Boston Marathon preview: Edna Kiplagat chases her third victory

Boston Marathon preview: Edna Kiplagat chases her third victory

We are three days out from the 127th Boston Marathon, and the buzz around the elite press conference on Friday morning was how there was no outright favorite in the women’s race. The Boston Athletic Association has established one of the deepest women’s elite fields in history, containing world and Olympic medalists and previous Boston champions.

On Thursday, a special ceremony was held for Edna Kiplagat, who finished second at the 2021 Boston Marathon, but was awarded the title after Diana Kipyokei tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs and was given a six-year suspension. “It was a special moment for me,” says Kiplagat. “My husband was there to celebrate the achievement, and I did not think I would get this honor, after being awarded the 2021 title.”

Edna Kiplagat
Edna Kiplagat takes water from volunteers at the 2021 Falmouth Road Race. Photo: Kevin Morris

The third Monday in April is always a date circled on Kiplagat’s calendar.”I love coming back to Boston year after year,” she says. “The community and support are one of a kind.” On Monday, Kiplagat will look to add her third victory in five years and become the sixth female runner to win three Boston Marathons.

The course and weather

The Boston Marathon course looks like it should be fast, but it isn’t. You start out in the distant suburb of Hopkinton, 150 m above sea level, and cruise downhill for the first eight miles before heading back uphill to finish at sea level in downtown Boston. The course runs almost entirely from west to east, meaning the wind will either be with or against you, which adds variability to the results.

What’s the weather going to be like on Marathon Monday? Not the best. The forecast shows a high of 14 C and winds from the east of 22 km/h (ie, a headwind), plus an 80 per cent chance of precipitation.

the stars

With reigning boston champ Peres Jepchirchir running next week’s London Marathon, a new Boston women’s champion will be crowned in 2023. The women’s field is the deepest ever, with a record 16 sub-2:21 runners on the start list. One of the major storylines heading into the race is how two-time Olympic medallist Helen Obiri will fare in her second marathon (and first appearance at Boston). Obiri showcased her current fitness at the 2023 NYC Half Marathon in March, where she won in a course record time of 67:21.

Helen Obiri Boston
Helen Obiri at the 2022 TCS New York City Marathon. Photo: Kevin Morris

Obiri has had a lot of success on the track, winning multiple world and Olympic medals over 5,000m and 10,000m, but her transition to the last fall marathon fell short of her expectations, as she finished sixth in 2:25:49. “Leading up to the NYC Marathon, I only trained (with my new club) in Boulder for three weeks,” says Obiri. “I couldn’t change much.” Now for the Boston build, I’ve been able to train in one spot–I feel more confident.”

The 33-year-old was a late addition to the marathon after 2022 NYC champion Sharon Lokedi withdrew from the race in early March. “I’ve always wanted to be here,” says Obiri. “I am looking forward to Monday and excited to be featured in a strong field of ladies.”

The reigning world marathon champion, Ethiopia’s Gotytom Gebreslase, will also be another athlete making her Boston debut. At the 2022 World Championships in Eugene, Gebreslase went out fast and held on to win gold for Ethiopia in a championship record time of 2:18:11. In her past four marathons, Gebreslase has finished on the podium at each one, collecting wins in Eugene (2022) and Berlin (2021).

Ethiopia’s Gotytom Gebreslase won the women’s marathon at the 2022 World Athletics Championships. Photo: Kevin Morris

Gebreslase took three months’ rest after World Championships and told reporters at Friday’s elite press conference that she is feeling stronger than ever. “Boston is a big deal, and every athlete dreams of winning it,” she says. “I have watched and followed the race since I was young.”

Ethiopia also has the fastest runner in the field: 2022 Valencia champion Amane Beriso. Beriso shocked the running scene when she beat women’s half-marathon record holder, Letesenbet Gidey, at the Valencia Marathon by two minutes, in 2:14:58–the third fastest women’s time in history. Beriso isn’t coming to Boston with no experience; she previously ran the race in 2016, finishing 12th. She has the wheels and the experience; it will be interesting to see if she can combine the two to earn her first Abbott World Marathon Major title.

A few other athletes to watch are Kenya’s Mary Ngugiwho was third at Boston in 2022 (2:21:32) and 2021 (2:25:20), and world championship medalist and 2020 Tokyo champion Lonah Salpeter, who holds a personal best of 2:17:45 and who reached the podium in each of her previous three marathons. Salpeter is another athlete making her Boston debut: “I am in love with the city so far,” she laughs. “It feels like New York, but much quieter.”

Lonah Salpeter of Israel at the 2019 IAAF World Athletics Championships in Doha, Qatar. Photo: Kevin Morris

If you want a surprise sleeper pick, it’s Dutch national record holder Nienke Brinkman. Brinkman got into running as a trail runner, but didn’t start training properly until the pandemic. In three years, she’s lowered her marathon PB from 2:45 to 2:22 and has shown she’s not afraid of hills, with a second-place finish at the popular trail race, Sierre Zinal. In 2022, Brinkman won bronze in the marathon at the European Championships in Munich.

Who will win?

With 16 sub-2:21 women, the Boston course record of 2:19:59 from 2014 is certainly under threat, but the past five winners have finished in 2:21 or slower. Although this is Obiri’s first Boston and only her second marathon, she made a case for being a potential race favorite with her NYC half-win and course record, only a month ago.

If the race goes out fast, we are likely to see Obiri, Beriso or Kenya’s Joyciline Jepkosgei break through and take the win. If the race is more of a tactical affair, Salpeter, Kiplagat, Ngugi and Gebreslase are bound to be there. It’s hard to bet against the reigning world champion, especially when she is coming into the race rested, confident and has proven results.

Although we presumably won’t see any records in the men’s race due to the forecast, the women’s course record time of sub 2:20 isn’t out of reach, even if there’s a headwind.

canadian running pick: Gotytom Gebreslase (Ethiopia) – 2:19-mid

How to watch

The 2023 Boston Marathon will be broadcast on TSN 5 beginning at 8:30 am ET on Monday, April 17. The women’s open race will begin at 9:47 am ET and will likely conclude around noon ET

canadian running will be your home for the 127th Boston Marathon, with live-tweeting for April 15th’s BAA 5K and the Boston Marathon. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram for news and updates.

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