Commentary

U.S. runners give inspired effort at Boston Marathon

Originally Published: April 17, 2017
By Melissa Isaacson

BOSTON -- If Jordan Hasay was searching for signs that her mother was with her Monday, if she was looking for some strength to lift her in her first marathon, she got it on her first trip to a water station.

Teresa Hasay, who swam, hiked and ran regularly, died unexpectedly at 56 on Nov. 4, just days after spending the weekend with her daughter. Jordan now wears her mother's engagement ring on her left hand.

"I was pretty worried about grabbing the bottles," Hasay said, "because I had never done that before. ... I ended up grabbing them with my left hand, so each time I was thinking, 'OK, mom, help me grab this bottle, help me grab this bottle.'"

All morning, the 25-year-old California native gained comfort, strength and inspiration from the memory of her mother as well as a Boston crowd that instinctively understood her pain. The combination pushed the former 5K and 10K runner, who just last year transitioned to road running, to an incredible third-place finish that shattered the American record for a marathon debut.

Hasay, finishing behind women's champion Edna Kiplagat from Kenya (2 hours, 21 minutes, 52 seconds) and Bahrain's Rose Chelimo (2:22:51), came in at 2:23:00 -- 2 minutes and 53 seconds faster than Kara Goucher's debut at the 2008 New York City Marathon. Goucher and Deena Kastor, the 2004 Olympic marathon bronze medalist, had been the only American women to debut faster than 2:27 before Hasay.

"[My mother] knew that I'd be debuting in Boston, and I was just thinking about everyone out there who have lost loved ones as well, and that really lifted me up and powered me through it," Hasay said.

You don't have to look far for special stories at the Boston Marathon. Sadly, there will forever be the memories of 2013, with loved ones, friends and neighbors gathering in support of those killed and wounded on one awful day four years ago.

Jordan HasayKayana Szymczak/Getty ImagesJordan Hasay, center, finished third at the 2017 Boston Maration, setting a record for fastest marathon debut by an American woman.

But along with Boston Strong, there are examples everywhere of strength and caring, of causes trumpeted and veterans cheered. It was in that atmosphere that American Meb Keflezighi lifted the city with his 2014 victory and that six American men on Monday finished among the top 10 finishers.

The best among them was Galen Rupp, a three-time Olympian whose second-place finish in his first Boston Marathon made him the highest-placing American here since the Eritrea-born Keflezighi's victory. Rupp was the highest-placing American-born man since Gary Tuttle's runner-up finish in 1985.

It took until the final 2 miles for men's champion Geoffrey Kirui to pull away from Rupp and complete the Kenyan sweep, finishing in 2:09:37, 21 seconds ahead of Rupp (2:09:58) and 51 seconds in front of third-place Suguru Osako from Japan (2:10:28).

In addition to Rupp, the American men in the top 10 were Shadrack Biwott (fourth), Abdi Abdirahman (sixth), Augustus Maiyo (seventh), Luke Puskedra (ninth) and Jared Ward (10th). It was the biggest showing in the top 10 for American men since seven of them finished there in 1985.

It was a victory lap of sorts for Keflezighi, 41, running in his final Boston Marathon (he says he's retiring after the New York City Marathon in November) and finishing 13th in 2:17:00 after hanging with the lead pack for 11 miles.

"It's so exciting to see Americans being competitive here and running well in Boston," Rupp said, "whether it's myself or Jordan Hasay. ... It's just a really exciting time and awesome to see American distance running on the upswing."

Boston marathon menGreg M. Cooper-USA TODAY SportsAmerican Galen Rupp kept pace with winner Geoffrey Kirui for about 24 miles of the Boston Marathon.

Rupp and Hasay are Oregon Project teammates under coach and 1982 Boston champion Alberto Salazar (who also coaches Osako), and it was Salazar whom Rupp credited with pushing his runners "mentally harder than any other coach pushes their athletes."

"I was hurting a lot the last 3 or 4 miles. ... You've got to dig down deep and just find whatever it is to hold onto to drive you through the finish line," Rupp said. "That's what I tried to do today. Even though it wasn't necessarily the result I wanted, I was very, very happy the way I was able to close it out."

Among the few disappointed elite Americans was Desiree Linden, 33, a favorite coming in who faded at miles 18 and 19 and could not recover, finishing in fourth place, 3:14 behind the winner.

But Linden lauded the well-informed Boston Marathon fans, who know and appreciate the progress of American runners. No American woman has won here since 1985, and Keflezighi is the only American man to win since 1983.

"We keep getting closer. ... It's just a matter of time," Linden said. "And when the Americans break the tape, it's going to be a big day out here, and we're really close."

Hasay said she was honored running with Linden and gathered energy from the chants of "USA, USA" toward the finish. But it was the voice of her mother that Hasay heard above all others, and it was their running conversation during one of the loneliest journeys in all of sport that sustained her.

"I was talking to her a long time," Hasay said. "She always called me Paula because [world-record holder] Paula Radcliffe is my idol, and my mother always said I would be a marathoner like her one day. And so I kept telling myself, 'Good job, Paula. Good job, Paula.' That kind of helped me get through some of the tough times.

"I just felt blessed having her out there running every step with me. It gives me a lot of strength."

Melissa Isaacson is a columnist for ESPN.com, espnW.com and ESPN Chicago. The award-winning writer has covered Chicago sports for most of her 32-year career, including at the Chicago Tribune, before joining ESPN in 2009, and has also covered tennis since 1986.

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