Mother Nature offered Canadian Krista DuChene a competitive advantage Monday at the 2018 Boston Marathon.
The 41-year-old from Strathroy, Ont., battled a steady headwind exceeding 40 kilometres an hour and icy rain to finish third in the women’s race. The mother of three, running in Boston after a 13-year absence, finished the 26.2-mile (42.2 kilometre) race in two hours 44 minutes 20 seconds.
American Desiree Linden won the event in 2:39:54, but DuChene said the miserable weather conditions played in her favour.
“Definitely, there’s no way I can beat so many of those women in the elite field on a good day,” DuChene said in a telephone interview from Boston. “It was miserable.
“Windy, cold, I think there was hail at the start, rain. It was a women’s only start so there was a time when I was with the group but then for most of it I ran on my own. But our Canadian winters prepare us for days like this.”
The inclement weather also forced DuChene, who was 35th in the women’s marathon at the 2016 Rio Olympics, to concentrate more on her placing than time. However, she had no idea of what she’d accomplished when she crossed the finish line.
“My goodness, I never thought I’d place third at the Boston Marathon so, yes, it definitely exceeded my expectations,” she said. “I knew I was strong and my plan was to roll with the hills when they came and to mentally tell myself the race wouldn’t start until the hills started, so that was ideal for today.
“My goal was as soon as I saw a woman to try and get her. See another woman, try to get her. Over the last five kilometres, there were so many women I passed that I had no idea what happened when I finished. I was hoping I was top-10 but you’re just not doing the math because you just don’t know.”
The only Canadian woman to win the race was Jacqueline Gareau in 1980. Canada also earned a top-10 finish in the men’s event with Hamilton’s Reid Coolsaet finishing ninth in 2:25:02 as Yuki Kawauchi became the first Japanese man to win the marathon since 1987.
Initially disappointed with a slow time, Coolsaet was pleasantly surprised he had achieved his goal of a top-10.
“That was rough and absolute carnage,” Coolsaet said in an Instagram post. “When I crossed the line I was happy it was over but pretty bummed that I was so slow. Five minutes later someone told me I was ninth and that put a smile on my face.”
DuChene said she ran Monday’s race for her family — 12-year-old Micah, Seth, 10 and Leah, 7 — but also the victims of the April 6 bus crash involving the Humboldt Broncons junior hockey team. Sixteen people were killed and another 13 injured as a result of the accident near Tisdale, Sask.
“Marathon running can be a good opportunity to draw upon your emotions if you can channel them properly,” DuChene said. “There’s a lot of emotional things I can channel to give me the energy and knowing I’m from Canada, and even if that message gets to one person in Humboldt that I was thinking of them, that’s the least I can do for them.
“The day my husband and I flew to Boston we wore our jerseys and put our sticks out on the front porch and our kids wore their jerseys to school. At the airport not many people knew in the U.S. why we had jerseys on, they probably thought we were Canadians who loved hockey. That’s just one opportunity you can be proud of your country and in Humboldt everyone has come together to help them, not just people from the provinces but the whole world.”
Monday’s race was DuChene’s second in Boston but first since 2005. Her time then was 3:00:46.
“That was back before we had children,” DuChene said. “We had a puppy.
“Now the children are aged 12, 10 and 7 and the dog (named Moses) is still around.”
Linden, meanwhile, after slogging through just a few miles of icy rain and a near-gale headwind that made her feel like she was running in place, decided she’d seen enough of the Boston Marathon for another year.
“My hands were freezing, and there are times where you were just stood up by the wind. It was comical how slow you were going, and how far you still had to go,” Linden said.
“At six miles I was thinking, ‘No way, this is not my day,’” she said. “Then you break the tape and you’re like, ‘This is not what I expected today.’”
A two-time Olympian and the 2011 Boston Marathon runner-up, Linden decided to stick around, outlasting the weather and the rest of the field to win the race’s 122nd edition. Her time was more than four minutes better than second-place finisher Sarah Sellers but the slowest time for a women’s winner in Boston since 1978.
Yuki Kawauchi splashed through the pelting rain, temperatures around 5C and wind that gusted as high as 50 km/h to win the men’s race, passing defending champion Geoffrey Kirui in Kenmore Square to earn Japan’s first Boston title since 1987 and the US$150,000 first prize. Linden also received a $150,000 top prize.
Wearing a white windbreaker that was drenched and billowing in the wind, Kirui slowed and stumbled across the Copley Square finish line in second, 2:25 back, followed by Shadrack Biwott and three other U.S. men. The winning time of 2:15:58 and was the slowest since Jack Fultz overcame scorching temperatures to win the “Run for the Hoses” in 1976.
“For me, it’s the best conditions possible,” said Kawauchi, who competed in 12 marathons last year — six times the usual number for an elite runner — and also works as a school administrator.
Runners donned hats and extra layers, and the lead packs tried to draft off the media truck to avoid the rain that was hitting them horizontally at times. Wheelchair winners Marcel Hug of Switzerland and American Tatyana McFadden, both five-time champions, said they were unable to see through the spray that spun off their wheels.
“It was just tough, it was so freezing,” Hug said through chattering teeth as a volunteer draped a second towel around his shoulders. “I’m just very glad that I made it.”
McFadden said she wore two jackets, with plastic bags between layers to stay dry, and hand warmers against her chest. The wet roads made it treacherous to turn and impossible to stop.
“I could start to feel my arms getting heavy just from all the rain soaking in,” she said. “You can’t put your brakes on right away, so you had to be tedious on the turns. I couldn’t even see because the wind was so strong.”
Lisa Larsen Weidenbach’s 1985 victory was the last for an American woman — before the race began offering prize money that lured the top international competitors to the world’s oldest and most prestigious annual marathon. Linden, a California native who lives in Michigan, nearly ended the drought in 2011 when she was outkicked down Boylston Street and finished second by 2 seconds during yet another Kenyan sweep.
Hometown favourite Shalane Flanagan, a four-time Olympian and the reigning New York City Marathon champion, finished sixth after popping into a course-side portable toilet before the halfway point and falling behind the lead pack.
Sellers’ second-place finish became a story in itself. The Ogden, Utah native, who is a full-time nurse living in Tucson, Arizona, was competing in just her second marathon after a collegiate career in which she was a standout 5,000- and 10,000-metre runner at Weber State from 2009-12.
Sellers had to train before or after work — at 4 a.m. or 7 p.m. She said didn’t believe it when she was told she had finished second, or that she earned $75,000.
“Yeah, I’m in shock about that,” she said. It was the second competitive marathon for Sellers, who was a distance runner at Weber State.
The East Africans who have dominated the professional era of the race had their worst performance in decades: Kirui was the only Kenyan in the top 10 for the men’s race; defending champion Edna Kiplagat, who was ninth, helped prevent a shutout in the women’s division.
“Some of the women I was passing, I was in complete disbelief,” Sellers said. “I have the utmost respect for who they are as athletes and as people.”
— with files from Jimmy Golen, The Associated Press, and National Post