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Sally Kipyego spices up stellar Boston cast

Kenya’s Edna Kiplagat and Geoffrey Kirui, reigning New York Marathon champion Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia are among notable names set to light up the Boston Marathon in April.

Ane more addition to the US field is 2012 Olympic 10,000m silver medallist Sally Kipyego, who will be running her first marathon as an American.

Race for 2020 US Olympic team

Race for top American honours and the battle for 2020 US Olympic team just got more interesting with the addition of Sally Kipyego.

When John Hancock announced the 2019 US elite field for Boston last month, we noted that there is currently a “Studly Six” in US marathoning, Amy Cragg, Jordan Hasay, Molly Huddle, Shalane Flanagan, Des Linden, and Sally Kipyego (who has never before run for the US).

At the time, only two of those women (Hasay and Linden) were entered in Boston, but the updated field released on Thursday included Kipyego’s name, which spices things up quite a bit.

Kipyego, 33, became a US citizen in January 2017 but has only raced once since. She took 2017 off to have a baby, giving birth to daughter Emma in July 2017, but her return to training took longer than anticipated and she did not race again until June 2018, where she was just 10th at the BAA 10K in 34:32.

Kipyego was slated to run the New York Marathon last fall, but was forced to withdraw a month before the race, citing malaria and pneumonia.

But Kipyego remains a monster talent, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see her on the plane to Tokyo with Team USA in 2020.

At Texas Tech, she became the only woman to win three NCAA Cross-Country titles, and after turning pro, she put together a track career more successful than any of her US contemporaries: Personal Records of 14:30 (four seconds faster than the American record) and 30:26 (only Flanagan and Huddle have run faster among Americans) for 5k and 10k on the track, and a pair of global 10k silvers at the 2011 Worlds and 2012 Olympics.

She’s also run 68:31 in the half marathon, and in her only career marathon finish she was second in New York Marathon in 2016, one spot ahead of Huddle.

The question, of course, is whether Kipyego can return to that form after a long layoff. We will learn a lot about her over the next three months, and that begins next weekend in Houston, where Kipyego is entered in the half marathon. Should Kipyego run well there, there will be a lot of hype for Boston.

Fast people in elite men

In 2019, Boston will have more sub-2:07 and sub-2:08 performers than it did in 2018 or 2017. And that makes sense. With Galen Rupp, who commands a large appearance fee, out with injury, Boston had more money to spend on others and they have brought in three more 2:06 guys and two more 2:07 guys than in 2018.

All together, Boston will have 15 sub-2:08 men on the start line in 2019 (though, as with any marathon, one or two will likely scratch before the race), the most of any World Marathon Major since we started compiling the stat in 2017.

Does that mean Boston is going to be the best major of 2019? No it does not. London has a firm grip on the “toughest marathon to win”. If you look at the 2018 top 10 world rankings for the men’s marathon, the 2019 Boston field includes none of the top five. Boston does have four of the top 10, however in Lelisa Desisa (sixth), Kenneth Kipkemoi (seventh), Sisay Lemma (eighth), and ninth-placed Lawrence Cherono.

One more thing about the incredible depth of the field: it virtually guarantees defending champion Yuki Kawauchi has zero chance of repeating. It also kills off Dathan Ritzenhein’s slim chances of glory.

In the year 2019, the only way an experienced marathoner with a 2:08 or 2:07 personal best like Kawauchi and Ritz can win a major is if they run a good race and the other, better runners in the field do not. However, with so many elites in the race, the odds of them all having a bad day is next to zero.

Of the 16 elites, who has the best chance? We will narrow it down to six. Our four world ranked guys from 2018, plus 2017 champion Kirui and Solomon Deksisa of Ethiopia. Last year, Deksisa picked up wins in Mumbai (2:09:34) and Hamburg (2:06:34) before running 2:04:40 for third in Amsterdam

Deeper women’s field

On paper, the 2019 women’s field is even tougher than what was a fairly strong 2018 field. But as last year’s race showed, these races aren’t run on paper. Some athletes withdraw before the race, and some who make it to the line are not 100 per cent. And of course there is the fickle Boston weather, which last year knocked out over half the elite women’s field (though a repeat of those disastrous conditions is extremely unlikely).

Since the start of 2013, all 39 World Marathon Majors have been won by a woman with a Personal Record (PR) of 2:24 or faster. Since there is no one in the Boston field with a PR of 2:24 or 2:25, that gives us 12 “potential winners”, though we should probably bump that number up to 14 considering Kipyego has two global medals on the track and a World Marathon Majors runner-up finish in New York while 66:29 half marathoner Mary Wacera (a two-time medalist at the World Half championships) is making her debut.

Fourteen potential winners sounds like a terrific field, but the problem is that several of those women haven’t done much lately.

Kipchoge in Boston some day?

After Eliud Kipchoge broke the world record in Berlin last year, we debated what his next step would be in 2019.

He’s already won London and Berlin three times each, plus he has an Olympic gold and the world record.  With his status as the Greatest Of All Time (GOAT) secured, it would be fun to see Kipchoge on some unfamiliar courses. Could he catch a tailwind in Boston and challenge Geoffrey Mutai‘s legendary 2:03:02 course record?

How would Kipchoge handle New York? One cool thing for Kipchoge to accomplish would be to win all six World Marathon Majors. He’s already claimed wins in London, Berlin and Chicago, which means he has Tokyo, Boston, and New York still to go.

If he were to do that, it would make sense to run Boston this year and Tokyo next year (giving him a nice break between Tokyo and the Olympics in August).

New York is the tricky one, as its early-November date means it’s fairly close to Tokyo (late February/early March) and the Olympics (August), but he could probably squeeze it in in either 2019 or 2020.

However, as you can see from the field announcement, barring a last-minute entry, Kipchoge will not be running Boston in 2019, which means that he will almost certainly be returning to London as it offers the biggest appearance fees and many of its top stars sign multi-year deals.

However, we hope that, before his career is done, the greatest marathoner of all time gets a chance to run the historic Boston course.                              -LETSRUN

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