INDIANAPOLIS – As several of the top U.S. marathoners are putting the finishing touches on their preparations for the spring marathon season, one of the most anticipated races will be the 115th running of the B.A.A. Boston Marathon on Monday April 18.
The prime U.S. contenders in 2011 are Ryan Hall (Big Bear Lake, Calif.), who will compete in his first marathon since leaving his training group and becoming his own coach; and Kara Goucher (Portland, Ore.), who will run her first marathon since giving birth last fall. Hall finished third in Boston in 2009, running 2:09:40 and fourth last year in 2:08:41, while Goucher took third in 2009, running 2:32:25.
In addition to Goucher, the women’s field will see U.S. standouts Desiree Davila (Rochester Hills, Mich.), who ran 2:26:20 at last fall’s Bank of America Chicago Marathon, making her the top-ranked U.S. woman in 2010; and 2008 Olympic marathoner Blake Russell (Pacific Grove, Calif.).
The U.S. women will face a field that includes the defending champion, Tebya Erkesso of Ethiopia. Last year, Erkesso held off a late charge from Tatyana Pushkareva of Russia, who will once again join the field. Additional contenders for the 2011 Boston title include 2008 champion Dire Tune of Ethiopia; Kim Smith, the New Zealand national record holder at 2:25:21; and 2010 World Half Marathon champion Florence Kiplagat, who is making her debut at the marathon distance.
Goucher continues her comeback after having her first child, son Colton, last fall and has made great fitness improvements since her first race at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Half Marathon in January. After running 1:14:02 in Phoenix, Goucher took a shot at the USA Cross Country Championships, where she finished seventh in the women’s 8 km event. She then returned to the half marathon, running 1:09:03 in New York on March 20.
Even while Goucher’s fitness is trending up right now, Davila can’t be overlooked. Her 2:26:20 at Chicago last year came in hot, less-than-ideal conditions, and she finished just five seconds behind Goucher at the 2009 World Championships Marathon in Berlin.
Russell also could factor in. The only U.S. woman to finish the Olympic Marathon in Beijing, she hasn’t run a marathon since 2008 having become a mother in April, 2009. But Russell is going into Boston with similar momentum to Goucher and Davila, having just run the World Cross Country Championships, where she finished a respectable 19th in the women’s 8 km, helping score a team bronze medal for the U.S.
On the men’s side, Hall is the only U.S. man in the professional field and will be facing a formidable men’s lineup that features defending champion Robert Kiprono Cheruiyot of Kenya, who blazed a course record of 2:05:52 last year, as well as 2010 ING New York City Marathon champion Gebre Gebremariam of Ethiopia and Geoffrey Mutai, who boasts the fastest marathon in the field at 2:04:55.
Hall has had his share of ups and downs since his fourth-place at Boston last year (including his recent half marathon in New York, where he finished a distant 21st) but he is one of six men in the field to have run under 2:07 and must be considered a contender. Much has been made of his coaching change and his off-pace finishes in recent months, and Hall has not run a marathon since last year’s Boston Marathon. But history has shown that at the Boston Marathon, anything can happen.
An American marathoner in London
Traditionally one of the fastest marathons in the world, the 2011 Virgin London Marathon, held on April 17 this year, will once again feature a lightning-fast field that includes seven men who have run under 2:06 and 13 women who have run under 2:24.
Tsegaye Kebede of Ethiopia and Liliya Shobukhova of Russia will lead the respective men’s and women’s fields as they look to defend their 2010 titles. Americans will be watching 2008 Olympic Marathoner Magdalena Lewy Boulet (Oakland, Calif.), the lone U.S. entrant in the professional women’s field.
Like Russell in Boston, Boulet is coming off a solid performance at the World Cross Country Championships (18th) and will look to better her personal best of 2:26:22, posted at last year’s Rotterdam Marathon – which she ran after having finished 20th at the 2010 World Cross Country Championships.
The men’s field will see a trio of Americans making their debut at the marathon distance, led by 2011 USA Half Marathon and 15 km champion Mo Trafeh (Duarte, Calif.). Joining Trafeh will be 2010 half marathon and cross country runner-up Patrick Smyth (Mammoth Lakes, Calif.) and Stephan Shay (Oakland, Calif.), a member of the U.S. squad for the 2010 World Half Marathon Championships.
Jason Lehmkuhle (Minneapolis, Minn.) and Michael Aish (Arvada, Colo.) will be in the mix, looking to better their respective personal bests of 2:12:24 and 2:13:21.
Samuelson returns to Boston
It was announced Tuesday that 1984 Olympic Marathon gold medalist Joan Benoit Samuelson (Freeport, Maine) will return to run Boston for the first time since 1993.
At 53 years-old, Samuelson just missed the “B” qualifying standard of 2:46:00 for the Olympic Trials Marathon, running an astounding 2:47:50 to set an American 50+ record last fall at Chicago and still holds four of the top-ten all-time marathon performances for U.S. women.
running of the B.A.A. Boston Marathon will be streamed live on Monday April 18, at www.universalsports.com
USA Marathon lists online now