A humbling course infamous for its rolling hills, the Boston Marathon is notoriously unpredictable.
Approximately 5k from the rainy Boylston Street finish line, the 26.2 mile race was still anyone’s to win. It wasn’t until the very last few blocks that Hellen Obiri of Kenya separated herself from the leading group to break the tape and become the 2023 Boston Marathon Champion.
In one of the deepest fields in Boston’s history, Obiri, 33, won the women’s professional race on April 17 with an impressive time of 2:21:38. She was closely followed by Amane Beriso of Ethiopia in 2:21:50 and Lonah Salpeter of Israel in 2:21:57 to round out the podium. Ababel Yeshaneh of Ethiopia, the 2022 Boston Marathon runner-up, recovered from a fall around mile 23 to finish in fourth place with a time of 02:22:00
Obiri’s victory was a stunning display of athletic versatility in her Boston debut and in just her second marathon ever. The Kenyan is the only woman to hold a world title in indoor track, outdoor track, and cross-country. She is also a two-time Olympic silver medalist in the 5,000m, demonstrating her ability to perform over a wide range of distances.
Hellen Obiri smiles holding her 2023 Boston Marathon trophy at the finish line on April 17. Instagram/@HellenObiri
Emma Bates, 30, was the top American finisher, clinching fifth place. She ran a Personal Best of 2:22.10, just 8 seconds behind Shalane Flanagan’s American course record in 2014. This effort demonstrated phenomenal improvement over a short period of time — it was 68 seconds faster than her previous Personal Best at the 2022 World Champions over a much flatter course.
Bates has proven that she can compete with the best of the sport with her fierce competitive spirit. Bates started the race with a very large lead pack that covered the first 10k in 34:46 to average a cautious 5:36 pace. However, she lost touch with the lead when the front runners started to inject pace into the lead pack, improving to a 5:08 pace for the seventh mile. But, in a true testament to her tenacity, Bates did not relent and instead worked her way back up over the next three miles to rejoin the leading group of women.
As the lead pack gradually thinned, Bates held on, even surging to the lead at points of the race through the Newton hills. The American managed to stay within medal contention until she started to slightly fade off the pace of the top-four finishers around the 24th mile marker.
The close competition — the top-five women could be seen racing down the same block of Boylston Street toward the finish tape — demonstrates that the future of women’s marathon running is bright. The American women in particular demonstrated notable improvement with multiple Personal Bests throughout the race, a stunning feat considering the difficulty of the Boston course. Aliphine Tuliamuk, the 2020 U.S. Olympic Trials Champion, ran a Personal Best of 2:24.37 to earn 11th place and Nell Rojas, the top American finisher at Boston in 2021 and 2022, was close on her heels with a new Personal Best of 2:24.51 to clinch 14th place.
Bates’ performance suggests that she is poised to challenge Emily Sisson’s American record of 2:18:22. After the race, Bates told Citius Mag that this feat will be on her radar for flatter courses next fall.
Sara Hall, previous half marathon American record holder, finished 17th in 2:25:48, setting a new American Record in the Masters division (for runners aged 40 and over). While her performance was far off her best, Hall, who just celebrated her 40th birthday April 15, has been afflicted by an IT band injury for months. She said she was pleased with her performance considering she couldn’t even run when she initially signed up for Boston.
This 127th Boston marathon also marked 10 years since the 2013 Boston bombings that killed three people and injured over 280 more near the Boylston Street finish line. On April 15, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu and Gov. Maura Healey joined the families of the three victims — 8-year-old Martin Richard, 23-year-old Lingzi Lu, and 29-year-old Krystle Campbell — in a subdued procession down Boylston Street to lay wreaths at the memorial sites before a remembrance ceremony at the finish line.
The city’s resilience was on full display throughout the race. The victims’ families, survivors, over 30,000 participants, and countless cheering spectators along the route and at the finish line, in their determination to persist despite the darkness of 10 years ago, showed the world exactly what it means to be Boston Strong.