Good news and bad for those preparing to run Monday’s 123rd Boston Marathon – forecasts predict the kind of heavy rain that characterised last year’s memorable racing but it won’t be so bitterly cold.
Given the way she drove through the elements and everyone else in the field, last time round, home runner Des Linden – who became the first American woman to win the race in 33 years in 2018 after changing her mind about dropping out midway through – is unlikely to mind the conditions.
Also back to defend a title will be last year’s equally unheralded men’s winner, Japan’s Yuki Kawauchi, who overtook Geoffrey Kirui of Kenya with a mile to go before winning in 2hr 15min 54sec – the slowest men’s winning time since 1976.
Linden, 35, is now back under the guidance of her old college coach, Walt Drenth. Going from Drenth to strength? Maybe. She finished sixth in last November’s New York City Marathon in 2:27.51.
Can Linden become the first woman to successfully defend a Boston title since Kenya’s Catherine Ndereba in 2005 – discounting the feat achieved in 2014 by Kenya’s Rita Jeptoo, who was stripped of her title for doping?
The fastest on paper in the women’s field is Ethiopia’s Worknesh Degefa, whose 2:17.41, the fourth fastest of all time, was achieved at the Dubai Marathon.
But the most obvious favourites in terms of experience are Kenya’s 39-year-old Edna Kiplagat, who won this title in 2017 and has a best of 2:19.50, and Ethiopia’s Mare Dibaba, the 2015 world champion who won bronze at the Rio 2016 Games.
Also worth watching will be Kenya’s US-based Betsy Saina, fifth in the Rio 2016 10,000m final, and home runner Jordan Hasay, who has a best of 2:20.57 – run at the Chicago Marathon in her debut season of 2017 – who missed last year’s race with a foot injury .
Boston was one of 12 marathons run last year by the amiable and mercurial Kawauchi, who has left his Government job to become a full-time professional.
This will be his fourth marathon of 2019, during which he has already clocked 2:09.21, close to his best of 2:08.14.
In normal circumstances – or conditions – there should be no way Kawauchi can live with Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia, winner of last November’s New York City title, who has a personal best of 2:04.45 and has won this title twice before, in 2013 and 2015.
Kirui only narrowly failed to defend his title last year and will be eager to retain his position on the podium.