To celebrate the return of the Boston Marathon to Massachusetts’ Patriots Day for the first time since 2019, a loaded men’s and women’s elite field will head from Hopkinton to Copley Square on Monday.
COVID-19 forced the cancellation of the 2020 race and postponement from April 2021 to the fall of that year.
“It’s just stunning, and I’m not exaggerating,” veteran road racing/track and field analyst Larry Rawson, who will be working the international broadcast on Monday, said of the quality of the field. “The men’s field is talented and deep, with quality and many past champions.
“Without London competing head to head with all the money they have, the athletes had several options, but the best was Boston.”
No fewer than 11 men have personal-best marathons under 2 hours, 6 minutes, and seven of the last eight Boston champions are entered.
This is the 50th anniversary of the first official women’s field to run Boston, and there were eight finishers in that race, in 1972. This year, 10 women in the field have run under 2:23. More than 12,000 women are entered in this year’s field.
Headlining the women’s field are last summer’s Olympic gold and bronze medalists — champion Peres Jepchirchir of Kenya and third-place finisher Molly Seidel of the United States.
“Four of the top seven top ranked women in the world are here to face each other in Boston,” Rawson said.
Benson Kipruto and Diana Kipyokei, both of Kenya, were the men’s and women’s winners on Oct. 11, the first time the event was run in the fall.
It will be just 189 days between Boston Marathons but will be the first on Patriots Day in 1,099 days.
The field for the 126th running, which was reduced to 20,000 for October in part because of the pandemic, is back to around 30,000 for Monday’s race.
TOP AMERICANS: Des Linden, Molly Seidel, Colin Bennie are in field
The wheelchair divisions begin just after 9 a.m. EDT, with the men’s elite field starting at 9:37 and women’s elite at 9:45. The para athletics divisions start at 9:50, followed by the four waves of the rest of the field at 10.
Here’s a look at some standouts from the international field:
Berhanu has won six marathons in international competition, including Boston in 2016, and he was second in last year’s October event. In the January before his Boston victory, he was runner-up in Dubai but in a personal-best 2:04:33. He outlasted defending champ Lelisa Desisa at Boston in 2:12:45. Bernanu twice has placed second to Kipruto, at 2019 Toronto (2:05:09) and 2021 Boston (2:10:37). He finished fourth in the 2017 New York City Marathon (2:11:52).
Chebet will be looking for a much more rewarding experience this year in Boston, where he did not finish in his previous try in 2018. After that, he finished second in Milan and first in Buenos Aires in 2019, then posted the world’s best time in 2020 (2:03.00 at Valencia, Spain) after winning at Lake Biwa (2:07:29) that March. Chebet has placed in the top six in every marathon he has finished, including fourth at 2021 London (2:05:43).
Desisa’s 2013 victory in Boston was overshadowed by tragedy, and he returned his winner’s medal to the city to honor the victims of the bombing near the finish line. He won his second Boston two years later, in 2:09:17. Desisa, whose personal best is 2:04:45, has taken to the podium after eight World Marathon Majors, including two seconds at Boston, and two thirds, a second and a victory in New York City (2018). Also on his résumé are World Championship victories, in 2013 at Moscow and 2019 at Doha.
Kipruto put forth a timely surge in the 22nd mile toward winning last October in Boston, finishing in 2:09:51, his third career victory in the marathon. Earlier in the year, he prevailed in Prague (2:10:16). On Feb. 20, he finished second in the Guadalajara Half Marathon in 1:01:30, with his personal best at that distance 1:00:06 coming in 2020 in Praha, Czech Republic. He won the 2019 Toronto Marathon in a personal-best 2:05.13.
Legese, a two-time winner of the Tokyo Marathon, has run five marathons under 2:05, and he has the top personal best in this Boston field (2:02:48, 2019 Berlin). He doesn’t have a victory to show for his top three marathon times — second in Berlin, third in Valencia, Spain (2:03:16) and sixth in Dubai (2:04:15). His first Tokyo victory came under cold, rainy conditions. Legese currently carries a No. 2 world ranking to Boston, and once was top-ranked for 99 weeks.
Azimeraw is a runner to watch on the world scene, with considerable success already early in her career. At just age 20, she shattered the Amsterdam Marathon record in her first try at 26.2 miles in 2019, posting a 2:19:26, the second fastest debut for a woman at the distance. She withdrew within a week of the 2020 London Marathon after testing positive for COVID-19, but last year sizzled to second in London, in 2:17:58.
After progressing to a world-class half marathoner, Jepchirchir has ascended the next step while becoming a runner to beat in the World Marathon circuit. Jepchirchir, who won in a personal-best 2:17:16 at Valencia in 2020, enjoyed a remarkable 2021, winning Olympic gold in Sapporo (2:27:20) in August, then even bettering that time while winning the New York City Marathon (2:22:39) in November, becoming the first to win at the Olympics and NYC in the same year.
The first Kenyan to break six world records in six months, Jepkosgei is a past world record-holder in the half marathon, the first woman to break 65 minutes (1:04:51, Prague, 2017). She debuted in the marathon at New York in 2019, with a victory in 2:22:38, the second fastest on the course for women. Jepkosgei took nearly five minutes off that time while winning London last year, posting a personal-best 2:17:43.
She was born in the ‘70s, but Kiplagat showed she remains a force in World Marathon Majors last October by placing second in Boston for the second time. Her 2017 Boston victory is one of three in marathon majors, with six second-place finishes and one third. Kiplagat also won at the 2011 and 2013 World Championships and was second in 2017. Her best time is 2:19:50, but that was while finishing second in London 10 years ago.
She’s only run a marathon once, yet finished second to Nancy Jelagat in Valencia last December in 2:20:16. Woldu has established herself at distances between 10,000 meters and the half marathon. In 2018, she posted a personal-best 1:09:22 at the Istanbul Half Marathon, less than a month after posting 1:11:27 in Lisbon. That year, she also won a 10K in Washington. She tuned up with a personal-best 10K in late March, 33:00 in Ethiopia.