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Boston Marathon preview: can Kipruto and Jepchirchir be beaten?

Canadian record holder Malindi Elmore, Natasha Wodak and Trevor Hofbauer are all set to make their Boston debut

Photo by: Kevin Morris

Well, it’s that time of year again. The world’s most prestigious marathon is back. After the marathon was pushed to the fall in 2021 due to the pandemic, the Boston magic is finally back to where it belongs on Patriots’ Day, April 18.

Boston Marathon Start/Twitter

The early race date has attracted many of the world’s top marathoners, to use this race as an opportunity to chase the standard for World Championships or Commonwealth Games later this summer. When the field was announced in January, it was undisputedly the fastest field in (modern) Boston Marathon history, featuring two of the five fastest men of all time–Ethiopia’s Kenenisa Bekele (2:01:41) and Kenya’s Titus Ekiru (2:02:57), and three sub-2:18 women–Peres Jepchirchir, Degitu Azimeraw and Joyciline Jepkosgei. Then Bekele and Ekiru dropped out and in came the third fastest man of all time, Berhanu Legese (2:02:48).

The weather on Monday calls for sun and periods of overcast with a high of 13 C and a low of 7 C with a two per cent chance of precipitation.

Let’s get into things.

The women’s race

This is 100 per cent the best women’s field ever assembled at Boston. You rarely get to see the best in the world go at it in a world major. Fans will be in for two-thirds of an Olympic buffet with the Olympic champion, Jepchirchir, and bronze medallist Molly Seidel both making their Boston debuts.

Nell Rojas, the top U.S. finsiher at Boston in 2021. Photo: Kevin Morris

Seidel has had an under-the-radar start to 2022, finishing eighth at the U.S. XC Champs and winning the Mesa Half Marathon in 1:10 in early February. She was poised to run the NYC United Half in mid-March but dropped out before the race to focus on her lead-up to Boston. Although the speed of the big three of Jepchirchir, Jepkosgei and Azimeraw might be out of her ballpark, the hilly Boston course could work to her advantage. Look for Seidel or the top American finisher from 2021, Nell Rojas, to lead the American contingent back to the Boston podium.

In her past two marathons, Jepchirchir has been world-class. At the Olympics, she stuck on Kosgei like glue, then surged to glory in the late stages. In New York City, she did the same, covering the last five kilometres almost an entire minute faster than her previous five. Not only is Jepchirchir extremely fast, but she is also tactically smart on the course, which is why she’ll be the heavy favourite going into Monday’s race. The only concern is that it’s her Boston debut, so she is not familiar with the course. If Jepchirchir can conserve her effort in the first half of the race, she’ll be the one to beat.

Peres Jepchirchir at the finish line of the World Athletics Half-Marathon Championships, which she won in a women’s-only world record of 1:05:16

Other contenders to keep your eyes on are Jepkosgei (2:17:43), Azimeraw (2:17:58), Ababel Yeshaneh (2:20:51) and 2017 champion Edna Kiplagat (who finished second in 2019 and 2021). Jepkosgei is the current 10K world record holder and has won her last two road races, collecting wins at the 2021 London Marathon and Berlin Half. She has the speed and potential to take down her compatriot Jepchirchir, but the slower course may challenge her in the middle stages. Azimeraw finished 15 seconds behind Jepkosgei at last year’s London Marathon for second and has run a personal best in her last two marathons. Viola Cheptoo and Yeshaneh are two other names to watch. They were second and third at the NYC Marathon last fall and both have the potential to find themselves on the podium Monday.

Molly Seidel, Natasha Wodak and Malindi Elmore at the 2022 Tokyo Olympics

Canada is represented by two of its best-ever marathoners, national record holder Malindi Elmore (2:24:50) and Natasha Wodak (2:26:19), who are both making their Boston Marathon debuts. Wodak has had two great performances to start the year, winning the Vancouver First Half ahead of Elmore and then finishing seventh overall at the hilly NYC Half, 20 seconds shy of her personal best. Canadian fans have plenty to be excited about Monday morning in Boston with the form that Wodak and Elmore are in.

The men’s race

The men’s field features six of the last six Boston champions, so the odds of a previous champion adding a second Boston title are high.

Photo credit: © Kevin Morris

The way Benson Kipruto won last year was pure class, and a sign of experience at Boston. In case you forgot, U.S. marathoner CJ Albertson led the 2021 race from the start to around 30 km, until the group of Kipruto, Lemi Berhanu and Geoffrey Kirui caught up to him with less than eight miles to go. Kipruto hopes to be the first runner to defend his title since his countryman Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot won three straight Boston Marathons between 2006 and 2008. Kipruto holds a personal best of 2:05:19, which he set when he won the 2018 Toronto Waterfront Marathon. It’s unlikely we’ll see a sub-2:05 time at Boston (unless the weather is perfect, which it may be), but Kipruto has the legs and experience to take him to back-to-back crowns.

Geoffrey Kamworor
Geoffrey Kamworor winning the 2019 NYC Marathon. Photo: Canadian Running

Kipruto’s biggest threats will be 2019 and 2020 Tokyo Marathon champion Birhanu Legese, Geoffrey Kamworor, Lawrence Cherono and Sisay Lemma. Legese ran the third-fastest marathon of all time in 2019 when he finished second to Bekele’s 2:01:41 in Berlin. Since then, he has only competed in three marathons, winning Tokyo (2020), finishing third in Valencia (2020) and fifth in London (2021). Legese has been known to perform well on flat and fast courses, but he might have his hands full dispersing his speed on the hillier Boston course.

After a DNF at the Tokyo Olympics, Ethiopia’s Lemma bounced back to win London in the fall (2:04:01). Lemma also has had two experiences he’d probably like to forget on the Boston course–a DNF in 2017 and a 30th place finish in 2019. Could it be the third time is the charm for Lemma?

Kamworor has had plenty of success at New York and Berlin but hasn’t yet run Boston. His experience winning three individual World Cross Country titles and two NYC marathons bode well for this course, which could make him a dark horse to upset the favourites on Monday.

Trevor Hofbauer
Canada’s Trevor Hofbauer. Photo: Matt Stetson

Canada’s second-fastest male marathoner, Trevor Hofbauer, returns to the 26-mile discipline after an injury-plagued run-up to the Tokyo Olympics. Hofbauer has had an up-and-down start to the season, running a half-marathon personal best at Vancouver’s First Half in early-February (1:03:39), following it up with a solo 1:08:21 performance at the Comox Valley RV Half Marathon in Comox Valley, B.C. in mid-March. When Hofbauer ran 2:09:51 at Toronto in 2019, it was a breakthrough performance and a nine-minute personal best. He will hope for a similar performance in Boston to secure a spot on Canada’s marathon team for the World Championships in July.

The 126th Boston Marathon returns to its traditional Patriots’ Day date of April 18. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram for all content leading up to the Boston Marathon. You can view full the updated elite start list here.

How to watch

Canada

Live coverage of the Boston Marathon will be streamed on TSN2 at 9:30 a.m. ET, with the men’s and women’s wheelchair races setting off at 9:02 and 9:05 a.m. ET. The elite men will begin at 9:37 a.m., followed by the women at 9:45 a.m. ET.

The U.S.

Live race coverage will be broadcasted on NBC Sports Network for cable subscribers from 7:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. ET. nd the NBC Sports App will broadcast and stream the race from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. E.T. The race will be onRunnerSpace, where you can sign up to follow all the action.