Road Runner and Ultrarunner CJ Albertson Led the 2021 Boston Marathon for 20 Miles

As they say in endurance running, anything can happen. Today, road runner and ultrarunner CJ Albertson finished 10th overall at the 2021 Boston Marathon in 2:11:44. With that time, the runner also notched second place among American bidders, and narrowly missed setting a new personal best for the distance.

But the real story here is about how the Fresno, California-based 28-year-old courted global attention by dominating the first 20 miles of this morning’s race. For three quarters of the 125th Boston Marathon, Albertson maintained a big lead over the competition.

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CJ Albertson runs with an enormous gap on the rest of the men just four minutes into the 2021 Boston Marathon. Image is a screenshot of the NBC Sports livestream courtesy of Billy Yang.

Albertson, a road runner and track and cross-country coach with a 2:11 marathon PR, first caught the attention of the ultrarunning world in 2020 when he set the then all-surface 50-kilometer world best of 2:42:30 on a track. That world best was since bettered in 2021 by Ethiopia’s Ketema Negasa to 2:42:07.

As the gun fired on the 125th edition of the Boston Marathon, the first time the race has taken place since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Albertson took the immediate lead. The ultrarunner split the first 5 kilometers in 14:29 or 4:40 minutes-per-mile pace and the first 10k in 29:32 or 4:51 per-mile pace, charging ahead of the field. By the half-marathon mark, he held a 2:13-minute lead over the rest of the field, passing through in 1:04:08. It was a brash effort, to be sure.

From the half-marathon mark to 20 miles, however, the chase pack gained on Albertson such that his lead shrunk to 23 seconds. By 21 miles in, Albertson was fully engulfed by the huge chase pack.

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The chase pack of men eventually caught CJ Albertson after the 20-mile mark of the 2021 Boston Marathon. Image is a screenshot of the NBC Sports livestream courtesy of Billy Yang.

In the end, it was an all East African podium, with Kenya’s Benson Kipruto charging hard after the 20-mile mark to dominate the field and win by 45 seconds in 2:09:51, with Lemi Berhanu and Jemal Yimer, both of Ethiopia, taking second and third with a one-second disparity between the two.

Albertson fought hard in those final miles to maintain a top-10 position. In that time, he was passed by fellow American Colin Bennie who would finish seventh and first American in 2:11:26. Ultimately, Albertson crossed the line in 10th and said in an interview at the finish, “Realistically, if I was 10th, that is good for me.”

This unique Boston Marathon Monday date of October 11 is also Albertson’s birthday. Now that was quite the way to celebrate a birthday.

Be sure to also read our in-depth interview with Albertson on his Boston performance.

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CJ Albertson of the United States crosses the finish line during the 125th Boston Marathon on October 11, 2021 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Getty Images)

Jilli Cluff

writes and edits for iRunFar and other outdoor-driven outlets. Those closest to her might say she's an avid climber, middling longboarder, and slow (but optimistic!) trail runner. Jilli is based out of Austin, Texas, where she takes up residence with her one-eared blue heeler, George. Follow her on Instagram.