June. Then the B.A.A. asked her if she wanted to run one last race: the Boston Marathon. Tabb, who now lives in Pittsburgh and works as a teacher, worked something out with the B.A.A. and she rebounded from a disappointing Olympic Track Trials (24th after getting flat-tired and having to stop on the first lap) to finish her season with a positive result

Quick Take: Des Linden struggles to 17th-place finish, but she’s not done yet in 2021

Desiree Linden winning the 2018 Boston Marathon (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)

Linden is known for running her own race, but something was clearly up today when she fell off the pack early despite a modest halfway split of 74:11. The usually steady Linden wound up running a significant positive split, 74:59/80:26, and finished 17th in 2:35:25. In eight career starts, this was Linden’s worst Boston finish since her debut in 2007, when she took 18th.

After the race, Linden’s agent Josh Cox revealed that Linden asked him to scratch her from the race three weeks ago as her buildup had gone horribly. But he told LetsRun that her last few weeks before Boston actually went quite well, which left him optimistic for the NYC Marathon — which Linden is also tentatively scheduled to race three weeks from now. Linden usually does a long, hard effort at some point in her buildup anyway. This one just happened to come with a bib on.

Quick Take: This was a disaster for Jordan Hasay

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The last time the Boston Marathon was held, Jordan Hasay ran 2:25:20 and finished third. Since then she’s run three marathons — 2:37:57 for 26th at the Trials and 2:33:51 for 27th in Valencia in 2020 and today was even worse, clocking 2:41:43 to finish 31st in the elite women’s race. When we talked to her coach Pete Julian prior to this one, he was hoping she’d take a step back in the right direction, something between the 2:30 plus fitness she’d shown recently and the 2:20 fitness she had in her prime, but this was a further step in the wrong direction.

And it’s not like Hasay went out super hard. She ran 35:21 for her fist 10k (2:29:10 pace). She slowed from there and hit 77:38 for the 1st half.

It’s hard to not call this a total disaster. In the end, she ended up running slower than the retired Shalane Flanagan. And Shalane Flanagan, 40, also ran the Chicago Marathon yesterday. Flanagan ran 2:46:39 in Boston yesterday and 2:40:34 today.

Is it time for Jordan Hasay to hang it up? Hasay 2:41:43, Flanagan 2:40:34. 

2021 Boston Discussion on the forums:


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