2015 Boston Marathon International Women’s Preview

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By LetsRun.com
April 16, 2015

After appetizers last weekend in cities such as Paris, Rotterdam, Vienna and Milan, it’s time for the main course of the spring marathon season. A fabulous week of marathoning kicks off Monday in Hopkinton with the 119th running of the Boston Marathon and finishes Sunday at Buckingham Palace with the 35th Virgin Money London Marathon. Both races should be fantastic.

Yesterday, we previewed the American men’s field (read our international men’s preview here). Now, it’s the women’s turn. We break down the international women’s field below and take a look at the top American women in a separate article. At 14 women (including Americans), the elite field isn’t huge, but there’s still plenty of quality. 2014 Chicago champion Mare Dibaba (she inherited the title that drug cheat Rita Jeptoo initially stole) and Buzunesh Deba (who you could argue is the rightful 2014 Boston champ considering she finished second to Jeptoo) both boast PRs under 2:20 and they’re joined by two-time Berlin champion Aberu Kebede and six other women who have broken 2:23 (including 2012 champ Sharon Cherop and 2011 champ Caroline Kilel). The main details for Boston are listed below, followed by a comprehensive breakdown of the international women’s field.

What: 119th Boston Marathon

When: Monday, April 20, 2015. Elite women start at 9:32 a.m. ET; elite men start at 10:00 a.m. ET.

Where: Hopkinton to Boston, Massachusetts

How to watchLive on Universal Sports Network or UniversalSports.com starting at 8:30 a.m ET. Those who don’t subscribe to Universal Sports can also watch live online at watchlive.baa.org. In Boston, WBZ4 will provide local coverage. Universal Sports will also have an hour-long preview show on Sunday at 4 p.m. ET.

Prize money (amount is the same for men’s and women’s races)

1st: $150,000                           6th: $12,000                       11th: $2,600
2nd: $75,000                           7th: $9,000                         12th: $2,100
3rd: $40,000                           8th: $7,400                         13th: $1,800
4th: $25,000                           9th: $5,700                          14th: $1,700
5th: $15,000                           10th: $4,200                        15th: $1,500

Abbott World Marathon Majors

Boston is one of six Abbott World Marathon Majors events (Tokyo, Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago, New York). AWMM changed its scoring system earlier this year (previously, champions were crowned over a two-year cycle; now the cycle is one year plus one race). Currently we are in AWMM Series IX, with the standings as follows after one race (Tokyo):

1. Birhane Dibaba, 25 points
2. Helah Kiprop, 16 points
3. Tiki Gelana, 9 points
4. Selly Chepyego, 4 points
5. Flomena Daniel, 1 point

At the end of the series (which concludes at the 2016 Tokyo Marathon), the athlete with the most points wins the $500,000 grand prize. Scoring is 25 points for a win, 16 for 2nd, 9 for 3rd, 4 for 4th and 1 for 5th.

Full women’s elite field

Name PB Nation Comment
Mare Dibaba 2:19:52 (Xiamen, 2015) ETH 3rd last year; won Chicago in ’14 & Xiamen in ’14 + ’15
Buzunesh Deba 2:19:59 (Boston, 2014) ETH 2-time NYC runner-up was 2nd behind Jeptoo in Boston in ’14
Aberu Kebede 2:20:30 (Berlin, 2012) ETH 2-time Berlin champ won Frankfurt in Oct; 5th in Dubai in Jan. (2:21:17)
Shure Demise Ware 2:20:59 (Dubai, 2015) ETH 19-year-old was 5th in marathon debut in Dubai in Jan.
Shalane Flanagan 2:21:14 (Berlin, 2014) USA PR’d twice in ’14, including 2:22:02 for 7th in Boston
Aleksandra Duliba 2:21:29 (Boston, 2014) BLR 6th last year; 8th in Dubai in Jan. (2:23:06)
Sharon Cherop 2:22:28 (Berlin, 2013) KEN ’12 champ has finished 8th, 3rd, 1st and 3rd here over past 4 years
Caroline Kilel 2:22:34 (Frankfurt, 2013) KEN ’11 champ was just 17th last year but rebounded with 2nds at Commonwealths + Shanghai
Desiree Davila Linden 2:22:38 (Boston, 2011) USA ’11 runner-up was 10th last year, then 5th in NYC
Caroline Rotich 2:23:22 (Chicago, 2012) KEN 4th in Tokyo and Yokohama last year
Lisa Stublic Nemec 2:25:44 (Zurich, 2013) CRO Columbia grad was 4th at European Champs last year, then 2nd in Honolulu
Amy (Hastings) Cragg 2:27:03 (Chicago, 2014) USA Tied PR with 4th-place finish in Chicago last fall
Adriana Nelson 2:28:52 (London, 2008) USA 15th last year
Joyce Chepkirui 2:30:23 (Honolulu, 2014) KEN Commonwealth/African champ at 10k won Honolulu Marathon in Dec.

