2016 Boston Marathon Men’s Preview: Can Lelisa Desisa Win Title #3 In The Unofficial Ethiopian Olympic Selection Race?

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By LetsRun.com
April 14, 2016

It’s that time of year again. The greatest week in marathoning kicks off next Monday with the 120th edition of the Boston Marathon and finishes up on Sunday with the 36th edition of the Virgin Money London Marathon. We’ll be on-site all this week in Boston trying to give you behind the scene access. In addition to our race previews, we’ll give you the scoop we learn from the elites on media day and then to have extensive race day coverage. We always feel the best way to follow a major marathon is to watch it live with a second screen opened to the LetsRun.com messageboard.

Because the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials were just nine weeks ago, the normally-stacked American field is very shallow. In fact, only two Americans are listed in the elite men’s field — 2:13 man Ian Burrell and debutant/former Oklahoma State star Girma Mecheso. Fortunately, the international men’s field has suffered no such fate. In fact, this race is shaping up as a de facto Ethiopian Olympic Trials as a bunch of Ethiopia’s top marathoners are here.  Defending champion Lelisa Desisa is back in search of a third crown, and he’s one of six sub-2:05 men entered. That’s actually more sub-2:05 guys than London (five), which is annually the most competitive marathon on the planet.

We take a detailed look at the men’s race below; our women’s preview is coming later this week.

What: 120th Boston Marathon

When: Monday, April 18, 2016. 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 NBC Sports Network and NBC Sports Live Extra starting at 8:30 a.m ET. In Boston, WBZ4 will provide local coverage beginning at 7:00 a.m. ET. Universal HD will also have a preview show on Sunday at 4 p.m. ET.

Race website * 2015 LRC coverage

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 (AWMM) events (Tokyo, Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago, New York). AWMM changed its scoring system last year (previously, champions were crowned over a two-year cycle; now the cycle is one year plus one race). February’s Tokyo Marathon marked the end of Series IX, the first series under the new system (Mary Keitany and Eliud Kipchoge were crowned champions). Series X begins on Monday in Boston and runs through the 2017 Boston Marathon.

At the end of the series, 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. Only two races can count in a given series.

The Ethiopian Olympic Trials Elite Men’s Race

Name PB Nation Comment
Sammy Kitwara 2:04:28 (2014 Chicago) Kenya Top-4 in Chicago each of past 4 years; won Lisbon Half in 59:47 on 3/20
Tsegaye Mekonnen 2:04:32 (2014 Dubai) Ethiopia ’14 Dubai champ rebounded from 3 straight DNFs to take 3rd in Dubai in Jan.
Hayle Lemi Berhanu 2:04:33 (2016 Dubai) Ethiopia 1st and 2nd in Dubai last 2 years
Lelisa Desisa 2:04:45 (2013 Dubai) Ethiopia 2-time champ (’13/’15) looking to become 9th man to win 3 Bostons
Yemane Tsegay 2:04:48 (2012 Rotterdam) Ethiopia Runner-up in Boston and at World Champs last year
Getu Feleke 2:04:50 (2012 Rotterdam) Ethiopia Doesn’t race much but was 2nd at Fukuoka in December (2:08:31)
Wilson Chebet 2:05:27 (2011 Rotterdam) Kenya 2nd and 3rd last two years; 61:35 for 2nd at NYC Half on 3/20
Stephen Chebogut 2:05:52 (2015 Eindhoven) Kenya Broke through with 2+ min PB to win Eindhoven in Oct.
Deribe Robi 2:05:58 (2015 Eindhoven) Ethiopia 3rd Dubai, 3rd Prague, 2nd Eindhoven in ’15
Wesley Korir 2:06:13 (2012 Chicago) Kenya ’12 champ was 5th in ’13 and ’15
Michael Kipyego 2:06:48 (2011 Eindhoven) Kenya Has struggled in last three marathons after taking 4th in Tokyo in ’14
Paul Lonyangata 2:07:14 (2015 Shanghai) Kenya Won Shanghai in PB in Nov.; 60:11 for 3rd at Lisbon Half on 3/20
Jackson Kiprop 2:09:32 (2013 Mumbai) Uganda 10th at last 2 World Champs in marathon
Cuthbert Nyasango 2:09:52 (2014 Prague) Zimbabwe 7th at ’12 Olympics but only 23rd at Worlds in August
Abdi Nageeye 2:10:24 (2015 Amsterdam) The Netherlands Coming off PB in Amsterdam in Oct.
Solonei Da Silva 2:11:32 (2011 Padova) Brazil ’11 Pan Am Games champ was 18th at Worlds last year
Jordan Chipangama 2:11:35 (2015 Grandma’s) Zambia NAU grad has gone from 2:13 to 2:12 to 2:11 over past three years
Ian Burrell 2:13:26 (2014 Houston) USA 25th at World Champs last year
Girma Mecheso Debut USA Former Oklahoma St. star was 3rd at US HM + 15k champs last year

