Tatyana McFadden laughed, seemingly in disbelief, when the moderator stated her winning Boston Marathon time of 2 hours, 4 minutes, 39 seconds.
Could it have really been that slow?
It was the slowest winning time in the women’s wheelchair division of the Boston Marathon in 30 years. It was significantly slower than McFadden’s best Boston time of 1:35:06 in 2014, one of the 28-year-old’s five victories on the course. Geoffrey Mutai ran a course-record 2:03:02 to win the men’s elite division in 2011 — 97 seconds faster on foot than McFadden finished Monday.
“I can’t believe we ran a two-hour in Boston,” McFadden said. “Boston’s usually a very fast course, but when it gets like this, you do what you can do.”
When McFadden said “like this,” she was referring to the nasty, biting weather that slowed the competitors. The wind and rain hardly ever let up, creating horrendous conditions and historically slow times.
Desiree Linden became the first American to win the women’s race in 33 years with a time of 2:39:54, the slowest winning time on the women’s side in 40 years.
Japanese runner Yuki Kawauchi blew past defending champion Geoffrey Kirui near Kenmore Square and finished in 2:15:58 — the slowest winning men’s time in 42 years.
Marcel Hug of Switzerland won the men’s wheelchair race for a fourth consecutive year, his time of 1:46:26 the slowest by a victor in 31 years.
That was the reality Monday as the weather greatly impacted how many layers runners wore, when they would shed them, and how uncomfortable they would get.
“I never got warm,” Hug said. “I don’t ever remember a slower time than today. I was just freezing and my body was shaking all the time. It was a difficult decision how much you wear, what you were wearing. But when you’re wet, your clothes are wet and you’re freezing anyways.”
Linden said she felt so horrible in the opening 6 miles that she considered dropping out, which is why she waited for fellow American Shalane Flanagan during a bathroom break.
“I turned back and I was in third or fourth, and thought, ‘I probably shouldn’t drop out,’ ” Linden said. “But you just forget about how you’re feeling.”
As Kirui slogged through the final mile, his white windbreaker was soaked flat against his body, doing little to help his aerodynamics.
“My legs were so stiff,” Kirui said.
Shadrack Biwott, who finished third in the men’s race, said he tried his best to relax, especially when fierce headwinds swept through the course.
“It was like, ‘Oh man, I better get up there because I don’t want to be in no-man’s land,’ ” Biwott said. “I was feeling good, not 100 percent. It was so windy I couldn’t see anything.”
McFadden said she warmed up wearing two jackets. By the time she approached the starting line, she had hand warmers on her chest and legs.
“I was trying to stay as warm as possible,” McFadden said. “I even put trash bags in between the layers of my clothes to keep the underlayer pretty dry. I could start to feel my arms getting pretty heavy with all the water sinking in.”
One of the more challenging aspects of the wheelchair races was keeping a good grip on the rims. Hug and Ernst Van Dyk, a 10-time winner who on Monday recorded his fourth straight runner-up finish, used sandpaper to help their grips. McFadden opted for klister, a sticky wax commonly used in skiing. Her problem was that the wet weather eventually wore down the wax.
McFadden finished fourth last year, a tough race following a trying year of battling blood clots in her legs. If not for the weather conditions Monday, McFadden would have been going far too fast to decipher the cheers.
“Somebody wished me happy birthday and I could hear it because I was only going 3 miles an hour up the hill,” said McFadden, who turns 29 Saturday. “I did get pretty emotional at the end because I did go through a lot last year.”