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.
“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.
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.
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 .
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.”
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.