It has been more than three decades since an American woman stood atop the podium and took home the coveted laurel wreath as Boston Marathon champion. Lisa Larsen Weidenbach (now Lisa Rainsberger) was the last American to be victorious, in 1985, and since then some have come close but have yet to get over the hump.
On Monday, in the 122nd running of the event, an elite core of American women has a chance to end the drought.
“I think that team mentality of raising the bar of excellence so you surround yourself with all these other talented, hard-working people just has permeated into the rest of the running community at the American elite level,” Shalane Flanagan said on Friday following the elite runners’ news conference at the Fairmont Copley Hotel.
“The standards are just getting higher and higher and so there is no room for complacency whatsoever now because I think everyone is racing to break these terrible records of 33 years with no American woman winning, and we all are wanting to be that person.”
Flanagan highlights this talented group. A native of Marblehead, Flanagan is a silver medalist in the 10,000 meters from the 2008 Beijing Olympics and won last year’s New York City Marathon victory in a time of 2 hours 26 minutes 53 seconds. Growing up amid the excitement of the race, Flanagan revels in the chance she has on Monday.
“I think it makes for a good story, right? First American woman in 33 years and [she] happens to be from the area, that is a good story line. I like that,” said Flanagan, whose personal best is 2:21:14 from Berlin in 2014. “But very difficult to do, and what’s great is we have what looks like four American women who have a legitimate shot, so it is kind of nice. The pressure is dispersed between the four of us to get it done, but it increases the chances of our odds.”
Some of the other American women looking to claim the title are Desiree Linden, who missed winning Boston by just two seconds in 2011; Deena Kastor, a London and Chicago champion and the national record-holder for the fastest women’s marathon (2:19:50, London, 2006); and Jordan Hasay, who finished third in her first marathon last year, and is coming off a Chicago title in 2017.
“I am just thrilled to be back here. It feels kind of surreal,” said Hasay. “It just an honor to train for this race, so after being here last year I just understand the significance of it and what it means to the city, and now what it means to me personally.”
Another American contender is Molly Huddle, a two-time Olympian and the national record-holder in the 10,000 meters, set at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. This will be Huddle’s first Boston, but she is no stranger to marathons, finishing third in New York in 2016 (2:28:13) weeks after getting back from Rio.
“I am really excited for [Monday]. I feel like the previous years have been kind of building up to it, and giving me a taste of what it was like,” said Huddle.
Still, for one of the US women to come out on top, they will need to dethrone defending champion Edna Kiplagat of Kenya. Kiplagat also has won marathons in London, New York, and Los Angeles.
After winning last year in 2:21:52, Kiplagat went on to take silver at the world championships and finish fourth in New York.
“[Last year] was a huge accomplishment,” said Kiplagat. “Winning it has given me a lot of motivation and has inspired me to even work harder because I know everybody is looking at me.”
Caroline Rotich and Gladys Chesir will also be representing Kenya on Monday, and Kellyn Taylor and Serena Burla are other American women to keep an eye on.Karl Capen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.