In the final miles of the Boston Marathon, Peres Jepchirchir of Kenya and Ababel Yeshaneh of Ethiopia found themselves—once again—side by side.

Last November, the pair dueled to the end at the New York City Marathon, where Jepchirchir won and Yeshaneh ended up third (with Violah Cheptoo between them).

This time they were alone, and they traded the lead at least five times in the last mile.

First Jepchirchir surged, and she opened up a gap of several meters. It seemed at that point that the reigning Olympic gold medalist would hold her advantage to the finish.

But a few seconds later, Yeshaneh came smoothly back, and Jepchirchir fell a step behind.

“Ababel was strong,” Jepchirchir said. “I was feeling the pace and it was not easy, it was tough. So I decided to push for the first time, but I feel I am tired, so I decided to go back [behind] Ababel.”

As they made the turn onto Hereford Street, Jepchirchir ran the tangent, putting her briefly back in front, but Yeshaneh had a step on her before they reached Boylston.

With two blocks remaining in the race, and the strain visible on both runners’ faces, Jepchirchir moved for the win. Finally Yeshaneh had no answer. Jepchirchir won in 2:21:01, and Yeshaneh was 4 seconds back, a margin of victory that belied how close the race really was.

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The Winner: Peres Jepchirchir

It was the third World Marathon Major title in nine months for Jepchirchir, in addition to her victories in Sapporo in August and New York in November.

“I was not expecting to win, but I’m feeling grateful,” she said.

Jepchirchir, 28, answered questions from Runner’s World on April 16, while she was lying on a massage table. She is self coached and trains with male pacers in Kapsabet, Kenya. She runs once a day and takes Sundays off. She and her husband have a 4-year-old daughter, Natalia.

The setup, clearly, is working for her.

boston marathon 2022
Derek Call

Where the Race Was Won

A pack of 20 women was together through the race’s opening miles, but by the 6-mile-mark, things got serious. Jepchirchir and 10 others ran 5:12, shaking the pack loose. Molly Seidel was the lone American who stayed with the pace.

Jepchirchir, Yeshaneh and prerace favorite Joyciline Jepkosgei of Kenya ran miles 6 through 12 in 30:37 (5:06 pace), running the ninth mile in 4:59. (The elite men ran the same mile in 4:55.) They were alone in front and hit the halfway mark in 1:09:41, well ahead of course record pace.

Their nearest pursuers, Mary Ngugi and Edna Kiplagat, were still 1:10 behind at the 20-mile mark.

boston marathon 2022
Derek Call

Seidel dropped out at 16.6 miles, and eventually the hot early pace caught up with Jepkosgei as well. She fell behind in the 24th mile and ended up 7th.

Ngugi thought the top three were gone, until she caught sight of them after the Newton hills.

“Edna, Edna, Edna is amazing,” Ngugi said of her compatriot, Edna Kiplagat. “She’s like, ‘Oh, they’re not so far. It’s 6K, 6K is a long way to go, we can still catch them.’ So she sprinted and I followed her. And in my head now, I saw Joyciline, and in my head I said, ‘Oh, I could podium here.’ Edna helped me a lot. I didn’t think they would be that close to us, so I realized we must be running faster than they are.”

The Most Memorable Moment

Jepchirchir displayed remarkable sportsmanship—or sportswomanship—in the race’s final miles, handing Yeshaneh a cup of water just past the 24-mile mark as they dueled to the finish.

“I love my competitors, because I can’t make [a fast race] by myself,” she said. “I knew that when we push together, we can run [a] good race. For me, I like helping my fellow. I’m grateful.”

Said Yeshaneh, through a translator: “This is the second time I’ve been running with her. She’s a really good competitor, she’s a friend, too. She always considers me as a friend.”

The Top American

Nell Rojas, who was the top American at last year’s Boston Marathon, which was pushed from its usual April date to October, was the top American again, in a big PR of 2:25:57, taking 1:15 off her previous best, despite a headwind.

Molly Seidel, the Olympic bronze medalist, had an off day, dropping out at the medical station at 16.6 miles. It was the first bad day of Seidel’s young marathon career, during which she has won an Olympic bronze medal and run a PR of 2:24:42.

The Biggest Surprise

Just how little movement there was in the top 10 after the pace went so quickly in the middle miles.

Of the top 10 women at the 10K mark, only two weren’t in the top 10 at the end: Seidel and Etagegn Woldu of Ethiopia, who also dropped out. Charlotte Purdue, running in 11th at 10K, and Rojas, in 12th, were eventual ninth- and 10th-place finishers.

126th boston marathon
Boston GlobeGetty Images

The Top 10

  1. Peres Jepchirchir, Kenya, 2:21:01
  2. Ababel Yeshaneh, Ethiopia, 2:21:05,
  3. Mary Ngugi, Kenya, 2:21:32
  4. Edna Kiplagat, Kenya, 2:21:40*
  5. Monicah Ngige, Kenya, 2:22:13
  6. Viola Cheptoo, Kenya, 2:23:47
  7. Joyciline Jepkosgei, Kenya, 2:24:43
  8. Degitu Azimeraw, Ethiopia, 2:25:23
  9. Charlotte Purdue, Great Britain, 2:25:26
  10. Nell Rojas, United States, 2:25:57

    *Kiplagat, 42, set a masters course record

    The Prize Money

    1. Peres Jepchirchir, $150,000
    2. Ababel Yeshaneh, $75,000
    3. Mary Ngugi, $40,000

      The Recap