Good News/Bad News For Desi And Shalane In Boston – Women’s Press Recap

Mare Dibaba is ready to go; so is Buzenesh Deba and nearly everyone we spoke to. We break down the women’s press day in terms of Good News/Bad News for the American women. And some words of wisdom: “Life is today. Tomorrow is a dream.”


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“Life is today. Tomorrow is a dream” – Words of Wisdom From the 2015 Boston Marathon Women’s Press Conference

April 17, 2015

BOSTON – The Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel played host to some of the top domestic and international marathoners today at the John Hancock Elite Athlete Team Media Conference. The Venetian Room was buzzing with excitement with the marathon just three days away and is on site to provide coverage all the way through Marathon Monday. Below, we share what we learned on the women’s side of things from chatting with the elite athletes and their agents.

We also discussed what we learned on Friday’s episode of Runner’s Digest (Toni Reavis plus’s Robert Johnson and Jonathan Gault), which you can listen to/download here.

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Since America’s best hope for an American victory in 2015 seems to lie on the women’s side with Desi Linden and Shalane Flanagan, we’ve spiced up this article by categorizing all of the info that we’ve learned as being either good or bad for them.

Tomorrow we’ll speak to Linden at a Brooks event so we’re holding off on talking about Linden and Flanagan directly below.

Our women’s takeaways are below. Our takeways from the men’s press conference are here.

1. Good news, Shalane Flanagan and Desi Linden fans, you can ignore everything we write below (well at least about the Africans).

Just before we left the press conference to try to grab some lunch (we ended up going to Freshii – we don’t recommend it. It’s like an overpriced version of Chipotle.), we caught up with coach Gabriele Nicola of Italy, who coaches top women’s stars Aberu Kebede and Shure Demise Ware of Ethiopia and Sharon Cherop of Kenya. Nicola said that two-time Berlin and one-time Tokyo champ Kebede “is ready” but admitted he was worried about how she’d do in a non-rabbitted race.

We then interrupted and told Nicola that we had interviewed Kebede and asked her if she preferred a rabbited race and she said she preferred to run her own race.

He replied, “A Kenyan or Ethiopian will never tell you their weakness,” said Nicola who claimed it was just part of their culture.

Below you’ll see that nearly all of the top African stars were very upbeat, claiming to be in great shape, but that may not necessarily mean much.

2. Bad New Shalane/Desi fans, women’s race favorite Mare Dibaba has recovered well from her 2:19 win in China in January.

In our women’s preview, we named Mare Dibaba as the women’s race favorite but one of the key questions we had about the race, “Has she recovered well from her 2:19:52 showing on January 3?”

Dibaba said everything is fine. “I’m in good shape,” said Dibaba who added that she prefers a fast race as compared to a slow and tactical one.

Amy Hastings Cragg, Matt Tegenkamp, Desi Linden, Dathan Ritzenhein, Shalane Flanagan at the Press Conference

Amy Hastings Cragg, Matt Tegenkamp, Desi Linden, Dathan Ritzenhein, Shalane Flanagan at the Press Conference

3. Good news Shalane/Desi fans, a second victory for 2012 champ Sharon Cherop is probably not going to happen.

Cherop ran well in Boston from 2011 to 2013 – going third, first, third (she was eighth last year). Nicola said that while she has “the big advantage” of being very familiar with the Boston course, she hasn’t had a perfect build-up. Early in her buildup, she was plagued by issues with her right hamstring and left Achilles. The injuries weren’t “really serious” but did hamper her buildup. He said the last three to four, weeks she has been “completely OK” physically and he feels she “deserves something” on Monday. As for what type of result she deserves, Nicola said that if everyone in the field ran their best she’d likely be fifth or sixth (Cherop has the seventh-best pb in the field), but that he wouldn’t be surprised to see her crack the top 3 as she’s a savvy veteran who clearly runs well on the course.

4. Bad news Shalane/Desi fans, there are reasons for Buzunesh Deba’s 9th-place showing at the 2014 NYC Marathon and DNF at the 2015 NYC Half.  

Worku Beyi and Buzunesh Deba on Friday in Boston

Worku Beyi and Buzunesh Deba on Friday in Boston

We found out there are legitimate reasons as to why 2013 New York and 2014 Boston runner-up Buzunesh Deba struggled in New York in her last two races. We caught up with Deba’s coach and husband Worku Beyi, today and Beyi said she was only 9th in the New York City Marathon last fall because she had been really sick at the end of September – so sick they went to the hospital. He said it impacted her training for a month. He also didn’t seem too concerned that she recently was a DNF at the United Airlines NYC Half Marathon in March. He said that her back was hurting her (possibly related to a “woman’s issue”) and that things have been going “good” – “much better” than last fall.

The surprising thing we learned from Beyi is that he revealed he has changed Deba’s training, despite her many strong marathons inn the past. He said the they are doing “more” and “have increased it all” – both long runs and speed workouts.

Beyi explained that in the past, the duo spent most of their time in Brooklyn and only a few months at altitude (prior to the spring marathon when the weather was bad in NYC) but now it’s reversed – they spend 9 months of the year at altitude (they just got in from Albuquerque yesterday) and only a few months in New York.

