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2022 boston marathon

With the Boston Marathon back in April where it belongs, its fastest field has flocked here

Joyciline Jepkosgei, the reigning women's champion of the London Marathon, said, "I was hoping to run Boston when I started my career because it is an iconic race, the oldest race."Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

For the last two April holidays, the pockmarked roads from Hopkinton to Boston have been empty of the customary foot traffic. No high-stepping Kenyans, no blistered pilgrims. No clock to beat, no tape to break at Copley Square.

When 30,000 participants answer the gun Monday morning for the 126th Boston Marathon, it will have been 1,099 days since the world’s most renowned footrace was held on Patriots Day, the longest gap in the event’s history.

Because of the COVID pandemic, the 2020 race was scrubbed and held virtually in September, and last year’s was deferred until Columbus Day. So for thousands of runners, this race will be an emotional springtime homecoming.

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“Even just last night, flying in and seeing all the city lights, I was getting goose bumps,” said Molly Seidel, the Olympic bronze medalist who is making her Boston debut after finishing fourth in New York.

”It really means a lot having lived here for almost five years and coming out to the race every year to watch. Now to get to be in the field is pretty incredible.”

The thought of making her Boston debut gave Olympic bronze medalist Molly Seidel goose bumps.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

The restoration of the marathon to its customary date has created stacked fields in both elite races. Olympians such as Kenya’s Peres Jepchirchir, the women’s gold medalist, and former Boston men’s champion Lawrence Cherono, who finished fourth at the Games, who couldn’t have made the short turnaround last fall, are here.

“I am grateful and feel honored to be in Boston,” said Jepchirchir, who won New York in November. “It would be a great thing for me if I were to win.”

And since the London Marathon again has been deferred until autumn, Boston was able to lure both of its defending champions, Kenya’s Joyciline Jepkosgei and Ethiopia’s Sisay Lemma.

“I was hoping to run Boston when I started my career because it is an iconic race, the oldest race,” said Jepkosgei, who won New York in 2019. “So I am happy to be here.”

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Lemma has run here twice, with painful results; he DNFed in 2017 and was 30th in 2019. So he’s out for redemption.

“I want a good result,” Lemma said. “So I come for that now.”

The blue-ribbon additions have made for the fastest fields in race history, with four women who’ve gone under 2 hours and 20 minutes: Jepchirchir (2:17:16), Jepkosgei (2:17:43), Ethiopia’s Degitu Azimeraw (2:17:58), and Kenya’s Edna Kiplagat (2:19:50).

“This year the field is so strong and so competitive,” said Kiplagat, who won here in 2017 and was runner-up in the last two races. “I am expecting the race to be fast but I am happy that my preparation was good. So I am ready for the challenge.”

The men’s field features five men who’ve run under 2:04: Ethiopia’s Birhanu Legese (2:02:48), the third-fastest ever, Kenya’s Evans Chebet (2:03:00), Cherono (2:03:04), Lemma (2:03:06), and Ethiopia’s Kinde Atanaw (2:03:51).

Defending men's champ Benson Kiprut signed a shoe during Friday morning's media session at the Fairmont Copley.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

All that speed doesn’t faze Kenya’s Benson Kipruto, who busted a dozen rivals on the Brookline flats last year to win by 46 seconds.

“When I come here, I don’t fear anyone, because my training was good and I believe in myself,” said Kipruto, whose personal best of 2:05:13 ranks ninth among the contenders. “Despite the strong field, I am OK.

What Kipruto has going for him that others don’t is intimate knowledge of Boston’s carnival ride of a course.

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Legese, the two-time Tokyo victor, has run all five of his majors on pancake layouts. Kenya’s Albert Korir, the reigning New York champ, is making his debut here.

So is his countryman Geoffrey Kamworor, the two-time New York titlist who has made half a dozen major podiums.

”It’s a dream come true for me to be at the start line of the Boston Marathon,” he said. “Something I have looked forward to.”

Kamworor, who has run in Berlin and Tokyo, knows Boston’s escalator of a track only by reputation. But there’s no substitute for going the distance in person.

“Experience here — it’s huge,” said Colin Bennie, the Princeton, Mass., native who was the top US male (seventh) in his Boston debut last year. “There’s a lot of really important knowledge that I’ve gained from it, a lot of good landmarks to recognize.”

Kipruto, who was roughed up by the course in his first look in 2019, knows everything about its topography that he needs to.

“I remember the course very well, and I know where to attack and where to relax,” he said. “And that could be an advantage for me.”

Nobody knows the course better than Seidel, who lived in the Fenway and regularly ran to the top of Heartbreak Hill and back for training.

“I very much appreciate the challenges of what this course is,” she said. “I think first-timers probably underestimate exactly what it is. I know full well how much Heartbreak Hill can kick your butt.”

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