It wouldn’t be accurate to call Boston the Ethiopian Olympic Marathon Trials, but it comes pretty close. All three of Ethiopia’s 2015 World Championship team members will compete (silver medallist Yemane Tsegay, 7th place Lelisa Desisa and 15th place Hayle Lemi Berhanu) and in total, the race contains five of the 11 fastest Ethiopians ever. Take a look at the country’s all-time list and their spring marathon plans:

Top 15 Fastest Ethiopian Marathoners of All Time (spring marathon plans in parentheses)
1. Haile Gebrselassie, 2:03:59 (retired)
2. Ayele Abshero, 2:04:23 (9th Rotterdam, 2:12:18)
3. Tesfaye Abera, 2:04:24 (won Dubai in January; no spring marathon announced)
4. Tsegaye Mekonnen, 2:04:32 (Boston)
5. Hayle Lemi Berhanu, 2:04:33 (Boston)
6. Tsegaye Kebede, 2:04:38 (5th Rotterdam, 2:10:56)
7. Lelisa Desisa, 2:04:45 (Boston)
8. Yemane Tsegay, 2:04:48 (Boston)
8. Berhanu Shiferaw, 2:04:48 (was scheduled to run Seville Marathon on Feb. 21 but not listed in results)
10. Tadese Tola, 2:04:49 (was supposed to run Hamburg on Sunday but had to scratch due to lack of form)
11. Dino Sefir, 2:04:50 (won Barcelona in March in 2:09:31)
11. Getu Feleke, 2:04:50 (Boston)
13. Feyisa Lilesa, 2:04:52 (won Tokyo in February in 2:06:56)
13. Endeshaw Negesse, 2:04:52 (tested positive for meldonium in March)
15. Gebre Gebremariam, 2:04:53 (no spring marathon announced)

Here’s who we can count out: Gebrselassie, Abshero, Kebede, Shiferaw, Tola, Negesse, Sefir, Gebremariam. That still leaves seven guys for three spots. Then when you factor in 2:05 man Deribe Robi (running Boston) plus Kenenisa Bekele and 2:05 men Tilahun Regassa and Abera Kuma (running London), you’ve got quite the logjam.

In the past, Ethiopia has selected its World Championship/Olympic teams on time. In 2012, Ethiopia picked Ayele Abshero (who had run one career marathon), Dino Sefir (who had won zero of his three career marathons and broke 2:10 in just one of them) and Getu Feleke. Abshero, Sefir and Feleke had the #1, #3 and #4 times on the year at the time the selection was announced in May (Yemane Tsegay, who had the #2 time, was not selected because the Olympics would have been his third marathon of 2012).

Tsegay (above) and Desisa have medalled at the past two World Champs, but Ethiopia was shut out of the podium at the 2012 Olympics

Tsegay (above) and Desisa have medalled at the past two World Champs in the marathon, but Ethiopia was shut out of the podium at the 2012 Olympics

At the time, we criticized the selection process as reigning Olympic bronze medallist Tsegaye Kebede — who finished third in the ultra-competitive London Marathon that spring (behind Kenyans Wilson Kipsang and Martin Lel) — was not even an alternate. What happened? Well, you got to see how smart we are as all three Ethiopians DNF’d at the Olympics while Kebede set a course record in Chicago.

Hopefully, the Ethiopian federation has learned from its mistake and will consider context rather than simply picking by time. As of now, Tesfaye Abera, Hayle Lemi Berhanu and Tsegaye Mekonnen, all of whom ran 2:04:46 or faster in Dubai, have the top three Ethiopian times of 2016. No one is bettering that mark in Boston and it would take a big effort for anyone to run that fast in London (where only one man in history has broken 2:04:40). But if Desisa wins Boston in 2:06, beating Lemi and Mekonnen in the process, it would be absolute lunacy to leave him off the team. And it’s hardly fair to ignore Feyisa Lilesa, who ran 2:06:56 to win Tokyo in February.