He said Deba this year for the first time did a 50k run in training at altitude whereas last year before Boston she only did 45k. He said they first did a 50k in training prior to her New York runner-up showing in 2013 but that they were afraid to do it again in the buildup last year for Boston as they’d never tried it at altitude before (and she prepped for Boston at altitude, but NY at sea level). This year, they did it in Albuquerque in 3:07 in February. That’s 6:01-3 pace (depending on whether it was 3:07:00 or 3:07:59) for 31.07 miles.

He said other workouts are 10 x 1k (we’ll get back to you with how much rest she had) starting at 3:06, then going to 3:02, 2:59, 2:57 and all the way down to 2:47. She also did 4 x 5k with 1k rest between the 5ks in 17:02, two in the 16:30s and then 15:52.

Buzunesh Deba (left) and Meb Keflezighi (right) get 'Bib #1' even though Deba technically didn't win last year

Buzunesh Deba (left) and Meb Keflezighi (right) get ‘Bib #1’ even though Deba technically didn’t win last year

As for why a two-time World Marathon Major runner-up would change their training, Beyi said it’s because they are trying to get her a victory at a major.

We really hope she does well on Monday as if not, we are blaming Rita Jeptoo. Dopers not only steal money and fame from clean runners – they also put clean runners into despair and sometimes make them do things they can’t handle in training to try to beat them.

If not for Jeptoo, Deba would be coming into 2015 Boston as the defending champ, course record holder and first woman under 2:20 in Boston. Her appearance fee would be A LOT higher as a result. Jeptoo’s doping cost Deba six figures for sure.

5. Good news Shalane/Desi fans – her coach isn’t sure how Aberu Kebede will handle the hills in Boston.

As we stated in our preview, Aberu Kebede, the two-time Berlin and one-time winner in Tokyo, Rotterdam and Shanghai, is one of the three most likely women to win on Monday.

Kebede comes into Boston after a 5th-place showing in Dubai (2:21:17) in January. The thing that about that race that should scare Flangan fans is both Kebede and her coach Nicola said she was sick in Dubai. Kebede said, “I’m in good shape.” Nicola said, “Aberu Kebede is ready.”

Those two statements should make Flanagan/Desi fans nervous. The good news is Nicola isn’t sure how Kebede will react to not having pace-setters in Boston and to the hills. He said this is her first “hilly” marathon and that what they’ve observed in training is she doesn’t seem to “express her best in training” when hills are involved.

6. Bad News Shalane/Desi fans, Joyce Chepkirui’s longs runs have been going well.

Commonwealth/African 10,000 champ Joyce Chepkirui said that her long runs had been going well, which is why she decided to focus on the marathon in 2015. She’ll be back on the track with the aim of making the Kenyan Olympic team at 10,000 next year.

7. Bad New Shalane/Desi fans, Lisa Stublic Nemec, has no regrets about running for Croatia

We caught up with the former Columbia runner who was born and raised in the USA, is a US citizen, but runs for Croatia. We asked Nemec, who was largely being ignored by the media but would be swarmed as a likely US Olympic hopeful if if she was running for the USA (her 2:25:44 pb is 1:19 faster than Amy Hastings Cragg’s pb) if she has any regrets about running for Croatia.

She doesn’t.

Now, Shalane/Desi fans may be wondering why this is bad news for them. It is because if you are a fan of Shalane you are almost certainly a fan of US distance running and our 2016 Olympic team could use Nemec.

8. Good news Shalane/Desi fans, do you wonder why so many of the African runners are doubling back from a January or February marathon? We’ve got the answer. “This is Africa. Life is today. Tomorrow is a dream.”

19-year old Shure Demise Ware of Ethiopia comes into Boston after debuting in January at 2:20:59. Her coach Gabriela Nicola expressed reservations about the fact the she hadn’t had “a full preparation” for Boston as a result. Another journalist then followed up with a logical question, along the lines, “Well if that’s the case, then why is she here?”

Nicola’s produced this classic line:

“This is Africa. Life is today. Tomorrow is a dream.”

Americans act like the future is guaranteed. In Africa, things are less predictable so if people are in shape, they are going to want to race.

In terms of Ware, Nicola said her “talent is very big”, but added that her time in Dubai “was much better than we predicted.” He also said a 2:21 (she ran 2:20:59) on the superfast Dubai course is more like a 2:22:00-2:23:00 on a standard course.

Nicola said that Ware’s biggest asset is her “self-control”. He says she always “makes sure that she never exhausts” her body and puts more stress on it than it can handle. He said this self restraint is a very rare quality. “She realizes enough is enough,” said Nicola who reported that his on the ground people in Ethiopia at times report back to him that she ran 3km or even 5km less than proscribed on a given day. “Today my body is not able to do more,” he says she says.

9. Good News Shalane/Desi fans, you might look look this good at age 49.

We were surprised to see three-time champion Uta Pippig, who we thought was convicted of a doping offense, at  the press conference today. But it seems as if in the end, according to the Boston Globe, Pippig shouldn’t be considered a drug cheat. As the Boston Globe wrote, “Under terms of the agreement, reached through the federation’s arbitration court, Pippig did not receive an outright acquittal, but the record will be erased as if she had never tested positive.”

Wikipedia states, “Pippig contested the finding on the grounds that her testosterone levels were normal, and that the elevated ratio was due to a low level of epitestosterone from a long battle with chronic bowel disease and other factors. This claim was supported by a variety of independent medical experts, and a German arbitration court ultimately dismissed the case.


49 Year Old Uta Pippig