Desi Linden Is All-In (And Wasn’t Surprised by Sumgong’s Positive Test), Alberto Salazar Says Jordan Hasay Is More Prepared For The Marathon Than Anyone He’s Seen Since He Set The WR & More From the Elite Women in Boston

April 14, 2017

BOSTON — Boston Marathon race week is in full swing, and on Friday the elite athletes were all at the Fairmont Copley Plaza, just a few hard strides from the finish line, to talk about Monday’s big race. Amazingly, even though the interviews only last for about an hour, we managed to speak to a ton of the top U.S. and international pros (apologies, Jared Ward) and learned a lot. Read on to find out why Desi Linden feels an extra sense of urgency this year (and why she wasn’t surprised at all by Jemima Sumgong‘s positive drug test), why Alberto Salazar believes Jordan Hasay is the most prepared marathoner he’s ever seen (since himself) and what favorite Gladys Cherono had to say about her Boston Marathon debut. Plus we talked to Davor Savija, agent of half marathon world record holder Joyciline Jepkosgei, who explained her ascent to the top of the world at 13.1 miles.

Our insights from Galen Rupp, fastest entrant Emmanuel Mutai and the top American and international men, including Meb KeflezighiLuke Puskedra and 2012 champ Wesley Korir, are in separate articles, linked below.

Previous 2017 Boston Marathon coverage
U.S. Women’s Preview: Can Desi Linden End the U.S. Major Drought? How Will Jordan Hasay Fare in Her Debut?
Full Women’s Preview: 2017 Boston Marathon International Women’s Preview
Galen Rupp: Why Galen Rupp Will (& Won’t) Win The 2017 Boston Marathon
American Men: 2017 Boston Marathon U.S. Men’s Preview: Olympians Galen Rupp, Meb Keflezighi, Jared Ward & Abdi Abdirahman Headline a Stacked Field
Full Men’s Preview: 2017 Boston Marathon International Men’s Preview: Lemi Berhanu Hayle Goes For the Repeat Against a Field That Contains 5 Sub-2:05 Guys

LRC All 2017 Boston Marathon coverage * Race website * 2016 LRC coverage

Alberto Salazar feels Jordan Hasay is more prepared for the marathon than any athlete he’s seen since he set the world record in 1981

Hasay’s tuneup races (68:40 at the Houston Half Marathon on January 15, 49:28 FTW at the U.S. 15K Champs, 67:55 at the Prague Half Marathon on April 1) have all gone extremely well, but she believes that even those tremendous results don’t tell the whole story.

“To be honest, our workouts are a lot harder than the races,” Hasay said. “All year, we’ve just been saying get my races closer to my workouts. So if I can just do that, we know what I’m capable of in the marathon. If I can perform to those expectations, I’ll be pleased.”

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What Hasay believes she’s capable of isn’t quite clear — she was intentionally vague when we asked her about goals and what kind of race she’d like to run — but Hasay has talked throughout this buildup about how comfortable she feels training for the marathon. We’d imagine she’s aiming quite high on Monday.

Her coach certainly believes Hasay is capable of something special. Hasay revealed today that Alberto Salazar told her he thinks she’s more prepared for the marathon than any athlete he’s seen since he ran the world record* of 2:08:13 in New York in 1981.

*The course was later found to be 148 meters short

Hasay’s decision to race in Prague just 16 days before Boston turned some heads, but when she spoke to Salazar about it, Hasay’s only concern was the travel (Prague is 5,300 miles from her base in Portland), not the recovery. After all, when Salazar won Boston in 1982, he had run 27:30 for 10,000 meters on the track just nine days earlier.

Plus Hasay said she would have had a long tempo on the schedule that weekend anyway, and Hasay said she ran the first 10 miles conservatively in Prague and didn’t have to go to the well during the race. That’s a good sign for Hasay’s fitness — 67:55 is remarkable in that situation — and for her recovery.

“I’ve come off really well actually,” Hasay said. “I’m surprised. Two weeks, I thought it would come quicker but it feels like it’s been a long time, actually, since Prague.”

