BOSTON >> The Kenyans are back in Boston after a relative lull that saw them shut out in the world’s most prestigious marathon twice in the past three years.
More surprisingly, so are the Americans.
Geoffrey Kirui won the 121st Boston Marathon today, pulling away from three-time U.S. Olympian Galen Rupp with two miles to go to give Kenya its first men’s victory in five years. Edna Kiplagat won the women’s race to complete the Kenyan sweep.
They were followed closely by Americans who grabbed two of the top four women’s spots and six of the top ten for men — the first time that’s happened since the race went professional in 1986.
“It’s so exciting to see Americans being competitive here,” said Rupp, the Olympic bronze medalist who was making his Boston debut. “It’s a real exciting time. And it’s awesome to see American distance running on the upswing and being competitive in these races.”
Kirui finished in 2 hours, 9 minutes, 37 seconds to claim a silver trophy, a guilded olive wreath from Marathon, Greece, and the $150,000 first-place prize. Rupp was 21 seconds back, and Japan’s Suguru Osako an additional 30 seconds behind him.
Rounding out the top 10 were runners from California, Arizona, Colorado, Oregon and Utah.
Kiplagat won her Boston debut in 2:21:52, adding the victory to two world championships and wins in London, New York and Los Angeles. She pulled ahead of Rose Chelimo of Bahrain in the Newton hills to win by 59 seconds.
American Jordan Hasay, making her debut at the 26.2-mile distance, was third and Desi Linden was fourth — the first time since 1991 that two U.S. women have finished in the top four.
Kenya had won either the men’s or women’s race every year since 1991 before being shut out in 2014 and again last year. In fact, Kenya had taken both titles six times since 2000, so dominating the top 10 that Boylston Street began to look like a Great Rift Valley training run.
But Ethiopia has surpassed its East African neighbors on Patriots’ Day the past four years, earning its first sweep in 2016. In December, Kenyan Rita Jeptoo was stripped of her title for failing a drug test and it was handed instead to Ethiopia’s Buzunesh Deba.
The American drought reached almost three decades from the time Lisa Larsen-Weidenbach won in 1985 until Meb Keflezighi ran down Boylston Street to raucous chants of “U-S-A!” in 2014, the year after the finish line bombings killed three people and wounded more than 260 others.
Keflezighi, 41, finished 13th this year in what he said will be his last competitive run in Boston. He plans to run the New York Marathon, which he won in 2009, one last time in the fall before retiring.
The warm temperatures that hit 79 degrees at the 20-kilometer mark in Natick slowed the runners, but the strong tailwind was a boost — especially in the wheelchair races.
Marcel Hug won Boston for the third time, outpushing 10-time champion Ernst Van Dyk down Boylston Street and finishing in 1:18:04 to beat the course record and world best by 21 seconds. Fellow Swiss Manuela Schar shattered the women’s mark by more than five minutes, winning in 1:28:17.
The winners’ times on the point-to-point Boston course are considered a world best and not a world record because of the possibility of a supportive tailwind like the one today.
“The wind is so important,” Hug said. “The roads were good. Everything was fantastic today.”
Earlier today, city officials announced plans for memorials to mark the sites where two bombs exploded during the 2013 Boston Marathon. Sculptor Pablo Eduardo will create the markers.