Six Key Storylines in the 2023 Boston Marathon
Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge, Ethiopia’s Amane Beriso are the pre-race favorites
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This article is part of Outside Run’s complete 2023 Boston Marathon race coverage.
Eliud Kipchoge is the overwhelming favorite to win the Boston Marathon on Monday morning. And with good reason.
He’s broken the world record for the marathon twice since 2018, lowering it to the current mark of 2:01:09 last fall in Berlin. He’s also the only person ever to break the two-hour mark for 26.2 miles, famously running 1:59:40 in an exhibition race in Vienna, in 2019.
He’s 38 but he’s still the best marathoner in the world. He’s won 15 of the 17 marathons he’s raced since his debut in 2013, including the last two Olympics. But this is his first time running the Boston Marathon, which is known for its challenging hills, a deep field of challengers (without pacemakers), and unpredictable racing tactics.
However, Kipchoge isn’t the G.O.A.T. just because he runs fast. He respects his competition and the challenging course, but his dedication, preparation, and perspective seem to be on another level.
“I have prepared for Boston for five months, and my seconds, my minutes, my hours, my days, my weeks, my months I have put into it is what will push me to the finish line,” he said in a pre-race press conference. “Life is about pushing. There is no comfort zone as far as life is concerned. I’ve treated running as a profession and as a career. I’ve tried to live with the right values, discipline, focus, and concentration. That’s why I’m still up there.”
The races kick off on April 17 with a 9:37 A.M. E.T. start for the pro men, 9:47 A.M. start for the pro women, and a 10 A.M. E.T. start for the open race. (Wheelchair pros begin just after 9 A.M.)
Evans Chebet and Benson Kipruto, Kenyan training partners, are two of the world’s best marathoners after Kipchoge.
“Eliud is an incredible athlete and it’s an honor to go up against him. But I don’t shy away from competition; I embrace the challenge,” Chebet says. “Competing against runners like Eliud pushes me to be even faster.”
Chebet, 34, won Boston (2:06:51) and New York City (2:08:41) last year, while Kipruto, 32, won Boston in 2021 and Chicago in 2022. Whether the top runners threaten the course record of 2:03:02 (set by Kenyan Geoffrey Mutai in 2011) or it becomes a tactical race that unfolds after the Newton Hills remains to be seen. But it’s certainly shaping up to be one of the most compelling marathons in history.
“You have to approach Boston in a different way than other marathons,” Chebet adds. “It starts with five miles of mostly downhill, which is heavy on the quads, and you have to resist the temptation of going too fast. For the next 10 miles, it’s mostly flat and downhill, so that’s where you can really lock into your rhythm. Then the Newton Hills begin at the 16-mile mark, followed by Heartbreak Hill at mile 20. The plan for Boston this time is not to have a plan. Boston always has a competitive field, and without pacemakers anything can happen, so you have to be ready to respond or adjust your race at any given time.”
Also in the men’s elite field are Tanzania’s Gabriel Geay (2:03:00), Ethiopia’s Herpasa Negasa (2:03:40), Lelisa Desisa (2:04:45), and Shura Kitata (2:04:49). The men’s field includes 15 runners with personal bests of 2:06:48 or faster.
A Very Deep Women’s Elite Field
The women’s field is also exceptionally strong, with nine women who have run faster than 2:20 and 16 who have run faster than 2:23. Leading the way is Ethiopian Amane Beriso, who ran a 2:14:58 personal best—the third-fastest time in history—at the Valencia Marathon in December. Ethiopia’s Gotytom Gebreslase, the 2022 world champion (2:18:11), Israel’s Lonah Chemtai Salpeter, who was the 2020 Tokyo Marathon champion (2:17:45) and the runner-up in New York City last fall (2:23:30), and Kenya’s Hellen Obiri, a two-time world champion in the 5,000-meter run on the track who placed sixth (2:25:49) in her debut marathon in New York City last fall. Also in the mix are former champions Edna Kiplagat of Kenya (2017, 2021), Atsede Baysa of Ethiopia (2016), and Desi Linden (2018) of the U.S.
The Boston Marathon course record is 2:19:59, set by set Ethiopia’s Buzunesh Deba in 2014.
“The race has changed, racing has changed, marathoning has changed, and the quality of the fields has just gotten so much better. What’s capable on this course has been totally flipped upside down,” Linden says. “I think this year, you can just feel the energy. You feel like there’s something magical about to happen. The last time I had this vibe in this experience was 2011, and it was just epic. And I just, I get the vibe that something epic’s gonna happen on Monday.”
First-place men and women in the open division this year will win a prize of $150,000. Second-place will receive $75,000, and the third-place prize is $40,000.
Men’s Race: Top U.S. Contenders
At least on paper, the contingent of U.S. runners in the men’s field might be the best group of American men ever to toe the line in Boston.
It’s been a very rare occasion for the U.S. to have five men entered in the race. Leading the way is Conner Mantz, who ran a 2:08:16 in his debut marathon in Chicago last fall—the fastest debut time of an American-born runner—while Scott Fauble (2:08:52), Matt McDonald (2:09:49), Nico Montanez (2:09:55), Mick Iacofano (2:09:55), and CJ Albertson (2:10:23) all return to Boston after strong efforts last year. Nathan Martin (2:11:05), Colin Mickow (2:11:22), Wilkerson Given (2:11:44), Turner Wiley (2:11:59), Jonas Hampton (2:12:10), and Ben True (2:12:53) add to a very strong field of American men.
