The world’s greatest men’s marathoner finally will take on the world’s most renowned road race next April. Eliud Kipchoge, the two-time Olympic champion and global record-holder, will run in Boston on Patriots Day, checking off a critical box on his quest to conquer all six of the planet’s major 26-milers.
The 38-year-old Kenyan has won the London and Berlin marathons four times each and Tokyo and Chicago once apiece.
“Boston is in my bucket list,” he has said repeatedly. So is New York, which traditionally completes the season in November.
“I am fighting for Six Stars,” Kipchoge said, “and the only way to get the Six Star medal is to run in Boston.”
With his competitive career winding down, Kipchoge has a clear incentive to run both races next year before the 2024 Olympics in Paris, where he plans to chase an unprecedented third gold medal.
“That is very important to me,” he said this year. “Because I am running to make history.”
Kipchoge will be coming off an extraordinary year even by his elevated standards. In Tokyo in March, he broke the course record in 2 hours, 2 minutes, and 40 seconds, the fourth-fastest time in history. Then in Berlin in September, he obliterated his own world record by 30 seconds in 2:01:09.
His goal in Boston, which Kipchoge will be visiting for the first time, will to be to lower the course record of 2:03:02, then the unofficial world standard, set by countryman Geoffrey Mutai in 2011.
“It is very fast, but I try my best,” he said. “I will put all my mind here, try to push myself to see what will happen.”
Kipchoge, who has won 15 of his 17 attempts at the distance, will be presented with a unique challenge in Boston: an unpaced race on a rolling layout.
“I can say I know nothing about the course,” said Kipchoge, who won’t practice on it but will tour it by car. “I believe what I am hearing as stories, and the stories go like this: that Boston is hard and tough. After the first 30 kilometers, it starts to build up-down, up-down. I will see the real Boston next year.”
For Kipchoge, who is accustomed to flat courses that could double as speedways, prepping for the Newton hills will require a training adjustment.
“The place where I am training is up and down, so I think there is no disadvantage, but we need to put more effort now,” Kipchoge said. “I trust that my normal training can cover many things. I will sit with my coach at the table and see what is necessary. I need to tell my muscles, ‘Hey, next marathon I am going will be a hilly place.’ ”
The Patriots Day start also will require a change in Kipchoge’s competitive routine.
“Boston is unique, it is early on Monday,” he observed. “I have been running all the marathons on Sunday.”
Italy’s Gelindo Bordin, who won in 1990, is the only Olympic men’s champion to prevail here. Among those who’ve come to grief are Abebe Bikila, Mamo Wolde, and Frank Shorter.
Yet Kenyans have enjoyed exceptional success in Boston over the past three decades, winning two dozen titles, including the last three.
This year, Evans Chebet headed a procession of his countrymen, who claimed five of the top six places.
In Kipchoge’s homeland, winning Boston can make a career. In his case, a victory would burnish one.
“I think I will be known more, not in Kenya alone but across the world,” Kipchoge said. “Boston is a rich city as far as sport is concerned, especially the marathon. It is the oldest marathon. It is the DNA of nearly all the marathons. So it is good to win Boston and naturally put my name in every mind of an American.”
The Boston Athletic Association also announced other elite runners who have committed to the 2023 race, scheduled for April 17. Joining the men’s field will be defending champion Chebet, 2021 winner Benson Kipruto, and two-time victor Lelisa Desisa (2013 and 2015). The women’s elite field will include World Athletics marathon champion Gotytom Gebreslase as well as three past champs — Des Linden (2018), Edna Kiplagat (2017), and Atsede Baysa (2016).
“The BAA is bringing the world’s best to Boston to compete on the renowned 26.2 miles from Hopkinton to Boston,” said Mary Kate Shea, the BAA’s director of professional athletes. “World record holder and Olympic champion Eliud Kipchoge, world champion Gotytom Gebreslase and six Boston Marathon winners will challenge themselves, each other, and a deep field of accomplished athletes on our sport’s famed stage.”
John Powers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.