No slowing this running game
I wonder which Kenyan will win this race in 2022? 2027? 2032? 2057? 2072?
That one we probably know. More than likely it will be Robert K. Cheruiyot III.
Dominance? Did I hear someone say "dominance"? That would be an improvement. What the Kenyans have done to the Boston Marathon, and a few other marathons, is establish a tyranny that certainly should be an embarrassment to the rest of the running world.
Kenyan Robert K. Cheruiyot was your Wind & Rain Boston Marathon winner yesterday in the throwback clocking of 2:14:13. You've got to go back to 1985, when people from both the Mother Country and the good old US of A were still capable of winning this thing, to find such a slow winning time. But I think you already know the reason why.
Conditions, Mr. Cheruiyot said, "were not good. That's why the race was very tough."
Well, guess what? You think the outcome would have been much different if it had been 80 degrees and sunny?
Like, for example, in Rotterdam on Sunday? It was so hot (high 80s) that race organizers decided to call off the race after 3 1/2 hours because the conditions were so dangerous. That was long after Joshua Chelanga had crossed the finish line first. Care to guess what country Chelanga calls home?
It was the ninth straight Rotterdam victory by a Kenyan. Runners from Kenya came home 1-3-5-7-9.
The Nagano Marathon was also held Sunday. Nephat Kinyanjui successfully defended his title. Care to guess what country Kinyanjui calls home? (As my mother used to say, "You get three guesses, and the first two don't count. " )
It was the latest in a long line of superb Kenyan days in Boston yesterday. Kenyans finished 1-2-3-4-6-9-10 .
What's to be done about this? The Kenyans at Boston are better than the Old Yankees, the Old Canadiens, and the Old Celtics. They're a surer thing than Boston University on the first night of the Beanpot.
Mr. Robert K. Cheruiyot is a repeat winner. I should mention that under much better conditions, he set a record of 2:07:14 last year. He also won this race in 2003.
There were hiccups in 2001 (Korean Lee Bong-Ju) and 2005 (Ethiopian Hailu Negussie), but starting with the 1988 victory of Ibrahim Hussein, that makes it 16 of the last 20 in the race that might as well be renamed the Kenyan Invitational.
Question: Is that all they do in that country? Run, I mean. Hasn't anyone over there ever heard of soccer?
We're kind of getting used to the Boston Marathon being controlled by Kenyans, but we may have reached a new low in international humiliation yesterday. For long before Cheruiyot, runner-up James Kwambai, and Stephen Kiogora had separated themselves from the pack between the 25K and 30K marks, the race had been led by a pair of semi-oddball Kenyans. Jared Nyamboki and Josephat Ongeri, proper Kenyan lads who are listed as hailing from Fayetteville, Ga., had jumped into an immediate lead, zooming out of sight at a foolish pace as soon as the gun sounded.
People tell me their presence in the lead had something to do with promoting an athletic shoe, and that's fine, but the fact is they did hold the lead through six checkpoints, Ongeri leading at 5K, 10K, and 15K and Nyamboki leading at 20K, the half-marathon, and the 25K junctures. At one point fairly far into the race, they were two minutes ahead of everyone else. So, was Cheruiyot aware of these interlopers?
"Absolutely," he declared. "I knew they were not going away."
Cheruiyot and the other top runners allowed the "Georgia" duo to have their fun and all that face time on the Versus Network (that's the place where you're not watching the Stanley Cup playoffs) before deciding that the time had come to get serious. That came between the 25K and 30K marks. Kiogora took the lead first, but once Cheruiyot made up his mind to take control, the race was over. Kwambai stayed with him for a while, but the taller, stronger Cheruiyot ran away with it, making that triumphant turn from Hereford onto Boylston all by himself, and thus setting up a hero's lap to the finish line.
You may or may not be aware of Cheruiyot's unfortunate encounter with the finish line in Chicago last year. He fell and hit his head on the slippery surface as he was winning the race, and he has had residual issues with his head ever since. The people here made sure their finish line would be matted, and Cheruiyot made it clear he wasn't crazy about discussing the topic.
"I don't want to talk about falling in Chicago," he said. "That's just something very bad. It's like telling someone, 'Your mother died,' or something. Not good. Sorry about that."
OK, Robert K. Cheruiyot is the best marathoner in the world right now. But we're talking about an ongoing stream of astounding runners, all hailing from Kenya. They've had three-time Boston winners such as Hussein, Cosmas Ndeti, and Cheruiyot. There have been winners named Moses Tanui, Lameck Aguta, Joseph Chebet, Elijah Lagat, Rodgers Rop, and Timothy Cherigat. Once upon a time, this race could be won by a Korean or Finn or Mexican, a Brit, an Italian, or even, believe it or not, an American. No longer.
Peter Gilmore is the best contemporary American. He finished seventh last year and eighth this year, and he says the situation isn't hopeless. "We're way better than we were 10 years ago," he insisted. He says we have a stable of good young runners. Well, we'll see.
But it's not just about America. It's about everybody. Has the time come to create another division? We have Men, Women, Wheelchair Men, Wheelchair Women, Masters, and have I forgotten a few? Do we need a Kenyan Division? Or do we need to borrow a page from horse racing and make this a handicap race? You know, next year make Robert K. Cheruiyot defend his title while carrying 126.
What? You think I'm kidding?
Bob Ryan is a Globe columnist. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.