Boston Marathon: Men's Elite Race Preview | Athletes & Storylines To Watch
Who and what to watch for in the elite men's race at the 2022 Boston Marathon.
This is the CITIUS MAG Newsletter by Chris Chavez. If you’ve been forwarded this email or stumbled upon a link online, you can sign up and subscribe here:
The Boston hype is heating up as we get closer to the race! The famously-fickle April weather in Massachusetts could change on a dime, but right now the forecast is predicting a high in the mid-50s with a 5-10mph tailwind. These are the kinds of conditions marathon runners dream about.
And if you’re a fan planning on lining the course or tuning into the broadcast looking to know who to cheer for and who to bet on with their friends (since I don’t think you can bet on the Boston Marathon online), you came to the right place.
Today I’ll be previewing the top international contenders and top Americans in the men’s open race. You can read yesterday’s preview of the women’s race here.
For those wondering about CITIUS MAG plans in Boston, we will have a live recording of Dana Giordano’s More Than Running Podcast on Sunday with U.S. Olympian and Brooks sports marketing manager Julie Culley + a live alternate broadcast on the CITIUS MAG YouTube channel on Monday where you can mute your TV and listen + geek out with me, Dana, Kyle Merber and a few more guests.
You’ll be able to watch the races live as they will be televised on USA Network or you can stream it on Peacock, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app. The pro men will go off first at 9:37 before the pro women race at 9:45 a.m. ET.
Without further ado, here’s who to watch in Boston on the men’s side.
The men’s race lost a little bit of its spice when Kenenisa Bekele, the three-time Olympic champion on the track and the second-fastest marathoner of all time, withdrew from the race. But it’ll still be an interesting battle. The field is wide open for the win so I don’t think I can confidently dub someone the favorite.
Birhanu Legese, Ethiopia (Personal best: 2:02:48 from the 2019 Berlin Marathon)
Legese has the fastest personal best on paper and he’s the third-fastest marathoner in history but that doesn’t always translate to success on the Boston Marathon’s hilly course. He’s fared well at the World Majors with wins at the 2019 and 2020 Tokyo Marathon. He was second to Kenenisa Bekele at the 2019 Berlin Marathon. Last year, he only raced once, a fifth-place showing at the London Marathon in 2:06:10, demonstrating that while he’s speedy, he’s not unbeatable.
Sisay Lemma, Ethiopia (Personal best: 2:03:36 from the 2019 Berlin Marathon)
Lemma was third at the 2019 Berlin Marathon behind Bekele and Legese and has reached the podium in each World Marathon Major since that race. In 2020, he had a pair of third place finishes in Tokyo and London. Last year, he was selected to the Ethiopian Olympic team but was a DNF in Sapporo before rebounding with a 2:04:01 win in London. He’s experienced: at 31 years old, he has been running the marathon for a decade, but he’s a high-risk, high-reward bet. He’s looking to put a few rough Bostons behind him, with a DNF in 2017 and a 30th place finish in 2019.
Evans Chebet, Kenya (Personal best: 2:03:00 from the 2020 Valencia Marathon)
Lawrence Cherono, Kenya (Personal best: 2:03:04 from the 2020 Valencia Marathon)
I’m pairing these two guys together because in October 2020, they provided a thrilling finish to the Valencia Marathon where Chebet just out-kicked Cherono with 300 meters left in the race to become the then-sixth fastest marathoner in history. Cherono had to settle for then-seventh all-time. (They’ve since been bumped down a spot each after Titus Ekiru ran 2:02:57 last year in Milan). We get a rematch of that race!
Cherono has mixed results in sprint finishes:
– He won the 2019 Boston Marathon in a sprint against two-time champion Lelisa Desisa. (You can watch that race finish here.)
– He lost the 2020 Valencia Marathon to Chebet but got a big personal best from it.
– He lost out on the medals at the Tokyo Olympics and finished in the dreaded fourth place spot as Abdi Nageeye and Bashir Abdi worked together to pull away from him for silver and bronze.
Chebet DNFed Boston in the infamous 2018 weather when a good chunk of the pro field dropped out, but since then he’s done well in sub-major marathons, with three wins and a runner-up finish at Buenos Aires, Valencia, Lake Biwa, and Milan, respectively. He proved he can perform on the biggest stages, too, with a 4th-place finish in London in 2021, but he has yet to claim a victory in a World Marathon Major. Boston could be his time to shine.
Lemi Berhanu Hayle, Ethiopia (Personal best of 2:04:33 from the 2016 Dubai Marathon)
2021 was a redemption year for Berhanu. The 2016 Boston champion finished second in last year’s race in 2:10:37 after dropping out in both 2018 and 2019. He was only 21 years old when he won the 2016 edition of the race, but the last few years before Boston 2021 were pretty tough for Berhanu, who DNFed Valencia and Tokyo in 2020 and hadn’t finished a marathon since October 2019 before Boston. He’s shown flashes of greatness outside Boston, finishing 4th at the 2017 NYC Marathon and running 2:05:09 for second at the Toronto Waterfront Marathon in 2019, but history suggests he will either land on the podium or drop out of the race, and the odds are basically a coin flip either way.