All six Ethiopians entered in Boston (the five in the table above, plus 2:05 man Deribe Robi) are accomplished enough that they deserve to be on the Olympic team with a win on Monday. Beyond that, it’s going to be subjective based on the Boston/London results and how much the federation values Lilesa’s win in Tokyo (remember, he beat the reigning Olympic gold and silver medallists in that race). But we’d strongly urge the Ethiopian federation not to go strictly by time. The Ethiopian crop in Boston is too strong (Desisa and Tsegay have medalled at Worlds in the past) to allow times to dictate all.

The Defending Champ

Lelisa Desisa — Ethiopia, 26 years old, 2:04:45 pb (2013 Dubai), 59:30 half
Marathons in 2015: 1st, 2015 Boston (2:09:17)7th, 2015 World Championships (2:14:53); 3rd, 2015 New York (2:12:10).
Prep race: Won Houston Half Marathon on January 17 in 60:37.

Desisa won his second title last year and will hunt a third on Monday

Desisa won his second title last year and will hunt a third on Monday

Desisa races a lot, and he races well. Since beginning his marathon career with a 2:04:45 win in Dubai in January 2013, he has run nine marathons and aside from a DNF in Boston in 2014, every single one has gone well. Desisa is essentially the Energizer Bunny of top-tier marathoners. In a 365-day span between November 2, 2014 and November 1, 2015, Desisa ran five marathons. He won one (Boston), finished second in two others (’14 New York and Dubai) and posted solid finishes in the other two (7th at Worlds, 3rd at ’15 New York). Who else on planet Earth could pull that off?

After that amazing stretch of racing, Desisa took a well-deserved break; he’s had 24 weeks between New York and Boston, compared to an average gap of 13 weeks between his five previous marathons. That should set him up nicely for a Boston-Olympics-New York triple if all goes according to plan.

Men with 3+ Boston Marathon Titles
7 – Clarence DeMar (1911, ’22, ’23, ’24, ’27, ’28, ’30)
4 – Gérard Côté (1940, ’43, ’44, ’48)
Bill Rodgers (1975, ’78, ’79, ’80)
Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot (2003, ’06, ’07, ’08)
3 – Les Pawson (1933, ’38, ’41)
Eino Oksanen (1959, ’61, ’62)
Ibrahim Hussein (1988, ’91, ’92)
Cosmas Ndeti (1993, ’94, ’95)

Based on his past accomplishments, Desisa enters as the favorite. Plus we know he’s in shape (or at least was) given the fact he ran 60:37 in January, but unlike last year, when he was clearly the best guy on paper, there are a bunch of guys who figure to challenge him in 2016. Two of the men in this field beat Desisa in marathons last year (Lemi in Dubai, Tsegay at Worlds) and though Desisa beat each of them in their most recent encounters (topping Lemi at Worlds and Tsegay in NYC), both men should be considered strong rivals. There are several other guys running well right now who could win it if everything breaks right for them on the day.

But make no mistake, Desisa is still the man to beat. He’s consistently run well against top competition in majors, he’s familiar with the course having won Boston in 2013 and 2015 and he is in good form (as far as we know), taking third in New York in November behind Stanley Biwott and Geoffrey Kamworor before winning the Houston Half in January in 60:37. Desisa has one of, if not the highest ceiling in the field and he’s also the most consistent. That makes him the pick for a third Boston crown, which would allow him to join the elite company at upper right.

More: Relive Desisa’s past two Boston wins: *2015 Boston coverage *Desisa wins 2013 Boston

Proven Marathoners Who Have Run Well in Boston Before

Yemane Tsegay — Ethiopia, 31 years old, 2:04:48 pb (2012 Rotterdam), 61:37 half
2015 marathons: 2nd, 2015 Boston (2:09:48); 2nd, 2015 World Championships (2:13:07); 5th, 2015 New York (2:13:24); 2
Prep race: 31st at Marugame Half Marathon on February 7 in 62:53.