The Favorite

Mare Dibaba — Ethiopia, 25 years old, 2:19:52 pb (2012 Dubai/2015 Xiamen), 67:13 half
Last two marathons:
1st, 2015 Xiamen (2:19:52); 1st, 2014 Chicago (2:25:37)

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Dibaba en route to a third-place finish in Boston last year

Could 2015 be the Year of Dibaba? It’s certainly looking that way after Birhane Dibaba won the Tokyo Marathon in February just three days after Genzebe Dibaba broke the world indoor record for 5,000 meters. Though Genzebe’s sister Tirunesh will not be racing this year, another Dibaba — Mare — is ready to step in and take her place (Mare and Birhane are not related to each other or Genzebe/Tirunesh). Mare Dibaba enters Boston with the fastest pb (2:19:52) and three wins in her last four marathons — Xiamen in January 2014, Chicago in October 2014 (after Rita Jeptoo’s victory was nullified) and Xiamen again in January of this year. Her only marathon defeat during that span came on this course last year, when she finished third in 2:20:35 (second if you take out Jeptoo, whose 2014 Boston victory remains on the books for the time being), a time which broke the old course record.

There’s really nothing to dislike about Dibaba. She’s run fast and has won recently (accomplishing both by tying her PR in Xiamen on January 3). She’s run well in Boston before. Even if you’re not a fan of women doubling back from a winter marathon, Dibaba has shown that she can handle it. Xiamen was over 15 weeks ago and she won that race last year before finishing third in Boston. There are several other fast women in this field, so we can’t say she’s a lock for the win — or even that her odds are better than 50-50. But if she runs well, she’ll finish in the top three and will have a great shot at the victory.

Two Dangerous Women

Buzunesh Deba — Ethiopia, 27 years old, 2:19:59 pb (2014 Boston), 68:59 half
Last two marathons: 9th, 2014 New York (2:31:40); 2nd, 2014 Boston (2:19:59)

The rightful Boston champ? Drug cheat Rita Jeptoo was the only woman to beat Deba last year.

The rightful Boston champ? Drug cheat Rita Jeptoo was the only woman to beat Deba last year.

Deba has proven to be a fearsome competitor on the tough American courses in New York and Boston, finishing as the runner-up in NYC in ’11 and ’13 before recording her most impressive performance in Boston last year, a 2:19:59 runner-up finish that was 44 seconds better than the old course record. Officially, Deba was second last year, but if  Rita Jeptoo, who was busted for drugs just five months after Boston last year, loses her 2014 Boston crown, then Deba will be the 2014 Boston champ and the first sub 2:20 performer in the history of the Boston marathon.

Deba’s record since Boston hasn’t been great. She was only seventh at the Freihofer’s Run for Women 5K last May (16:05) and 5th at the New York Mini 10K (32:20) in June, and though neither of those results are particularly alarming for a marathoner, her 9th-place finish at the NYC Marathon in November was disappointing for a woman who placed second in her previous two NYC appearances. More distressingly, she wound up a DNF at last month’s NYC Half, her only race since the NYC Marathon last year.

A few bad races doesn’t mean Deba can’t win on Monday, but it’s enough to strip her of favorite status even though she’s the top returner and has run 36 seconds faster on Boston than anyone outside of Jeptoo. Still, if 9th at New York is your worst recent marathon, you’re doing something right. Check out Deba’s marathon record since 2010:

Date Location Time Place
2/21/2010 Jacksonville 2:33:08 1st
6/19/2010 Duluth (Grandma’s) 2:31:36 1st
10/3/2010 St. Paul (Twin Cities) 2:27:23 1st
11/7/2010 New York 2:29:55 9th
12/5/2010 Sacramento (CIM) 2:32:13 1st
3/20/2011 Los Angeles 2:26:34 1st
6/5/2011 San Diego (Rock ‘n’ Roll) 2:23:31 1st
11/6/2011 New York 2:23:19 2nd
1/13/2013 Houston 2:24:26 2nd
11/3/2013 New York 2:25:26 2nd
4/21/2014 Boston 2:19:59 2nd
11/2/2014 New York 2:31:49 9th

The first thing that should happen when you see those results is that your mind should explode into a million pieces after realizing that in a 12-month span from June 2010 to June 2011, Deba PR’d four times and won five marathons, going from a 2:32:17 marathoner to 2:23:31. After you scoop the goo off the floor and reassemble the broken shards of your cerebral cortex, you should then realize that Deba almost always runs well in her marathons and that on her worst day, she’s still capable of finishing top-10 in a tough major such as New York. The DNF at the NYC Half is concerning and we’ll ask her about it at the pro press conference Friday, but Deba’s track record earns her tremendous credibility. Discount her at your own risk.

Aberu Kebede — 25 years old, 2:20:30 pb (2012 Berlin), 67:39 half
Last two marathons: 
5th, 2015 Dubai (2:21:17); 1st, 2014 Frankfurt (2:22:21)

Kebede has won big marathons in the past (Berlin in 2010 & 2012; Tokyo in 2013), though a win in Boston would qualify as the biggest of her career. She enters in good form, having won Frankfurt in 2:22:21 last fall by 1:23 over Sharon Cherop (who has three top-three finishes in the last four years in Boston). She ran another marathon in Dubai on January 23, running 2:21:17 to finish fifth against a deep field.

