The fastest marathoner to ever enter the Boston Marathon will lead the men’s professional field that was announced Thursday morning.
Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia, whose 2:01:41 time in the 2019 Berlin Marathon is the second-fastest in marathon history, will run the 126th Boston Marathon April 18 for the first time.
“I recognize the tradition of the Boston Marathon, the world’s most historic marathon, and look forward to racing in April,” Bekele told the Boston Athletic Association. “For many years Ethiopia has had a strong tradition in Boston, and I am excited to join that legacy. I have long looked forward to racing the Boston Marathon.”
Joining Bekele will be last October’s champion, Kenya’s Benson Kipruto, plus five other past winners: Lawrence Cherono (2019), Yuki Kawauchi (2018), Geoffrey Kirui (2017), Lemi Berhanu (2016), and Lelisa Desisa (2013, 2015). Berhanu finished second last year, just one second ahead of Ethiopia’s Jemal Yimer, who also will return.
Titus Ekiru, last year’s fastest marathoner with a 2:02:57 time, will run, plus Evans Chebet, 2020′s fastest (2:03:00), and Albert Korir, the defending New York City Marathon winner.
In all, 12 men with personal records under 2:06 will race on a course where a sub-2:06 time has not been achieved since 2011 when Geoffrey Mutai set a course record of 2:03:02.
“Being back in Boston as a champion is very exciting, but at the same time I feel the pressure and the responsibility to defend my title,” said Kipruto. “I really admire those athletes that managed to be multiple champions in big races. I really want to do my best to be one of them and I really hope to make my name among those Boston champions that people will remember for a long time.”
Colin Bennie, the top American finisher at seventh last year with a time of 2:11:26, will return for his second attempt at staying with a pack of runners with best times much faster than his own 2:09:38.
“It can be challenging at times to not quite be starstruck when you see these people who you’ve been seeing and hearing about for years and years and you finally realize that not only are you in the same race as them but you’re actually competing with them,” said Bennie, a Princeton native and Wachusett Regional High School graduate. “That’s a very, very cool and exciting opportunity to have and I welcome it.”
With Princeton a mere 40-something miles from the start line in Hopkinton, Bennie may have more fans along the course than other elite runners, which can’t hurt his chances.
“Even if you don’t know anybody in the crowd, everyone is still so supportive, it’s just an incredible experience to have either way,” said Bennie, 26. “The hollering and cheering that was going on just generally for the running was so strong and empowering that I don’t think you need people out there.
“But that being said, I do remember at least one when my high school track coach was screaming at me right at the top of one of the hills in Newton.”
Matt McDonald, 28, who finished 20th last year, is a postdoctoral associate in chemical engineering at MIT, which allows him to train as much as he’d like along the course.
“It’s thrilling that I’ll get to race the best marathon in the world on the streets that I run every day,” said McDonald, a member of the BAA High Performance team. “I don’t say that facetiously. Literally last October, September, and August last summer, I was running on Beacon, every single day, just up and down, trying to memorize the course.
“And the course in Newton is one of the best places to run in the winter. I’ll be there a lot, too. Yeah, the chance to be on the course as often as I am, it’s really a blessing.”
Switzerland’s Marcel Hug, last year’s professional wheelchair winner, will be looking for his sixth title in the last seven years. Daniel Romanchuk of the US and South Africa’s Ernst van Dyk, who finished in second and third place last year, also will return along with last year’s top 10 wheelchair finishers.
The Para Athletics Division will feature T46 world record-holder Michael Roeger of Australia, Chaz Davis (T12), and Marko Cheseto Lemtukei (T62).
The race will mark the return to a Patriots Day date for the first time in three years because ofthe COVID-19 pandemic.
Michael Silverman can be reached at email@example.com.