BOSTON — One day after Geoffrey Mutai won the Boston Marathon in 2 hours, 3 minutes, 2 seconds — the fastest time ever for the 26.2-mile distance — race officials said they will ask track’s international governing body to certify his time as a world record even though the course is technically ineligible.
“Sure,” Tom Grilk, the executive director of the Boston Athletic Association, said Tuesday. “Why wouldn’t we?”
With temperatures in the 50s and a steady, significant tailwind — perfect marathon weather — Mutai ran almost a minute faster than the official world record of 2:03:59 set by Haile Gebrselassie in Berlin in 2008. But Mutai’s mark is doomed to be recognized only as a “world best,” not a “world record,” because the Boston course is too downhill and too much of a straight line to meet IAAF standards.
Fourth-place finisher Ryan Hall’s 2:04:58 was the fastest ever for a U.S. runner; it is likewise ineligible to be recognized as the American record because the national governing body has similar rules to the international one, according to Jim Estes, the manager of long-distance running programs for USA Track and Field.
Hall didn’t seem to care about being ineligible for an American record, but he didn’t feel like his time was tainted, either.
“There’s no disappointment for me,” he said on Tuesday. “I was sitting there last night and I’m saying, ‘I’m a 2:04 marathoner.’ I don’t care if it’s the course, or the wind, or anything. I’m a 2:04 marathoner.”
Still, Boston officials said they would apply to have the records certified, which would force the governing bodies to reject an unprecedented performance on the world’s most prestigious marathon course. Runners are lining up behind Mutai and insisting that any rule that excludes Boston, a race that predates the IAAF itself, is itself flawed.
“The IAAF must come and see Boston, and look, from start to finish, and see,” Mutai said Tuesday. “It is 42 kilometers, up and down the whole way. This is 42 kilometers; the other, that Gebrselassie ran, is 42 kilometers. It is not easy.”
In fact, no one is saying that Boston is easy — certainly not anyone who’s run the grueling hills from Hopkinton to Copley Square. But IAAF rules that encourage flat, loop courses were created to weed out marathons designed to produce artificially fast times with downhill courses or favorable weather.
Ironically, they wound up excluding Boston, the world’s oldest and most traditional marathon course — with the possible exception of the path the Greek messenger Pheidippides took from Marathon to Athens to start it all 2,500 years ago.
“This is the most time-tested course in the world,” 1986 Boston winner Rob de Castella said Tuesday. “Just about every great marathoner in history has run on this course. Boston was around when Pheidippides was a boy. You can’t take away from this amazing performance. It’s a record performance, beyond a shadow of a doubt.”
De Castella and other marathoners also noted on Monday that the governing bodies will recognize a record — including Gebreselassie’s Berlin run — that has been set with the help of professional runners hired to maintain a steady pace. Runners say having pacesetters can be a far bigger boost than Boston’s 459-foot drop in elevation, or a tailwind.
“For these guys to do what they’ve done without pacesetters on a tough, hilly course is phenomenal,” de Castella said. “It’s a shame if there’s any hesitation to acknowledge the outstanding athletic feat that we saw yesterday.”
The B.A.A. said on Monday that the race would pay Mutai the $75,000 in bonuses he earned for breaking the course record and achieving a world best. On Tuesday, the Kenyan was presented with a ceremonial check; because it had been printed in advance, the first prize of $150,000 was crossed out and $225,000 was written in.
Grilk said that the 115-year-old race isn’t going to change just to meet the IAAF criteria. No matter what the record book says, runners will know.
“If somebody wants to put up a dome and chase Swifty, the rabbit from Wonderland (dog track) around, God bless them,” Grilk said. “We’ll keep doing what we’ve been doing for 100 years: Firing off a gun and saying, ‘Go.'”
A total of 23,930 out of the 24,390 who started Monday’s race finished. There were 1,288 people treated by the medical staff; 73 of them were transported to the hospital; nine stayed overnight, but they are all OK, race director Dave McGillivray said.
But those aren’t the numbers everyone is talking about.
In addition to the world best in the men’s race, Wakako Tsuchida set a course record in the women’s wheelchair race with a time of 1:34:06, beating Jean Driscoll’s 1994 time by 16 seconds. It was her fifth straight victory; men’s wheelchair winner Masazumi Soejima is also from Japan, where training has been difficult since the March earthquake.
“I’m going to take this energy back to Japan,” she said through a translator. “Hopefully, it will help raise them up in a time of need.”
The women’s race finished with a back-and-forth duel on Boylston Street before Caroline Kilel won in 2:22:36. Desiree Davila came in 2 seconds later for the fastest Boston time for an American woman — 5 seconds faster than Joan Benoit when she won the race in 1983.
Four men broke the previous course record of 2:05:52, set just last year by Robert Kiprono Cheruiyot. One of them was Hall, who beat the previous course record by almost a minute and Khalid Khannouchi’s U.S. mark by 40 seconds.
Hall might not get the official American record, but he has his mind on next year.
“I’ll be back in Boston,” Hall said. “I just have to take another four minutes off my time and see if I can win.”