There was an upset in the men's open division of yesterday's Boston Marathon simply because a Kenyan didn't win. But there was no surprise in the men's masters, as Kenyan Joshua Kipkemboi, 46, the defending champion, proved best again.
Kipkemboi came home in 2:19:28, 15th overall. It is the fourth Boston masters victory for the golden oldie, a popular competitor on the course, and a man of quick wit off it.
"It was hard," he said. "It was a hard race this year. Last year [when Kipkemboi finished in 2:18:23, seventh overall], it was hot. But, this year, it was colder, and we had the wind. This is a tough course, the toughest marathon in the world. I never saw a race like this. But this is the best race in the world."
Kipkemboi, who lives in Kapsabet, with his wife, Velista, and their four girls, first ran Boston in 1999, finishing second in the masters and 12th overall (2:15:56). He won the masters the following year (2:17:11), but finished second in 2001. He regained the title in 2002 with a 2:12:48. He did not compete in 2003.
Yesterday, the younger Kenyan men placed seven finishers in the top 13.
"I train with the young athletes," said Kipkemboi. "In Kenya, we don't have many masters. There are so many athletes in Kenya, I train with 25 runners. The training is hard, the running is easy. I used to train twice a day, in the morning and in the afternoon. I don't do that anymore, but I keep going.
"I tell them to push me. When I run, I run in fast company. My speed is still high because everybody wants to be in front of me. They all say they don't want an older person to be in front of them. Everybody wants to be proud of me. It's great to have won Boston for the fourth time. I think I'm going to stay here now."
The women's masters was won by Madina Biktagirova of Russia in 2:32:41. Biktagirova, who turned 40 (the minimum masters age) last September, was fifth overall. This was her maiden voyage in Boston, and as a master, but she was fifth in the Sydney Olympics in 2000.
"I don't think about age, I think about time," she said through an interpreter. "I always want to be in good shape. I worked very hard for this marathon, and it went well. My work is my prize."
Biktagirova had hoped to finish in 2:28, but windy conditions held her back.
"I trained very well into the race, but the weather conditions and the wind made it difficult," she said. "I am very happy to have finished in fifth, and first in the masters. I caught four women in the last 7 kilometers, and I'm happy about that."
Among Biktagirova's accomplishments: a victory in the Los Angeles Marathon in 1992, a second in Berlin in 1997, and a fifth in Chicago in 2002.
"My training has changed a little bit," she said. "I've chosen not to do as much mileage as I used to. But I work out away from running much harder than before. After I work out, I need some recovery time, so I don't run as much. I know I am strong in the masters division."