Elite athletes return for 125th Boston

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    Attracting an elite field proved more challenging than usual this fall for major marathons. With spring marathons postponed until the fall, five Abbott World Marathon Majors are taking place within seven weeks, spreading the top talent between them. Boston will have no shortage of elite athletes, with 13 previous Boston Marathon champions, Olympians and Paralympians making up part of the reduced field at Monday’s running of the 125th Boston Marathon.

    In the women’s footrace, nine women with marathon personal bests faster than 2 hours, 22 minutes will compete, including Ethiopians Yebrgual Melese (2:19:36), Mare Dibaba (2:19:52) and Workenesh Edesa (2:20:24), and 2017 Boston champion and 2019 runner-up Edna Kiplagat of Kenya (2:19:50).

    Kiplagat leads a group of five women who finished in the top seven at Boston in 2019, including Des Linden, who won Boston in 2018, becoming the first U.S. woman to win the event since 1985. American Jordan Hasay has finished third at Boston twice and holds the second-fastest marathon time ever run by a U.S. woman. The 2015 Boston champ, Caroline Rotich, and Mary Ngugi, both of Kenya, return to Boston.

    Molly Huddle, a New York native who has trained in Providence since graduating from Notre Dame in 2006, also will race. The two-time Olympian holds the U.S. record for 10 miles and the course record for the BAA 5K.

    The men’s race may resemble a dual meet up front, with a trio of Kenyans, Wilson Chebet, Felix Kandie and Paul Lonyangata, vs. three Ethiopians, Lemi Berhanu, Dejene Debela and Asefa Mengstu. The three Kenyans previously finished in the top five at Boston, while Berhanu won in 2015. The other two Ethiopians make their Boston debut but have finished second and third at Chicago.

    Eight of the top 12 finishers from the U.S. Olympic Trials marathon also will compete in Boston, led by 2021 Olympian Abdi Abdirahman and Scott Fauble, the top American at the 2019 Boston Marathon (seventh overall).

    Of local note, Wachusett Regional High School and Syracuse University graduate Colin Bennie makes his Boston debut. Bennie ran his first marathon in 2020 at the U.S. Olympic Trials, where he finished seventh, and ran 2:09:38 in his second attempt at the distance last December.

    The women’s wheelchair race likely will turn into a battle between Boston course record-holder Manuela Schär of Switzerland and five-time Boston champion Tatiana McFadden of the United States. They took first and second at the Berlin Marathon on Sept. 26. Also a contender, U.S. Paralympian Susannah Scaroni has competed multiple times at Boston, finishing as runner-up in 2018.

    Young American Daniel Romanchuk won the men’s wheelchair 2019 Boston Marathon and joins veteran Boston Marathon champions Marcel Hug (Switzerland), Ernst van Dyk (South Africa) and Josh Cassidy (Canada) as past champions in this year’s field — van Dyk has won 10 Boston titles.

    Also running Boston but not contending for the win is Marblehead native Shalane Flanagan. An Olympic medalist, 2:21:14 marathoner and New York City Marathon champion, she has retired from professional running but decided to run the six World Marathon Major events that were scheduled to take place within seven weeks this fall. She hopes to clock under 3 hours in each. After her decision, the Tokyo Marathon announced its postponement until the spring, so she will run her own virtual “Tokyo Marathon” at her home in Portland, Oregon, on the originally scheduled date. She completed the first of the six on Sept. 26 at the Berlin Marathon, running 2:38:32. She will run in London and then Chicago before Boston, which may be the most daunting of all since it will take place the day after she races in Chicago. After Boston, she’ll run her virtual Tokyo Marathon before completing the task at the New York City Marathon, where she won in 2017, 40 years after the race had last seen an American woman win.