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Washington Twp.'s Linden takes 4th in Boston Marathon

Detroit News staff and wires

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 on Monday, 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.

But for Washington Township’s Desiree Linden, trying to become the first American woman to win in Boston since Michigan’s Lisa Larsen Rainsberger did it in 1985, it was still a tough result to swallow.

Linden, 32, led the women’s race past the halfway mark but couldn’t match Kiplagat’s blistering pace in the latter stages of the race, finishing fourth in 2 hours, 25 minutes, 6 seconds. For Linden, a two-time Olympian who trains with the Rochester Hills-based Hansons-Brooks Distance Project, it’s her third top-four finish at Boston — she was second in 2011 and fourth last year.

“I’m disappointed,” Linden said. “If I put out a goal and I’m chasing after it, I don’t want to backtrack afterwards. I’m disappointed. I want to win. But when better people beat you, it’s OK. Being disappointed with four is not the worst thing in the world.

“The field just went crazy fast. I only have what I have. So when they put it into the next gear, you’ve gotta hope they come back. I didn’t let off the gas a single step today. They were just great today.”

None could match Kiplagat, the two-time world champion, who added this Boston title to past wins in London, New York and Los Angeles. She pulled ahead of Rose Chelimo of Bahrain heading into the grueling Newton hills and cruised to win by 59 seconds in 2:21:52.

Jordan Hasay, in her first race at the 26.2-mile distance, was third in 2:23:00, the fastest debut ever for an American woman by nearly 3 full minutes. It’s also the first time since 1991 that two U.S. women have finished in the top four.

“She’ll be the next great (American) out here,” Linden said of Hasay, a 25-year-old California native who’d dedicated the race to her late mother, who died unexpectedly last fall,

It was Linden who forced the field to keep an honest pace early, leading a pack of a dozen elite women through the early part of the race — and again just before the 30-kilometer mark — on an uncomfortably warm, windy Patriot’s Day in Boston.

This was Linden’s fifth Boston Marathon, and on the heels of an impressive 2016 that including a runner-up effort at the U.S. Olympic trials and a seventh-place finish in Rio in August, she appeared poised for a breakthrough win here on a course she loves. Her coaches, Keith and Kevin Hanson, said she had arguably the best training segment of her career the last few months.

“I feel like I poured everything into this,” said Linden, who picked up a $25,000 check for finishing fourth. “That’s gonna be difficult, to figure out how I can better … maybe this is my peak, you know? And we’ll have to work with what we have. It’s gonna be a process to go back and look at everything, but there’s always something to learn.”

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 lasted more than three decades on the men’s side, from Grand Rapids native Greg Meyer’s 1983 triumph until 2014, when Meb Keflezighi ran down Boylston Street to raucous chants of “U-S-A!” 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.

“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.

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 on Monday.

“The wind is so important,” Hug said. “The roads were good. Everything was fantastic today.”

Earlier Monday, 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.