Lelisa Desisa claims medal this time
Boston — Lelisa Desisa won his first Boston Marathon in 2013.
He didn't have much time to celebrate.
A few hours after Desisa broke the tape on Boylston Street on Patriots' Day, two bombs near the finish line turned what should be the pinnacle of any distance runner's career into an afterthought.
Desisa earned his second Boston Marathon title Monday, finishing in 2 hours 9 minutes 17 seconds to claim a golden olive wreath, the $150,000 first prize and a winner's medal to replace the one he donated to the city two years ago in memory of the victims.
And this one he plans to enjoy.
"This medal, I think, is for me," Desisa said.
Kenya's Carolina Rotich won the women's race, beating Mare Dibaba in a shoulder-to-shoulder sprint down Boylston Street to win by 4 seconds as the world's most prestigious marathon took a tentative step back toward normal.
Boston Athletic Association spokesman Jack Fleming interrupted the winner's news conference to place the trophy on the table next to Desisa and 2014 winner Meb Keflezighi and thank them both for helping the race heal.
"In 2013, Lelisa had won and we were sitting in these same chairs. And then soon after, and unfortunately, Lelisa did not get to have the kind of victory celebration that a champion of the Boston Marathon should have," Fleming said. "Lelisa, we want you to get your due today."
Desisa was in the lead pack for the entire race, pulling away to beat countryman Yemane Adhane Tsegay by 31 seconds in the first 1-2 finish for Ethiopia in the race's history. Kenya's Wilson Chebet was third.
Rockford's Dathan Ritzenhein was the first American, in seventh. Keflezighi finished eighth a year after his victory — the first for an American man since 1983 — gave the city a tangible symbol of its comeback.
"I was crying on Boylston Street, because it was bringing up memories, good and bad," said Keflezighi, who wrote the names of the bombing victims on his race bib last year. "People were cheering like crazy, saying 'U-S-A!' I was chanting with them."
The 2004 Olympic silver medalist, who will turn 40 next month, was among the leaders until the 35-kilometer mark, when he went the wrong way.
Security was visible but not intrusive for the second running since the bombings. State and local police, some riding bicycles and others on all-terrain vehicles, were supplemented by National Guard soldiers who walked alongside the road, applauding passing runners and occasionally high-fiving fans.
Strong still the word
The weather was cold and damp but the atmosphere festive at the Boston Marathon, two years after pressure-cooker bombs exploded at the finish line and shattered one of sports' most cherished events.
All along the 26.2-mile course, spectators banged cowbells and blew air horns as they braved unseasonably chilly weather and light rain in thick layers and ponchos.
Near the Boylston Street finish line, crowds at times four to five people deep roared each time an athlete approached, shouting words of encouragement.
"It's so great to see everyone cheering and being happy," said Jennifer Sunkin, a New York native watching from the comfort of a balcony overlooking the race's final stretch. "Life goes on. It's so inspiring to see and to realize how strong we are."
Throughout the course, though, were reminders of the 2013 attack, which killed three people and injured over 260 others.
"Boston Strong" — the phrase that became the city's defiant rally cry after the attack — was everywhere along the route, which winds through seven Massachusetts communities and Boston.
Fans yelled it out, wrote it on the pavement, and displayed it on hats, shirts, and signs.
Still, those that attended last year's marathon said the atmosphere this year felt less intense.