Geoffrey Kamworor, Kenya (Personal best of 2:05:23 from the 2021 Valencia Marathon)
We could be in for a big one from Kamworor. He was hit by a motorcycle in June 2020 but made a full recovery with enough time to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics in the 10,000 meters. Everyone would’ve loved to have seen him contest the marathon given that he won the 2019 New York City Marathon and showed great promise before the pandemic struck. He scratched from the Tokyo Olympics due to an ankle injury but then returned to form, finishing fourth at the Valencia Marathon in 2:05:23.
He’s Eliud Kipchoge’s training partner and has always been seen as an heir apparent – except it seems that Kipchoge isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. A race like Boston – hilly and with no pacers – could suit the two-time world cross country champion as well as New York does.
“It is a dream for me to participate in Boston because the (hilly) course is like where we train in Kaptagat,” Kamworor said in a blog post by the NN Running team. “In fact, part of a 40km training route we use we call “Boston” because towards the end of the run it is hilly.”
Unlike his competitors, most of whom run 2-3 marathons a year every year, Kamworor still mixes up race surfaces and distances regularly and as such, doesn’t have a big marathon resume. He does, however, have the fastest half marathon personal best in the field, a 58:01 victory in Copenhagen in 2019 that was, at the time, the world record (it’s now #5 on the list!). If you’re looking beyond the personal bests for upside potential, Kamworor is your guy.
Benson Kipruto, Kenya (Personal best of 2:05:13 from the 2019 Toronto Marathon)
It took a while into this preview to discuss last year’s champion because he’s ranked No. 9 off personal best on the start list. This will be his third Boston Marathon. He’s the perfect example of a champion that doesn’t have an eye-popping personal best but could take the crown in the right race if the race ends up playing out more tactically. Were he to defend his title, he would become the 11th man to win back-to-back Bostons in the race’s 127-year history.
Geoffrey Kirui, Kenya (Personal best of 2:06:27 from the 2016 Amsterdam Marathon)
He won this race in 2017 and then followed it up by taking gold at that year’s World Championships in London. He has experience on the course (this will be his fifth Boston) but it’s been a tough past two years. He’s raced only sparingly with a DNF at the 2020 Valencia Marathon and then a 2:12:00 for 13th in Boston last year. He is just 29 years old though, and of his four Bostons to date, he’s gotten top 5 three times. His second-place finish in the 2018 rain was particularly impressive, but don’t assume he’s only a bad-weather racer – in 2017 he won in warm, sunny conditions.
Lelisa Desisa, Ethiopia (Personal best of 2:04:45 from the 2013 Dubai Marathon)
Respect to a two-time champion of this race. From 2013 to 2016, Desisa was atop the Ethiopian marathoning picture. I don’t think he’ll be a factor, but I’m just acknowledging him and his resume here so I don’t look foolish if he wins a third Boston title and I left him off the preview. His prime may be behind him, as he has not run faster than 2:10:40 since 2018.
Team USA vs. The World
Scott Fauble, USA (Personal best of 2:09:09 from the 2019 Boston Marathon)
We’re a bit biased here because Fauble is part of the CITIUS MAG family but we’re hoping he captures a bit of that 2019-2020 magic again. He made a big coaching switch by leaving NAZ Elite to move to Boulder, Colo., and work under coach Joe Bosshard. In an interview with the Coffee Club podcast, Fauble noted that Bosshard’s 9-day training cycle has allowed him to hit long runs harder than he ever has before. Team Boss has pretty good marathon credentials already, with Emma Bates landing on the Chicago Marathon podium in 2021, so if the magic formula works for Faubs, it could be a special day. Early in the year, he did notch a half marathon personal best of 61:11 at the Houston Half.
With the fresh juice that a new system injects, Fauble has a good shot at top American honors again. In three World Marathon Major appearances, he’s finished top 10 twice, plus a 4th place finish in the 2020 Marathon Project. If the race stays packed up early, don’t be surprised if Fauble pushes the hills like he did in 2019, where he led the race as late as 21 miles into the race.
Colin Bennie, USA (Personal best of 2:09:38 from the 2020 Marathon Project)
Bennie was the top American in Boston last year by finishing seventh overall in 2:11:26. He finished 2021 as the fourth-fastest American marathoner. He’s definitely deserving of more shine as one of the rising stars of U.S. marathoning. Going back-to-back as top American in Boston could do the trick, and wake more people up to how good he is. A Princeton, MA, native, he has home field advantage on his side as well.
Why isn’t Bennie a bigger name on the marathon scene? At just 26 years old, he’s certainly entered the game with a splash, finishing top 10 at the 2020 Olympic marathon trials in his debut(!), 3rd at Marathon Project in 2:09:38, and 7th at Boston 2021. That’s a resume that an elite American marathoner could spend a decade building, and he’s done it over three races in two years. It’s possible that he gets overshadowed by his teammate, Marty Hehir, who finished 6th at Trials and won Marathon Project, and in Boston, the TV broadcast focused on C.J. Albertson’s big move while almost completely ignoring the eventual top American. Eventually, he’ll get the credit he deserves, but until then, you can seem like the smartest person at your viewing party when you explain to your friends who the slept-on US favorite really is.
