Evans Chebet Repeats at 2023 Boston Marathon as Eliud Kipchoge Fades to 6th

From Olympians to weekend warriors, the Boston Marathon has humbled thousands of runners throughout its 127-year history. You can now add the name of the greatest marathoner ever to that very long list.

For the first 13.1 miles, Eliud Kipchoge imposed his will on the 2023 Boston Marathon, leading almost every step. For the second 13.1 miles, the Boston Marathon – and the strongest men’s field in race history – imposed its will on Kipchoge. A brilliant Kenyan marathoner did break the tape on Boylston Street on Monday morning, but his name was Evans Chebet, who clocked 2:05:54, the third-fastest winning time in Boston history. Kipchoge, who usually crushes opponents over the final miles, simply could not respond once the racing got serious in the Newton Hills and faded to 6th in 2:09:23, running just 5:20 mile pace from the 20-mile mark to the finish line.

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With his second Boston victory, Chebet enters truly rarefied air. He is the first man to repeat as Boston champion since Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot in 2008, and he did so by defeating the greatest Boston field ever assembled. He has won six of his last seven marathons dating back to 2019. And he has now won three straight World Marathon Majors: 2022 Boston-2022 New York-2023 Boston. Given that resume and his convincing head-to-head victory today, it’s hard to argue against Chebet as the world’s best marathoner right now – an unofficial title that belonged to Kipchoge for most of the last decade.

Tanzania’s Gabriel Geay won a thrilling battle for second over Chebet’s training partner Benson Kipruto, 2:06:04 to 2:06:06. Scott Fauble finished as the top American in 7th for the second year in a row in 2:09:44, running down Conner Mantz in the final mile, after Mantz had run with the leaders through 15 miles.

Kipchoge takes it out hard but fades in the hills

With no pacemakers in the field, Kipchoge was eager to set a fast pace early and tore through the opening 5k (which drops more than 200 feet) in 14:17 – 30 seconds’ faster than Geoffrey Mutai’s 5k split during his course-record run in 2011. Conditions were cool (49 degrees Fahrenheit at the start), with fog turning to rain midway through the race and a persistent headwind of around 6 miles per hour out of the east.

Kipchoge at start

The pace would slow as the course flattened out through Natick and Framingham, but not too much. The lead pack of 11 hit halfway in 62:19, just 21 seconds slower than Mutai’s record split (61:58) – a race that featured an enormous tailwind. While all the major players were there – Chebet, Kipruto, and Geay, plus Americans Mantz and CJ Albertson – Kipchoge was the one controlling the race, staying front and center for almost the entire first 13.1 miles.

A 4:23 split for the massively downhill 16th mile splintered the lead pack – Mantz and Albertson were gone – but the leaders immediately slowed to 5:10 for the next mile as they began the Newton Hills. Seven men remained up front. Would they continue to allow Kipchoge to dictate affairs or did someone make a move of their own?

At 19 miles, we had our answer. Geay, who ran a pb of 2:03:00 in Valencia in December to move into a tie with Chebet for 8th on the all-time list, surged to the front. No one went with him and, even more surprisingly, Kipchoge was now struggling to hold onto the chasers, falling behind alongside 2021 NYC champ Albert Korir. By 20 miles, those chasers – Chebet, Kipruto, John Korir of Kenya and Andualem Belay of Ethiopia – had caught Geay. 

Kipchoge, however, was done. That one hard surge by Geay had been enough to finish him, and he would not factor the rest of the way.

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The racing over the final miles was intense, with the eventual podium of Chebet, Geay, and Kipruto pulling away at 22 miles and trading moves from there to the finish line. It was not until the final mile, as he exited Kenmore Square, that Chebet pulled ahead for good, closing in 4:50 to win his second straight Boston.

Fauble had trailed Mantz by 1:39 at halfway and appeared to have top American honors locked up at 24 miles as Fauble was still 1:11 behind. Even with one mile to go, Mantz still led Fauble by 28 seconds, but Fauble was rolling while Mantz was struggling to literally see straight. Boston vet Fauble split 4:56, passing four men over the final mile to finish 7th; Mantz, running his first Boston, could only manage 6:05. Mantz wound up as the third American across the finish line in 11th in 2:10:25 as the B.A.A.’s Matt McDonald, who lives and trains (and works) in Boston, snuck in for 10th in 2:10:17.