Tsegay, the most recent husband of Sweden’s Abeba Aregawi (who tested positive for meldonium earlier this year and may have had a sham marriage to a different man to get Swedish citizenship), is basically Desisa Lite. Like Desisa, he races a lot (at least three marathons every year since 2009) and he’s consistent. Tsegay faced Desisa in all three of his marathons last year, finishing as the runner-up to his Ethiopian rival in Boston before defeating Desisa to take silver and Worlds. In their most recent encounter, in New York in November, Tsegay was fifth to Desisa’s third.

The concern is that Tsegay’s two most recent races haven’t been great. His fifth in New York, while not a bad performance, was the worst of his three 2015 marathons. And in his tuneup race, at the Marugame Half in Japan on February 7, he ran just 62:53, taking 31st overall. That’s not as disastrous as it sounds, however. Two years ago, Tsegay only ran 62:29 at Marugame yet ran 2:06:51 to win the Daegu Marathon two months later (it’s worth noting he finished 6th overall at Marugame in that race as opposed to 31st). And Tsegay’s pb is a modest 61:37; he hasn’t broken 62:00 in a half since 2010.

Looking solely at paper credentials, one shouldn’t write him off on Monday. Tsegay has been almost as consistent as Desisa over the past three years and is a serious contender for the win.

That being said, we have serious reservations about him. If online betting is offered this year like last year, we’d stay as far away from Tsegay as possible. If his wife was on a drug that helped her performance (some dispute that meldonium helped performance but the fact that so many people were on it means it likely worked in our mind), wouldn’t it seem likely that her husband was also on the (legal) drug as well? We certainly would be if we were in his shoes. We’re not criticizing him. Meldonium was a legal drug up until January 1, 2016. But if he was on it and now isn’t, it seems like his performance would suffer.

With the likes of Aregawi, former Tokyo champ Endeshaw Negesse and others having tested positive for meldonium, it’s clear meldonium was popular in Ethiopia. If a bunch of Ethiopians aren’t as good in 2016 as they were in the past, it’s fair to wonder if it’s because they no longer are on it.

Chebet has finished second and third the past two years; can he win it all in 2016?

Chebet has finished second and third the past two years; can he win it all in 2016?

Wilson Chebet — Kenya, 30 years old, 2:05:27 pb (2011 Rotterdam), 59:15 half
2015 marathons: 3rd, 2015 Boston (2:10:22), 5th, 2015 Amsterdam (2:08:45), 2nd, 2015 Honolulu (2:12:47);
Prep race: 2nd at NYC Half on March 20 in 61:35.

Since the middle of 2011, Chebet has run the same three marathons consistently: Boston, Amsterdam and Honolulu. In that span, he’s won Amsterdam three times (setting the course record in 2012 and 2013), and Honolulu once (2014) but has yet to conquer Boston, taking fifth in 2012, second in 2014 and third last year.

Chebet appears to be in good form, finishing second at last month’s NYC Half in 61:35, his fastest half marathon since 2010. That’s not a bad result at all less than a month from race day given that the one man who beat him, Stephen Sambu, is more of a 10k/half marathon specialist.

Right now, Chebet’s Boston Marathon legacy is as the man who tried (and failed) to run down Meb Keflezighi in the final stages of the latter’s famous victory two years ago. A win on Monday would change that.

Can They Run Well Outside of Dubai/Chicago?

Hayle Lemi Berhanu — Ethiopia, 21 years old, 2:04:33 pb (2016 Dubai), 61:37 half
Marathons since start of 2015: 1st, 2015 Dubai (2:05:28), 1st, 2015 Warsaw (2:07:57), 15th, 2015 World Championships (2:17:36). 2nd, 2016 Dubai (2:04:33).
Prep race: None (Dubai marathon)

Lemi was a no-name when he emerged from obscurity to take the $200,000 first place prize in Dubai last year, but he’s since shown that he’s no flash in the pan, winning Warsaw last April in 2:07:57 and taking second in Dubai in January in a PR of 2:04:33. What Lemi has to prove now is that his skills translate from the flat, simple Dubai course to the hilly, challenging Boston layout.

Coming back from Dubai won’t be easy, but it should be manageable: Lemi had three months between Dubai and Warsaw last year and won both marathons. The more challenging aspect will be racing in his first Boston against a slew of guys who have run well on this course before. Lemi was only 15th at the World Champs last year, well back of Tsegay and Desisa, and though it won’t be as hot on Monday as it was in Beijing, the lack of rabbits means that Lemi will have to make way more decisions than he has in Dubai, where the strategy consists of “hang on to the leaders for as long as possible.” Plus Dubai is totally flat and Warsaw is very flat – Boston is not.

