marathon notebook

Ethiopian trio among top marathon challengers

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 05: Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia crosses the finish line in third place for the Men's Professional Division during the TCS New York City Marathon in Central Park on November 5, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty images
Former Boston champion Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia, crossing the finish line in third place in New York, leads a strong contingent of Ethiopians at this year’s Boston Marathon.

The Ethiopian men are back in force for Monday’s marathon with former champions Lelisa Desisa and Lemi Berhanu Hayle joined by Tamirat Tola, whose personal best of 2 hours, 4 minutes, and 6 seconds established in Dubai in January is the field’s fastest.

After winning the laurel wreath three times in four years, the Ethiopians faded last year with eighth-place Dino Sefir their top finisher and Berhanu a DNF. With Desisa (2:04:45), who won in 2013 and 2015, and Berhanu (2:04:33), the 2016 victor, their trio has the top three times among the contenders.

The man of the moment is Tola, who won the Olympic bronze medal in the 10,000 meters at Rio and was second to Boston winner Geoffrey Kirui at last summer’s world championships in London.


Galen Rupp, again the top US male here, returns with some hard-earned wisdom from last year’s runner-up effort.

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“Experience is huge, especially at a unique course like this,” says the Olympic bronze medalist. “This is unlike any other marathon in the world.”

This time, Rupp plans to ease up on the throttle so that he’ll have enough gas for the Brookline flats, where Kirui busted him.

“Last year I think got a little anxious, I got excited going through the hills,” he says. “You always hear about the Newton hills and what a key part that is in the race. I gave it a little too much. That was a big lesson that I learned last year. You’ve got to make sure you save a little bit for those last 6 miles because that’s where the race is won and lost.”

Shalane Flanagan, who’s the best bet to terminate the 33-year drought since the last American woman (Lisa Larsen-Weidenbach) won here, ended a longer one last autumn when she prevailed in New York, where no countrywoman had won in 40 years.


“What happened in New York I think has allowed the Americans to say, ‘I’ve beaten Shalane, I’m just like Shalane,” she says. “If Shalane can do it, why can’t I do it? I think the Americans really have a lot of confidence going into this race.”

With Flanagan, Desiree Linden, Jordan Hasay, and Molly Huddle, the United States for the first time will have four women here who’ve all posted top three finishes in major marathons.

Good cause

After calling it a career in New York last year, Meb Keflezighi is back in Boston, this time as a charity runner with Team MR8, which hopes to raise $800,000 for the Martin Richard Foundation in memory of the 8-year-old Dorchester boy who lost his life in the 2013 bombings on Boylston Street.

“With all the situations we’re facing nowadays I couldn’t think of anything better for his legacy,” says Keflezighi .

Keflezighi, 13th in his Boston finale last April, has dialed down his training mileage and is planning on a 3:10 pace.


“I’m counting on my talent and my 120,000 miles to carry me through,” he says. “I hope to enjoy the journey of the Boston Marathon in honor of Martin’s name.”

Time capsule

Joan Benoit Samuelson, who shattered the world record here 35 years ago, says that she couldn’t see that 2:22:43 coming.

“I remember poring over the pace chart the night before and thinking a sub-2:25 would be very difficult,” she recalls. “I just totally had it that day.”

Samuelson had hoped to run this year with daughter Abby with a ‘360’ theme. “She’s 30, I’m 60,” she says. “For her to run her first sub-3:00 and me to go under 3:00 at 60 would have been a total 360.” After having a knee scoped after Thanksgiving, Samuelson wasn’t able to log the necessary mileage to go the distance but her daughter still will be taking the line with her husband.

“I’m very excited to watch Abby try to do her thing, especially in a field with such outstanding stellar American women,” Samuelson says. “It’s going to be a race to watch.”

Like old times

To celebrate the centennial of the military relay that replaced the customary race in 1918, 16 active and retired service people will re-enact the event Monday morning with eight two-person teams passing the baton along the route.

The group will represent the five service branches and all eight cities and towns along the course.

The original race, won by the Camp Devens Divisional Team running in their khaki uniforms and leggings, was the only time that the traditional 26-miler wasn’t held since its 1897 inception.

While desiring to honor the World War I combatants on Patriots Day, race organizers also realized that there likely wouldn’t be enough serious competitors to fill out the field. “Above all else there was the omnipresent horror that a ‘slacker’ might emerge the victor of the historic classic,” the Globe observed.