“I feel like I’m in a good spot, both physically and mentally, and sort of emotionally. I’m just excited. I want the race to come,” says Fauble, who set his new PR while placing seventh in Boston last year and in 2019 (2:09:09). “Training went well and I have run well here in the past. This is a special race not just to me, but to everyone who’s here. People train their whole life to get a Boston qualifier. And I feel like I’m doing a better job of soaking in the fact that this is a really special opportunity for anybody.”
Women’s Race: Top U.S. Contenders
The top U.S. runners in the women’s field—Linden (2:22:38 PR, 2018 Boston Marathon champion), Sara Hall (2:20:32 PR, 5th, 2022 world championships), and Emma Bates (2:23:18, 2nd, 2021 Chicago Marathon)—are part of what could be called the greatest generation of American women in the marathon.
Over the past decade, those runners have raised the bar for competitive marathon running in the U.S. with podium finishes, fast times, and global medals. Also in that all-time group are Shalane Flanagan (2:21:14 PR, 2017 New York City marathon champion, 6th 2016 Olympics), Amy Cragg (2:21:42 PR, bronze medal at the 2017 world championships), Molly Seidel (2:24:42 PR, bronze medal, 2020 Olympics), Keira D’Amato (2:19:12 PR, former American record), Emily Sisson (2:18:29 American record, 2nd 2022 Chicago Marathon), Aliphine Tuliamuk (2:26:18 PR, 2020 U.S. Olympic Trials champion), and Kara Goucher (2:24:52 PR, 3rd, 2008 New York City Marathon, 3rd, 2009 Boston Marathon).
“Those women are the reasons why I started running the marathon. Watching Deena (Kastor) and Des and Kara really paved the way for somebody like me and to be among those women,” says Bates, who placed seventh at last summer’s world championships in Eugene, Oregon. “So to be in that company is something that I just have to look back and smile. I have to realize during the race that this is a really special time to be here.”
Other top American women in this year’s race include Dakotah Lindwurm (2:25:01 PR), Laura Thweatt (2:25:38), Nell Rojas (2:25:57), Annie Frisbie (2:26:18), Sara Vaughn (2:26:23), Maggie Montoya (2:28:07), and Maegan Krifchin (2:29:12).
A Race To Remember
There are numerous victims of the 2013 terrorist bombings who are competing in this year’s Boston Marathon, 10 years after that horrific day in which three people were killed and more than 260 were injured. Henry Richard, who lost his younger brother in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, will lead a team of 50 runners in the 127th running of the historic race. This will be the second time running the marathon for the 19-year-old college student, but members of his Martin Richard Foundation team will include friends and classmates of his brother, who became eligible to run Boston for the first time after turning 18.
Henry Richard was 10 years old when his brother, Martin Richard, age eight, was killed in the bombing. Like Henry, Martin and his friends from Dorchester had always talked about running the marathon as soon as they turned 18.
Their younger sister, Jane, lost her left leg in the attack. In a heartfelt post on Instagram on Saturday, the 10th anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings, Jane Richard, now 17, wrote a solemn tribute to the brother she says she misses every day.
“Ten years ago today my best friend died,” she wrote. “Growing up with Martin was the best thing that could’ve happened to me. Although I only spent seven short years with him, the impact he left on me was immense.
“He was kind, and loving, and smiled his way through every inconvenience. Unlike most older siblings, he was the kind of brother that would dance and sing, and put up with any of my antics. We played street hockey and swam at the lake. Simply put, he was the kind of kid you wanted to be around. He was honest, and witty, and sarcastic, and kind, and I am so sad that I couldn’t watch him grow into an incredible man I know he would be.”
Numerous celebrities have run the Boston Marathon through the years, including Will Ferrell, who clocked a 3:56 PR 20 years ago in the 2003 race. This year’s crop of celebrities includes retired tennis star Monica Rakitt (nee Puig), renowned Swiss chef Daniel Humm, retired hockey star Zdeno Chára, who helped the Boston Bruins win the Stanley Cup in 2011, and former Boston College and NFL quarterback Doug Flutie. Chára is running his first marathon for Thomas E. Smith Foundation and the Hoyt Foundation, which work towards inclusivity for people with disabilities, while Flutie is running his fifth marathon to raise money for the Doug Flutie Foundation, an organization that helps people affected by autism.
There are several Boston Red Sox connections to this year’s Boston Marathon. Hall of Famer and 2013 World Series MVP David Ortiz will serve as grand marshal for the race, leading the way from Hopkinton to Boston in a car on race morning, while former all-star pitcher Ryan Dempster is running the marathon for the Lingzi Lu Foundation, in honor of the Chinese graduate student who was killed in the 2013 terrorist bombings, and World Series champions Mike Myers (Angel Fund) and Brock Holt (Jimmy Fund) are also running for charities. Also, Kourtney Turner, the wife of Red Sox third baseman Justin Turner, is running the marathon for the Red Sox Foundation.