Jared Ward, USA (Personal best of 2:09:25 from the 2019 Boston Marathon)
Ward is a fan favorite as a 2016 Olympian and also for how he raced that 2019 Boston to join Fauble in silencing the critics over the lack of sub-2:10s by American men. He had a rough 2020 and then worked his way back to a 10th place finish at the New York City Marathon. He was also diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease, which is an autoimmune condition that causes an overactive thyroid. He’s been chronicling his treatment and running on Instagram to try and get back to his old self. His tune-up race at the NYC Half was unimpressive (a 63:19 15th-place finish) but Ward rarely crushes races in the middle of a buildup so I wouldn’t put too much stock into that result.
Ian Butler, USA (Personal best of 2:09:45 from the 2020 Marathon Project)
Mick Iacofano, USA (Personal best of 2:09:55 from the 2020 Marathon Project)
They both showed lots of promise in the epic time trial that was The Marathon Project. Can they replicate it at a World Major?
Butler ran the 2021 Chicago Marathon, finishing 17th in 2:20:01 after one of the strangest road-racing moves you will ever see, turning around and running backward on the course to join the chase pack around 5km into the race. He tuned up for Boston at the U.S. 15K championships, finishing in just 20th, but he was bullish on his prospects on Instagram, saying he was “absolutely giddy” for his first Boston experience.
Iacofano has had an up-and-down marathon career, winning the 2017 Jacksonville Marathon in his debut and notching a 2:13:47 at the 2018 California International Marathon, but injuries have derailed several other marathon buildups in recent years, including the 2020 Olympic Trials. In short, if he can get to the starting line in one piece, he’ll probably run well. His 2:09:55 at the Marathon Project was a huge breakout race after almost retiring from the sport, but injuries prevented him from racing in 2021. He’s had a relatively healthy buildup this time around, so if he can put the pieces together on race day, he should be in the mix for top American.
CJ Albertson, USA (Personal best of 2:11:18 from the 2020 Marathon Project)
Albertson did his best last year when he took out the Boston Marathon and led for about 21 miles. He ended up finishing 2:11:44 for 10th place. Before that race, Albertson was primarily known for his impressive training antics on Strava, which showcases exploits like 30-mile treadmill runs, and holding the indoor world record for the marathon.
On the CITIUS MAG Podcast this week, he explains why he recently went out and won the Modesto Marathon in 2:12:08 with three weeks to go until the race – Oh! The catch is that he veered off-course for a bit and split 2:10:28 for 26.2 according to his watch. He’s ready to mess with the field again in 2022.
Jake Riley, USA (Personal best of 2:10:02 from the 2020 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials)
Riley was one of the best stories coming out of the U.S. Olympic Trials. He was top American at the 2019 Chicago Marathon and proved that it was no fluke with a runner-up finish at the Olympic Trials. Riley went on to finish 29th at the Tokyo Olympics. He didn’t have a great day at the USATF 15K Championships on March 5 (35th place) so hopefully, he’s turned things around for Boston. He did a course preview shortly after that.
Elkanah Kibet (Personal best of 2:11:15 from the 2021 NYC Marathon)
Kibet doesn’t have the flashiest personal best of the Americans, but he does have the highest finish at a Major – notching his personal best of 2:11:15 in a fourth-place finish in New York last fall. The 38-year-old Kibet is a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army, serving as a technician since 2013 as part of the Army’s World Class Athlete Program. Kibet crushed his marathon debut way back in 2015, finishing 7th in 2:11:31 at the Chicago Marathon (the pre-super shoes era), and he’s twice represented the U.S. at the 2017 and 2019 World Championships, where he finished 15th in the marathon in London. He’ll be representing Team USA in Eugene as well this summer in his third Worlds appearance. He’d largely flown under the radar before New York, however, but he did finish 11th at Boston in 2019 and 8th in 2018, so he’s proven his mettle on this course. Don’t count him out of top-10 or top American contention, particularly if the race is slow early.
The depth of the U.S. men’s field is such that I couldn’t even fit two top-10 finishers from Chicago, Nico Montañez (2:13:55 PB) and Reed Fischer (2:14:41 PB), a top-10 Trials finisher (Jonas Hampton, 2:12:10 PB), and a guy who ran 2:10 in his debut (Jerrell Mock, 2:10:37 PB) in this preview. Any of these guys could easily pop off and land in the top-10/top American mix, but it’s entirely possible that multiple American men could have a huge day and still be beaten out by their compatriots. It’ll make for fun race-tracking!
That’s it from me today. As always, thank you for reading! If you enjoyed this, learned something new, or have any questions or commentary on anything featured in this issue, feel free to hit my inbox by replying or writing to firstname.lastname@example.org