- - Monday, April 18, 2011

BOSTON | Blame it on the wind.

Rarely has the Boston Marathon experienced such strong tailwinds on its entire 26-mile, 385-yard course as it did Monday in the 115th edition of the world’s oldest annual marathon. The winds did not discriminate.

From the front to the back, runners were blown to the finish and in many cases, mind-blowing times.

A world best shattered by 57 seconds. A course record, set just last year, obliterated by 170 seconds. The U.S. men’s marathon record felled by 40 seconds. Even the world best in the women’s wheelchair competition went down in a puff.

Forget the storied fans, credited over the decades by the thousands of sweating, panting runners for pushing them to times beyond their wildest imaginations. No doubt the fans this year were great, but the winds were even greater - 20 to 30 mph on their backsides.

Funny that Monday’s champion Geoffrey Mutai, in his debut Boston run, told the Boston Herald last week: “The weather is not so bad. It’s the wind that is always the trouble.”

He was not complaining after being blown from Hopkinton to downtown Boston in the fastest marathon ever run, not just at Boston but anywhere on earth. What once seemed nearly impossible - breaking Haile Gebrselassie’s world record of 2:03:59 from the 2008 Berlin Marathon - ended in Mutai’s time of 2:03:02 setting a new standard by an inconceivable margin.

Not only does Mutai, 29, get to return home to Eldoret, Kenya, with the $150,000 first-prize cash, he gets to turn an additional $50,000 for the world mark and $25,000 for the course record into Kenyan shillings.

Unfortunately, he will not be able to call himself the world record holder because the sport’s governing body - the International Association of Athletics Federations - does not recognize Boston for world records because of its point-to-point nature and its net downhill tilt. He can, however, boast of a nearly two-minute personal best from his Rotterdam, Netherlands, run at this time last year.

Also swept up in the wind was Ryan Hall, the free-spirited Californian who last year made a gutsy coaching change and blew away his skeptics Monday with a new U.S. marathon record of 2:04:58. “I couldn’t believe it,” the 2008 Olympian said. “When I was running, I was thinking to myself that I can’t believe this is happening now. I’m running a 2:04 pace and I can’t even see the leaders! It was unreal!”

In any other of the previous 114 runnings of the Boston Marathon, 2:04 would have won by far. Monday, Hall was fourth. But for a man who had been dealing with thyroid problems, low testosterone and a parasite in his stomach for the past two years, the performance could not have been better timed with the U.S. Olympic marathon trials just nine months away.

Desiree Davila of Rochester Hills, Mich., also picked the perfect time for a breakout run. While all eyes were on American marathon star Kara Goucher, it was Davila who stole the show and came within 2 seconds of becoming the first U.S. woman to win Boston since 1985. She emerged into the lead pack in the Heartbreak Hills by 20 miles and threw Kenyans Caroline Kilel and Sharon Cherop for a loop.

It took everything Kilel had to hold off Davila in the last few hundred meters down Boylston Street, the Kenyan writhing in pain on the ground after hitting the finish tape. Davila still was standing, with the best American placing since 1991. Her time of 2:22:38 was 5 seconds quicker than the fastest effort ever by a U.S. woman here, that being Joan Samuelson in 1983 (Samuelson ran 2:51 Monday, missing the 2:46 she needed to qualify for her eighth Olympic marathon trials but stating that she might try again at the Twin Cities event this fall).

Goucher, seven months removed from giving birth to son Colt, chopped a minute off her personal best with a stunning 2:24:52. She was ecstatic about the time, but she wanted to win.

The world mark was taken down by 16 seconds by wheelchair racer Wakako Tsuchida, who finished in 1:34:06. She joined countryman Masazumi Soejima of Japan for a push-rim sweep.

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