Realistically, if Dibaba falters, Kebede might be the favorite. She’s won majors before (something Deba has yet to achieve) and has the third-fastest pb in the field. The one concern is that she’s never run Boston before and her record in unrabbitted races isn’t superb as she was only 12th at Worlds in 2011 and 13th in 2013.

Plenty of Potential

Joyce Chepkirui — Kenya, 26 years, 2:30:23 pb (2014 Honolulu), 66:18 half
Last two marathons:
1st, 2014 Honolulu (2:30:23); 15th, 2013 London (2:35:54)
Tuneup race: 68:42 for 2nd at NYC Half on March 15

Shure Demise Ware — Ethiopia, 19 years old, 2:20:59 pb (2015 Dubai), 68:53 half
Last marathon:
4th, 2015 Dubai (2:20:59)

Joyce Chekpirui wins 2014  Sportisimo Prague Half Marathon. Photo by Photorun.net

Chepkirui set her half marathon pb of 66:18 in Prague in 2014

Chepkirui, one of the world’s top 10K/half-marathon runners, projects as a fantastic marathoner. Her 66:18 half marathon pb puts her fifth on the all-time list (record-eligible courses), and of the four women in front of her, three have achieved great success over 26.2 miles — Florence KiplagatMary Keitany and Priscah Jeptoo. She’s also part of a strong bloodline as her cousin is marathon ace Geoffrey Mutai, a winner in Boston in 2011.

Chepkirui is coming off a strong 2014 in which she won a total of six races, including 10,000 gold medals on the track at the Commonwealth Games and African Championships. She finished the year off with a victory at the Honolulu Marathon, and don’t be fooled by the 2:30:23 winning time — Honolulu is a slow course. 2:30:23 was actually the fastest winning time since 2009, and the course record is only 2:27:19. Even Wilson Kipsang could only manage a 2:12:31 when he won the race in 2012 (and that came in a year when he ran 2:04:44 to win London and took bronze at the Olympics).

So Chepkirui has great track/road credentials (she’s also run 30:37 for 10k on the roads) and has already won a marathon on a tough course. She has all the tools to be a great marathoner. Plus, she’s fit, running 68:42 at the NYC Half on March 15. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see her win on Monday.

Ware, who turned 19 in January, is more of an unknown quantity, but if her debut marathon is anything to go by — a world junior record of 2:20:59 for 4th in Dubai in January — her future in the event is very bright. Only one American has broken 2:21 in history (Deena Kastor); Ware has done it as the equivalent of a freshman in college (assuming her age is accurate). She’s in a similar position right now to where 2014 Dubai men’s champ Tsegaye Mekonnen was last year as she’s attempting a spring marathon after setting a world junior record in Dubai. Mekonnen’s second marathon didn’t go as quite as well, though he was still a respectable 5th in London in 2:08:06. Top 5 in Boston would be a good result for Ware.

Former Champs

Sharon Cherop — Kenya, 31 years old, 2:22:28 pb (2013 Berlin), 67:08 half
Last two marathons:
2nd, 2014 Frankfurt (2:23:44); 8th, 2014 Boston (2:23:00)
Tuneup race: 69:13 for 3rd at Rome-Ostia Half Marathon on March 1

Caroline Kilel — Kenya, 34 years old, 2:22:34 pb (2013 Frankfurt), 68:16 half
Last two marathons: 2nd, 2014 Shanghai (2:25:22); 2nd, 2014 Commonwealth Games (2:27:10)

Look solely at their resumes, and it’s easy to confuse Cherop and Kilel. Let’s count the similarities.

  • Both are former Boston Marathon champions (Kilel in 2011; Cherop in 2012)
  • Both ran their pbs — separated by just six seconds — at a German fall marathon in 2013
  • Both followed up that pb with a disappointing effort in Boston last year (Cherop ran a solid 2:23:00 but was only 8th; Kilel was 17th in 2:32:04)
  • Both bounced back from Boston in their next marathon. Cherop was second in Frankfurt in 2:23:44, while Kilel took silver at the Commonwealth Games and was second in Shanghai in November

As the last fact suggests, Cherop and Kilel ended 2014 on a good note and should run in the top group in Boston (Cherop also ran a solid 69:13 half marathon March 1). Cherop, in particular, has a history of running very well in Boston. She was 3rd in 2011, 1st in 2012, 3rd in 2013 and ran 2:23:00 last year, a time that would have won Boston in all but four years. By pb, Cherop and Kilel are only 7th and 8th, but they should contend thanks to their experience.

Best of the Rest

  • Belarus’ Aleksandra Duliba ran a PR to finish 6th last year (2:21:29). She was 8th at the Dubai Marathon on January 23 (2:23:06).
  • 30-year-old Caroline Rotich of Kenya was 4th in Tokyo (2:24:35) and Yokohama (2:27:32); 4th is also her best finish in Boston (2011).
  • Croatia’s Lisa Stublic Nemec, who went to school in the States at Columbia, was the runner-up behind Chepkirui in Honolulu (2:31:35) and was 4th at the European Championships in August (2:28:36).

What about the American Shalane Flanagan, Desi Linden, and Amy Hastings? We address their chances in a separate article here.


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