BOSTON – The 121st running of the Boston Marathon will take place on Monday, April 17, and the Boston Athletic Association has provided spectators with yet another strong women’s elite field.
This year’s field boasts three women that have run under 2:20, including past champions Atsede Baysa and Buzunesh Deba. After the withdrawal of Marblehead, Mass., native Shalane Flanagan due to a back injury, there is just one member of the 2016 U.S. Olympic squad in the field, Desiree Linden.
Linden has a very good chance of winning the marathon, which is something that has not happened in decades.
Let’s take a moment to examine the men’s elite field for Monday’s race.
Who is the favorite this year?
Kenya’s Gladys Cherono is one of the best marathoners in the world and she’s only run two in her career. She clocked a 2:20:03 in her debut at the 2015 Dubai Marathon and lowered her personal best to 2:19:25 at the 2015 Berlin Marathon. She didn’t run a marathon in 2016 but set a personal best of 66:07 in the half-marathon, which is the same event that she won a world championship gold medal in 2014. At 33 years old, she’s in her prime and boasts the fastest personal best in the field. She now just faces the challenge of an unpaced and hilly Boston course.
Who won last year?
Ethiopia’s Baysa will attempt to defend her title on Monday just one day after turning 30 years old. She won last year’s race in 2:29:19 and then took sixth at the 2016 Chicago Marathon in the fall. Repeating in Boston is no easy task with loaded fields every year. Kenya’s Catherine Ndereba, who won four Boston titles in her career, was the last woman to do so in 2004 and ‘05. Baysa hasn’t raced in 2017 so there is no telling what shape she may be in. Weather conditions look to be similar to last year and so she has experience on her side.
Who are some dark horses to watch?
Edna Kiplagat has been a staple on the World Marathon Majors Scene and is one of the most accomplished marathoners. She may be in the regression phase of her career but any woman with a 2:19:50 personal best should garner some attention. Ethiopia’s Buzunesh Deba has also run under 2:20 (2:19:59) but has struggled mightily with injuries in recent years and may not be a factor on Monday.
Kenya’s Joyce Chepkirui may be one of the only other international stars with a chance of winning. She’s won smaller marathons, such as Honolulu and Amsterdam, which shows she’s given attention to 26.2 miles and improvement could come from her 10th place showing in Boston from 2015. She was fourth at last November’s New York City Marathon but has not raced since. If the pace is slow, Chepkirui can hang and rely on her half marathon speed (66:18 personal best) to close hard.
So there’s a chance an American woman can win?
Absolutely. The international field is certainly strong but maybe not as deep as past years and U.S. Olympian Desiree Linden enters this race very vocal about winning. She was close in 2011 when she took second place just two seconds behind the champion. Her coach told SI that after he saw Linden finish seventh at last August’s warm Olympic marathon in Rio, he expected her next marathon to be her best one yet. Linden led the 2015 race for about 20 miles and has been working on her closing speed. She’s also stronger as she ran 130 miles for three to four weeks.
No American woman has won Boston in 32 years. No American woman has won a marathon major since 2006. Linden has a very good chance to make history.
How about the youngster Jordan Hasay?
Jordan Hasay has been one of America’s distance running darlings since she competed in the 1,500 meter final at 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials as a high school junior. She was a high school cross-country national champion and then went on to have a successful career at the University of Oregon. She’s now a professional runner with the Nike Oregon Project and thriving in her transition to the roads. Hasay ran 67:55 at the Prague Half Marathon earlier this month to become just the third American woman under 68-minutes for 13.1 miles. Any good half marathon excites running junkies for marathoning prospects. It would be bold to say Hasay wins the Boston Marathon in her first run at the 26.2-mile distance. She may someday be a successful marathoner for the U.S. but she will likely take a few lessons from her first one and could finish within the top 10 or maybe even top five on a really good day.
How can I watch?
The Boston Marathon will be broadcast live on NBC Sports Network and online with NBC Sports Live at 8:30 a.m. ET. I will be on-site in Boston providing live updates on Twitter.