Lemi is 21 years old and has only been marathoning for two years, and it’s unclear how much he ran before that (All-Athletics.com doesn’t list any results for him prior to 2014). So he certainly has potential. And it’s not unprecedented for a guy to use Dubai as a springboard to Boston success: in 2013, Desisa debuted with a win in Dubai in January and followed that up with a victory in Boston three months later. But you don’t know for sure if a guy is suited to Boston until he runs the course, so in Lemi’s case we’ll have to wait until Monday to see what he’s made of.

Mekonnen broke through with a win in Dubai two years ago

Mekonnen broke through with a win in Dubai two years ago

Tsegaye Mekonnen — Ethiopia, 20 years old, 2:04:32 pb (2014 Dubai), 61:05 half
Last two marathons: 3rd, 2016 Dubai (2:04:46); DNF, 2015 Amsterdam.
Prep race: None.

Mekonnen debuted with a ridiculous 2:04:32 victory when he was just 18 years old (officially) in Dubai two years ago, the third-fastest debut in history. But by the start of 2016, he was coming off three straight marathon DNFs and looking more and more like a one-hit wonder. Mekonnen ended that skid with his third in Dubai in January, but he remains largely unproven outside of Dubai as he’s got one fifth (2014 London) and three DNFs in his other four marathons.

Mekonnen is in good shape (based on his Dubai result), and a fifth in London two years ago (he beat Geoffrey MutaiEmmanuel MutaiMo Farah and Feyisa Lilesa) suggests his success may not be limited to just Dubai. Though the field will be weaker in Boston than it was in London, the course is tougher, and that’s what Mekonnen will have to conquer if he is to succeed on Monday.

One interesting tidbit about Mekonnen: doping tarnishes the innocent. This press report indicates that there were rumors that Mekonnen was one of the Ethiopians that had tested positive for meldonium (the Ethiopians initially announced the positives but not the names). He wasn’t, but his name was tarnished, which upset his trainer.

Kitwara at the Philly Half in 2011, where he ran his pb of 58:48

Kitwara at the Philly Half in 2011, where he ran his pb of 58:48

Sammy Kitwara — Kenya, 29 years old, 2:04:28 pb (2014 Chicago), 58:48 half
Last two marathons: 2nd, 2015 Chicago (2:09:50); 6th, 2015 London (2:07:43)
Prep race: Won Lisbon Half Marathon on March 20 in 59:47.

Like Lemi and Mekonnen, Kitwara’s greatest success has all come at the same race: in the past four years, he’s finished fourth, third, second and second at the Chicago Marathon. But of the three men in this section, he’s done the best outside of his specialty venue, taking sixth in London last year and third in Tokyo in 2014.

There’s plenty to like about Kitwara. He’s the fifth-fastest half marathoner of all time (running 58:58 in Philadelphia in 2011) and he wins races, claiming the Lisbon Half in a quick 59:47 in March and titles at the Luanda Half Marathon and World’s Best 10K last year. Of everyone entered in this year’s Boston field, he has the best PR, at 2:04:28.

He’s also one of the world’s most consistent marathoners. Check out his track record since he recorded his first marathon finish in 2012.

2012:
2:05:54   4th Chicago
2013
2:07:22   3rd Rotterdam
2:05:16   3rd Chicago
2014
2:06:30   3rd Tokyo
2:04:28   2nd Chicago
2015
2:07:43   6th London
2:09:50   2nd Chicago

Yet the one thing that has so far eluded Kitwara is a marathon victory. Had he come around 10 years earlier, Kitwara surely would have won multiple marathons by this point. But in 2016, 2:05s and 2:06s aren’t always enough to get it done.

