Boston Marathon

World record holder Eliud Kipchoge finishes 6th in Boston Marathon debut

It was Kipchoge's worst performance since he placed ninth at the 2020 London Marathon.

Eliud Kipchoge Boston Marathon 2023
Eliud Kipchoge crossing the finish line of the 2023 Boston Marathon. John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

For just the third time in his illustrious career, Eliud Kipchoge did not win a marathon that he was competing in.

Kipchoge, the 38-year-old world record holder, finished sixth in the 2023 Boston Marathon. It was the Kenyan’s worst performance since he placed ninth at the 2020 London Marathon. He crossed the finish line with a time of 2:09:23, which — though still incredibly fast by virtually any measurement — was the slowest of his career.

For the first 17 miles, Kipchoge appeared to be in control, leading the pack of elite men’s runners at the front of the race. But as has happened for more than a century, the Newton hills, culminating with the famous “Heartbreak Hill,” proved too much.


An attack from Gabriel Geay, of Tanzania, in Mile 18 put Kipchoge in trouble, as he fell back and was unable to even lead the chase group. By the time the leaders had passed the hills and eventual winner Evans Chebet made a strong move at Mile 21, Kipchoge had been dropped by the leading group and trailed by almost a minute.

Though he’s had multiple successes at both the Berlin and London marathons — and has also recorded wins in Chicago and Tokyo, totaling four of the six world majors — Kipchoge had yet to test himself on Boston’s unusual course.

Known for its hills as well as its downhill portions, the Boston Marathon course sends its participants through almost continuous elevation changes, to the extent that a potential world record set on the course wouldn’t technically count.

Prior to coming to Boston, Kipchoge explained that he was training at elevation in Kenya on a “Boston route,” which was meant to simulate the hills.

“I think it’s the right time now to train on the Boston route, which we have named it here in Kenya,” Kipchoge said before the race in late March. “It’s really uphill and [a] tough course [for] all 40 kilometers. I think I will benefit from it.”


Still, he had acknowledged in December that he wouldn’t train on the course ahead of time.

The other factor that may have contributed to his performance was the weather. While it had been sunny and warm only days earlier, temperatures dipped into the 40s on Monday, accompanied by intermittent rain.

It was similar conditions to London in 2020, one of Kipchoge’s only other races that didn’t end in victory. That year, just as with Boston in 2023, cold and raining weather hampered many of the top runners, including Kipchoge (who also revealed afterward that he had run the final 15 kilometers with a blocked ear).

Kipchoge had said beforehand that he was aware of Boston’s varying weather conditions, and was trying to prepare for any contingency.

“Boston you can’t predict,” he’d said in his training video. “Tomorrow it will be too windy, today might be on your face, the next day the weather might be ultimately challenging, but I am trying to be all-round.”


This discussion has ended. Please join elsewhere on