If things get tough in the marathon on Monday, Hasay will have some extra motivation. Her mother, Teresa, passed away in November. Though Teresa did not get the chance to see her daughter race in Boston, Jordan will be keeping her in her mind on race day.

“She would always tell me ‘just be my shining star, that’s all you have to be,’ so that’s what I tell myself,” Hasay said. “People say they have a mantra in the race and such so I’m always saying, ‘shining star.’ Just do your best and that’s all that you can do.”

We also had a chance to ask Hasay about the ballyhooed Nike Zoom Vaporfly Elite 4% flats. Hasay has been wearing them since September and she had nothing but praise for them.

“The first time I wore them, I felt like they gave me some bounce and that helps on the roads,” Hasay said.

She added that she’s run tempos with her old flats and the new ones and that her heart rate was lower at the same pace while wearing the new ones. Hasay also feels that racing on the roads in general is better than the track for her because she gets to wear flats.

“A part of the reason I think I do so well on the roads is that I run really well just wearing flats. The spikes are kind of hard on my feet. I’m not very injury-prone, I’ve never had a stress fracture so I’m very lucky in that regard. My only issue has been my feet. I’ve really only had injuries there. So the spikes are always hard on my feet. But these have really protected my feet, and any flat really helps my feet.”

Desi Linden: “This is the end-all, be-all”

Linden hasn’t been shy in sharing her desire to win this race, and she reaffirmed that commitment on Friday.

“Having the 2016 Olympics off the table, we’re not looking towards 2020,” Linden said. “Not saying that it’s not in the cards, but this is the end-all, be-all. I want to focus on this. And I haven’t felt that sense of urgency about racing since I was trying to make it as a pro.”

Linden is 33 years old, and she’s followed her stellar 7th in the Olympic marathon with a buildup in which she’s pushed harder in speed sessions and run more miles (peaking at 130 per week) than ever before.

Even with 2:19 women Gladys Cherono and Edna Kiplagat in the field, Linden believes she has what it takes to win on this course. It’s where she debuted in 2007, and Monday’s race will be her fifth at the Boston Marathon.

“If they run 2:19, there’s not much I can do,” Linden said. “But it’s not Dubai, it’s not London, it’s not Berlin. There are no pacers. 2:19, I think there’s only one 2:19 on this course, ever. Usually a 2:22-2:24 type performance wins this race and I can do that and I can do that here. So there’s no reason to think I can’t be in it.”

If Linden doesn’t win, it will be a tough pill to swallow.

“I think that’s probably going to be tougher than anything I’ve had to face before.”

Linden on Jemima Sumgong’s positive test: “I was surprised she was on the start line [in Rio]”

Olympic champion Jemima Sumgong’s positive EPO test was the big story in running last week, but it did not come as a surprise to Linden, who held her own suspicions privately before the race.

“I was more surprised in August that she was on the start line,” Linden said. “I think there’s patterns, there’s trends, there’s people in groups that you’re just not surprised about. I think after we crossed the finish line, Amy [Cragg], Shalane [Flanagan] and I sat around and chatted about the race. I said it, like, ‘Within one year, we’ll all have bumped up two spots.’ There’s one. Pick your name for the other one. So no, I’m not surprised.”

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you want to view it), Americans being bumped up has become a trend in recent years, with Flanagan, Kara Goucher, Alysia Montano and Adam Nelson among the athletes who have either have or will be bumped up at major championships. Linden said that she doesn’t have the same doubts about the field in Boston this year, but she knows better than to rule anything out.

“We’ll see when the results come in, we’ll see how many people I’m behind,” Linden said.

Women’s favorite Gladys Cherono says she’s ready to go

In our women’s preview, we anointed 33-year-old Gladys Cherono as the favorite – and for good reason. She’s run two marathons in her life and the slowest was her 2:20:03 2nd place showing in Dubai in 2015 (her fastest was a 2:19:25 in Berlin later that year).

Stress fractures in her sacrum caused her to pull out of both London and New York last year, but she’s finally over that injury. She said she was thrilled with her 67:01 win in a half marathon in Rome last month as it was proof she is over her injury.

“After coming off injury, I was very happy with that race (as it showed that) everything is good,” said Cherono today. “The training (for Boston) was the same (as for my other marathons). It was good.”