Best of the Rest

  • Getu Feleke — Ethiopia, 29 years old, 2:04:50 pb (2012 Rotterdam), no prep races: Feleke has raced just three marathons since DNFing the 2012 Olympics and though they’ve all gone well (second at 2013 Rotterdam, first at 2014 Vienna, second at 2015 Fukuoka), the fact that he rarely races makes it hard to pick up on any trends. This will be his first World Marathon Major (not counting the ’12 Olympics) and if he comes in in the same shape he has been for his last three marathons, he should do pretty well. But to defeat a field of this caliber, he’ll have to run the best race of his career.
  • Stephen Chebogut — Kenya, 31 years old, 2:05:52 pb (2015 Eindhoven), 61:25 for 6th at Paris in his prep race on March 5: If you’re looking for a late bloomer, Chebogut’s your man. After years of hovering in the 2:08-2:10 range, Chebogut busted out a 2+ minute PR to win Eindhoven in October, a little over a month after running his half marathon pb of 60:19. Now he’s running his first major, and if he is to contend for the win, he’ll have to make another jump. Chebogut ran 61:25 at the Paris Half Marathon on March 6 (25 seconds behind the winner), an okay time, but not one that suggests he will be the man to beat in Boston. A top-five finish would be a good showing for Chebogut in his major debut.
  • Deribe Robi — Ethiopia, 25 years old, 2:05:58 pb (2015 Eindhoven), no prep races: Robi finished just six seconds behind Chebogut in Eindhoven last fall, capping a year in which he dropped his pb twice by a total of 1:18. Like Chebogut, this will be Robi’s first major and unless he can build on his 2015 breakthrough, he’ll have a tough time contending for the win. But at 25 years old, his potential for improvement is greater than Chebogut’s.
  • Wesley Korir — Kenya, 33 years old, 2:06:13 pb (2012 Chicago), no prep races: This can’t be an easy time for Korir. He’s a Kenyan Member of Parliament who drafted the anti-doping bill that could be critical to ensuring Kenya competes at this summer’s Olympics. WADA has already extended the deadline for Kenya to beef up its anti-doping program twice and it now sits at May 2. Korir has been doing everything he can to get his bill, which includes financial penalties and potential jail time for dopers, through the Kenyan Parliament and into law.
    Oh yeah, he’s also running the Boston Marathon on Monday. After an uneven 2014, Korir bounced back to take fifth in Boston last year, his third top-five finish in the race, which he won in hot conditions in 2012. Though he slipped to sixth (against a weaker field) in Chicago in October, his knowledge and experience on the Boston course mean another top-five finish is possible, assuming he’s still got the energy after his government duties.
    Don’t expect him to contend unless it’s hot. His other two career marathon victories besides the scorcher in Boston in 2012 have come in LA.
  • Paul Lonyangata — Kenya, 23 years old, 2:07:14 pb (2015 Shanghai), 3rd in Lisbon Half on March 20th in 60:11 Lonyangata was ninth two years ago and has only improved since then, taking second in Honolulu in 2014 and first in Shanghai last fall (in a pb of 2:07:14) in his two subsequent marathons. Challenging for the win in Boston is unlikely, but his 60:11 for third at the Lisbon Half on March 20 was very respectable; a top-three finish is within reach on a good day.

The Americans

Burrell in Beijing last year

Burrell in Beijing last year

The Olympic Trials were only nine weeks ago and as such, almost all of the top Americans are skipping Boston: only two Americans, 2:13 man Ian Burrell and 62:16 half marathoner Girma Mecheso, are listed by John Hancock among the elite field. It’s the tradeoff we make for getting the chance to experience an exciting, meaningful Olympic Trials. The good news: if you’re a sub-elite, this is your chance to finish as the top American at Boston!

Burrell and Mecheso are the most accomplished Americans, and one of them will likely be your first U.S. finisher. But Burrell, who was 25th at Worlds last year, did not run well in his tuneup race (21st at the NYC Half on March 20 in 66:52) and the Ethiopian-born Mecheso, an Oklahoma State grad, has never run a marathon before. Mecheso began last year strongly, taking third at the U.S. Half Marathon Champs in a PR of 62:16 and third at the U.S. 15K Champs two months later but he’s raced just once since May 2015, taking 17th at the .US 12K Champs in November.

But if Burrell and Mecheso falter, the race for top American will be wide open. If you’re reading this and are trying to run under 2:20, who knows? You could find yourself in contention. The only bad news? The B.A.A. doesn’t offer American-only prize money.

LRC Prediction: We want to talk to the pros and their agents on Friday before we make any picks. The only pick we’ll make right now is that if the winner of this race is Ethiopian, they will be an Olympian. The Ethiopian federation has made some curious decisions in the past but we can’t see them not letting the winner go in 2016, particularly after what happened in 2012.

The way we see it is the Ethiopians, like the Japanese, have three selection races. See what happens at Dubai, here and London and then pick three people. But if someone wins and runs fast, it’s almost criminal not to pick them.

 


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