For analysis on Kipchoge’s 6th-place finish, we have a separate article here.

Analysis and interviews below results

Top 20 Results. More herePost-race interviews here.

Position Name Finish Time
1 Evans Chebet 02:05:54
2 Gabriel Geay 02:06:04
3 Benson Kipruto 02:06:06
4 Albert Korir 02:08:01
5 Zouhair Talbi 02:08:35
6 Eliud Kipchoge 02:09:23
7 Scott Fauble 02:09:44
8 Hassan Chahdi 02:09:46
9 John Korir 02:10:04
10 Matthew Mcdonald 02:10:17
11 Conner Mantz 02:10:25
12 Cj Albertson 02:10:33
13 Nico Montanez 02:10:52
14 Shura Kitata 02:11:26
15 Andualem Belay 02:11:50
16 Hendrik Pfeiffer 02:12:22
17 Jp Flavin 02:13:27
18 Turner Wiley 02:13:57
19 Isaac Mpofu 02:14:08
20 Chad Hall 02:14:13

Quick takes by Jonathan Gault and Robert Johnson

Quick Take: Chebet was magnificent today and was ready for anything

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The 2023 Boston Marathon was one of the most-hyped in the event’s storied history, most of it centering on the Boston debut of Eliud Kipchoge. But Chebet never got up in the hype and never forgot that he had to beat the entire Boston field – not just Kipchoge

“Eliud was not so much of a threat,” Chebet said through a translator. “Bottom line is, we had trained well. Our confidence in the quality of training made us feel good in taking on the race.”

Boston is not like other marathons. The course and conditions mean that you have to be prepared for anything on race day. 

“The guys, they knew that maybe the secret was not to have a specific plan,” said Claudio Berardelli, who between Chebet and Kipruto has now coached three straight Boston champions. “Be ready for any move and then from 30k to be there [at the front].”

Chebet didn’t close anywhere near as fast as in 2022 (he split 14:55 from 35k to 40k this year compared to 13:55 for the same segment last year) but the fast early pace meant his winning time was nearly a minute faster.

Quick Take: In championship-style marathons, there’s no one better right now than Evans Chebet

Is Evans Chebet now the #1 marathoner in the world? For the first time since 2015, there’s at least a debate about whether it is someone other than Kipchoge. Saying Kipchoge is no longer the best is harsh considering he broke the world record in his last race and this was his first loss since October 2020. But Chebet has now won three straight majors, including beating Kipchoge in Boston.

It’s not quite that simple, though. A flat, fast marathon like Tokyo or Berlin (Kipchoge’s two wins in 2022) is much different from a hilly, technical marathon like Boston. Kipchoge is near-unbeatable on the former but has yet to conquer the latter. Chebet is a beast on tough courses, and though he has won on flat courses before – he won 2020 Valencia in 2:03:00 – would you take him over Kipchoge if both men race Berlin this fall? It’s a fun discussion to have.

American CJ Albertson said he noticed Chebet tucking away, drafting off the lead pack, something Eliud Kipchoge did amazingly well in his sub-2 exhibitions but not today. When we asked Chebet about his strategy, he said you don’t want to “showoff” early that you can win.

Quick Take: 2 Running Club’s incredible hot streak rolls on

Kipchoge won two of the World Marathon Majors last year. The other four were won by members of 2 Running Club, the Kapsabet-based training group coached by Claudio Berardelli: Chebet (Boston/NYC), Kipruto (Chicago), and Amos Kipruto (London). Chebet’s win means the group has now claimed five World Marathon Majors in the last 12 months.

“This group is very special, Benson, Amos, Evans, and I’m very proud of them,” Berardelli said. “…We are happy, but we have not even achieved half of what Eliud has achieved but today was not his day.”

