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LetsRun.com's Preview Of The Women's Race At The 113th Boston Marathon
It's been a long time since Lisa Weidenbach crossed the finish line first in Boston way back in 1985. Can 30-year-old Kara Goucher - who ran 2:25:53 in her debut in New York - pull off the victory?
There certainly has a been a lot of talk on the LRC messageboards about the quality or lack thereof of the Boston women's field. The talk escalated after 4-time Boston champion Catherine Ndereba was quoted as saying, "I talked with Boston, I wanted to run there, but they said they didn't have space for me." However, before we get into breaking down the Boston field, we'll start with one simple statement. If Kara Goucher wins in Boston on Monday, Americans should rejoice. It certainly would be a huge accomplishment, way more difficult to accomplish than the one Weidenbach accomplished back in 1985 when she ran 2:34:06 and 2nd place was 2:42:15. The Boston field has seven runners with faster personal bests than Goucher and she certainly wouldn't be the betting favorite if bets were being taken on it in overseas (we've only found odds on the men's races).
That being said, Boston's field is nowhere close to London's in quality. Consider that the women's world record in the marathon is Paula Radcliffe's 2:15:25. That comes out to 5:09+ per mile pace. In Boston, there is only one women that has run a marathon in the field within 20 seconds per mile of that - 5:29 pace gets you a 2:24:09. For the sake of comparison, in London this year, there are 8 women with PBs at 2:21:34 or better, including three sub-2:20 runners. Last year's New York race had five women with PBs at 2:21 or better. This year's Boston has just three women with PBs under 2:25.00 - Bezunesh Bekele (2:23:09), Salina Kosgei (2:23:22) and Dire Tune (2:24:40). Considering Kara Goucher ran 2:25:53 on the difficult New York course in her debut (and realize that Paula Radcliffe has never run faster than 2:23:09 in New York ), she certainly is in the mix for the win based on PBs alone.
Let's now break down the field. The BAA lists eleven women in the elite field, but we've eliminated three of them based on their PBs - Adanech Zekiros (2:27:32), Elva Dryer (2:31:48), and Shuru Deriba (2:28:26). We present the rest of the field to you now in order of their PBs.
1) Bezunesh Bekele (Ethiopia - 2:23:09). She has the best PB of anyone in the field. We hyped her up as our #2 pick in our Chicago Marathon preview last fall only to see her disappoint with a 7th-place showing. But her talent was on display once again in Dubai as she won there in January in 2:24:02.
2) Salina Kosgei (Keyna - 2:23:22). Kosgei was 10th in the Olympics last year and she can't be discounted as she is one of the few consistent sub-2:25 performers in the field. She ran 2:24 in 2004 before running 2:23 in both 2006 and 2007. However, we'd be a little surprised if she turned in her best performance on Patriot's Day as she may be overraced. Last year, she ran three marathons: London in April (4th), the Olympics in August (10th), and then Tokyo in November (5th). She then ran the RAK Half in February and hasn't raced since. Normally coming into her other marathons, she runs a prep race. However, this year she hasn't toed the line since February.
3) Dire Tune (Ethiopia - 2:24:40). She is the defending champion and we imagine if there is betting allowed on this overseas that she is listed as the betting favorite. She's only 23 and in the prime of her carrer and she's probably in good form as she was in amazing shape earlier in the year when she ran a stellar 67:18 (new Ethiopian record) to win the richest half marathon in the world - the RAK Half Marathon on February 20th. On March 1st, she ran 31:55 for 3rd at the World's Best 10k in Puerto Rico.
4) Helena Kiprop (Kenya - 2:25:01). The 32-year-old is a solid runner who has run 2:25 in both Berlin last fall and Dubai this spring. But she's only won one of her 7 marathons and that was her first, which was a low-key 2:34 affair. As a result, we don't expect her to win here.
5) Lidiya Grigoryeva (Russia 2:25:10). The 35-year-old captured the Chicago Marathon last fall and was a winner in Boston in 2007. Based on those credentials, she certainly can't be discounted. However, the Chicago win was in only 2:27 as a lot of the runners were suffering post-Olympic fatigue. Considering she's 35 and raced a ton of marathons and given her PB is only 2:25:10, it's very hard to imagine her winning in Boston. Yet she's clearly a savvy racer and somehow has wins during her career in LA, Boston and Chicago.
6) Atsede Habtamu (Ethiopia - 2:25:17). Habatamu appears to be a real talent as she's only 21 years of age. She already sports a 68:29 half marathon PB from the 2007 IAAF World Champs, where she was 5th, and comes into Boston after a strong 2:25:17 2nd-place showing in Dubai in January in her debut.
7) Alice Timbilili (Kenya - 2:26:45). Timbili, who was 30 second arrears of Kara Goucher at the Lisbon Half last month, is an interesting entrant. A former teen prodigy (she won the 10k nationals in Kenya at 16), she was edged by Tirunesh Dibaba at the 2005 World Cross-Country Championships by .03 for the gold. She moved up to the marathon last year with mixed results (2:26:45 for 5th in Paris, 2:37:31 in Honolulu for 3rd). Eighth on the list in terms of PBs, we would certainly rank her as more likely to win than that.
We left American Kara Goucher off the list as obviously she is our focus. In terms of PBs at the marathon, she would only be #7 at 2:25:53. But that was in her debut and that was in New York. A 2:25:53 in New York is probably worth a 2:23-high or 2:24-low in Berlin or London. So based on her equivalent PB, she has to be considered in the same league as anyone else in Boston this year.
Goucher is in pretty good form, as she won the Lisbon Half Marathon in 68:30 last month. Much has been said about that race and what happened at the end. But to us, it's irrelevant really what happened at the end or that she was pretty far off the world record. One doesn't necessarily want to be that sharp heading into a marathon. Timbilili may have gained on Goucher at the very end, but Goucher was way in front, so who knows how hard she was pushing. 68:30 is still very fast for a women's half.
Predicting a marathon is next to impossible. The odds would not have Goucher as the favorite. In our mind, the favorite has to be Tune. She's young (23), the defending champ and comes into Boston after running a 67:18 in February. However, if she focused too much on the $33,000 pay day at the RAK half and not Boston, then she could be in trouble.
Literally, any of eight women could win in our minds although we really think it's going to be one of our top five picks below. And that shows you that the field is no joke as the person we've labelled as the sixth most likely to win is a former World XC silver medallist and our 7th and 8th picks are two of the top four fastest in the field. We don't like the 2nd fastest in the field (Kosgei ), as she hasn't raced since February (although that might end up being a good thing) and #4 Kiprop never wins.
It certainly should be exciting.as it seems very wide open.
LRC Ranking Of Most Likely To Win (Note This isn't necessarily our predictions, it's just based on their body of work). We might make actual predictions closer to the race.
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