What’s impressive about the group, and Chebet in particular, is the way they have maintained focus and discipline despite all that success. Chebet racked up a ton of money for his wins last year – $250,000 in prize money alone, plus sponsor bonuses and appearance fees – and got married after his NYC victory. He spent the end of 2022 celebrating his victory and allowing a gimpy Achilles tendon to heal, using some of that prize money to help his family buy new homes. But once the calendar turned to 2023, he focused on defending his Boston title, and the results of all that hard work were on full display today.

It’s anyone’s guess as to how long Chebet, 34, can keep this going. But he’s showing no signs of slowing down.

“For Evans, now things become a bit complicated in a sense that now he’s the guy and we have to find a way to keep that,” Berardelli said.

Quick Take: Yet again Scott Fauble runs people down and finishes as the top American in 7th at the Boston Marathon.

For the third time in his career, American Scott Fauble ran people down and finished seventh in Boston. What’s interesting is that even though this year’s field was the fastest and deepest in Boston history, Fauble’s time today of 2:09:44 was the slowest of his three 7th place finishes (he ran 2:09:09 in 2019 and 2:08:52 in 2022). That’s what running into a headwind will do for you, plus throw in a little rain.

When asked about his amazing consistency, Fauble quipped, “I’d love to be less consistent and finish higher.”

Fauble finished seventh by running down four guys in the final mile, clocking 4:56 in the process, as he was stuck in 11th from mile 20 all the way to 25.2.

“I would have loved to go out with the lead pack but they were too fast. Even Eliud Kipchoge blew up. I almost caught him,” said Fauble. “I still went out like the fastest I ever have in a marathon (63:59). I can’t go out in 62 minutes in a marathon. I have to make good decisions on race day….It took a lot longer than it usually does [to run guys down]. I didn’t start catching people until the last mile.

Fauble added that he’d “really like” to be able to go out faster as he said you can’t “backdoor” a win or podium finish.

Fauble also said that even though his time was slower today, he feels he has progressed his fitness since running his pb of 2:08:56 in this race last year. He said coming in he felt 2:07 or 2:08-low was possible on a good day and is optimistic looking forward.

“I do feel like my fitness is improving,” Fauble said. “The results haven’t necessarily indicated that, but I really do feel like we made progress this block. I had the best long runs I’ve ever had, most consistent mileage, the lactate numbers looked really, really good.”

Quick Take: Conner Mantz went for it but couldn’t quite hold on

Mantz was relatively pleased with his 2:08:16 debut in Chicago last fall but felt he could have run faster had he gone out with the group ahead of him rather than hanging back. Today, he didn’t want any maybes. He ran with the leaders for 14 miles and on 24 miles was in 9th place – just two seconds behind Kipchoge and on track for a 2:08:18 finish.

At that point, however, Mantz said he started “blacking out” and any thought of beating Kipchoge or running fast was replaced by getting to the finish line in one piece.

“It just kind of became like, oh crap, I need to finish…[My vision] just kept going dark,” Mantz said. Though the result says Mantz was only 11th in 2:10:25, he was pleased with his effort and the fact that he gave himself a chance to do something special.

“I’m happy about it because I swung for the fences,” Mantz said. “I went for it.”

Quick Take: Full-time job? No altitude training? No problem – Matt McDonald finishes 10th 

If you’re looking for a blue-collar hero in the top 10 today, how about Matt McDonald? Okay, he has a contract with the BAA High Performance Team. And yes, we haven’t heard many Princeton grads described as blue-collar. But McDonald works a full-time job as a post-doc at MIT in chemical engineering and didn’t train at altitude at all during this buildup. Instead, he was in Boston all winter, which he viewed as an advantage since he got to train on the course (he said he ran up Heartbreak Hill 22 times during this training cycle).

“I think that’s almost as valuable as nice weather and altitude training,” McDonald said.

Quick Take: CJ Albertson ran the first half much faster than his PB and held on pretty well

After it was over, Albertson said he surprised himself by how fast he went out the first half (62:20 versus his official pb of 64:17). He also said it felt quite cold when it started to rain between miles 14 and 16. Off-camera (or perhaps it’s near the end of the interview), he said he noticed how Evans Chebet was running in the back on the pack just tucked away from the wind.

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