We told Cherono we had anointed her as our favorite for the race and asked her if she agreed with that assessment. She smiled and said, “Yeah.” When we asked her which athletes she was most worried about, Cherono responded confidently. “I think most of the athletes are very strong but I cannot say I fear someone. I am not fearing anyone.”

“(On Monday), I am not going to say I’ll run my fastest time but if the time comes it will be ok. I’ll try my best.”

Since her first two marathons were on flat and fast courses, some might wonder how Cherono will do on the Boston course. We asked Cherono about that and she replied, “I heard it was hilly. I like hills.”

Edna Kiplagat atop the podium at 2013 Worlds Edna Kiplagat atop the podium at 2013 Worlds

Might another drug bust net Edna Kiplagat another $500,000?

Two-time world champion and two-time Abbott World Marathon Majors Series winner Edna Kiplagat will be making her Boston Marathon debut on Monday. The 37-year-old got a huge recent increase in motivation as if Jemima Sumgong ends up being banned for doping, Sumgong will be ineligible for the $500,000 Abbott World Marathon Majors 2016-2017 series prize. A win in Boston would give Kiplagat the title and $500,000 first prize. Amazingly, it would be the third time she’s picked up the World Marathon Majors title after the original winner was DQ’d (Kiplagat won the 2010-11 title after Liliya Shobukhova was DQ’d and the 2013-14 title when Rita Jeptoo was DQ’d. However, she was only paid in 2013-14 as the money was already paid out to Shobukhova before her DQ and the WMM hasn’t been able to get any of the money back). Kiplagat admitted that a win on Monday “matters a lot because it will give me the jackpot.”

We asked Kiplagat, who hasn’t won a marathon since 2014 London, if she still thought she had a realistic shot at winning at the age of 37.

“I’m 37 now but I’ still hoping to win because my (training) program went well and my body is still in good condition. If everything goes well, I think I can win the race,” said Kiplagat. “The program that I did, it was really nice so that gives me a lot of confidence.”

In her one prep race before Boston, Kiplagat ran 69:37 last month at the NYC Half Marathon and said she was “happy” with the time as it came on a tough course in the “middle of the marathon program so I was not disappointed by that.”

When we asked Kiplagat whether she liked flat courses like London or hilly ones like Boston better, she admitted she prefers flat courses but she added that her biggest concerns with a non-flat course like New York, which she won in 2010, isn’t the hills but the less-than-predictable weather.

“New York is a good race but it’s very tough. Sometimes it can be cold and very windy. The problem with New York is the weather but the course itself is good.”

As for the Boston course, Kiplagat said she has only taken a look at the last five miles of it.

Notes on Joyce Chepkirui and half marathon WR holder Joyciline Jepkosgei

We had a chance to catch up with agent Davor Savija, who represents Boston entrants Joyce Chepkirui (3rd last year) and Wilson Chebet (2nd in 2014, 3rd in 2015), as well as half marathon world record holder Joyciline Jepkosgei.

Chepkirui was 3rd last year and 4th in New York, but Savija believes she’s capable of more in the marathon as she’s still learning the event (this will be her eighth marathon; she debuted in 2013). Last year, Chepkirui was with the leaders through 24 miles but went too hard too early and finished third. Savija felt that she was better in New York (she was the only one to go with Mary Keitany’s big move) but a bad bruise on her foot gave her problems in the second half.

Chepkirui’s buildup has not been ideal — she was forced to take a week off earlier this year due to a twisted ankle and missed the RAK Half as a result. Sshe would have like to run the NYC Half after she had to scratch RAK but it was already full. Since she didn’t get to race, she comes in “fresh and relaxed” so it could be a silver lining according to Savija. The key thing is she’s health – he said that the foot injury is no longer a problem, but Chepkirui’s form has changed as a result.

As for Savija’s star client, Joyciline Jepkosgei, who set the half marathon world record in Prague two weeks ago, he explained that even though she went from 69:07 to 64:52 in the half marathon in less than two months, that stat requires context.

That 69:07 came at the Karlovy Half Marathon in the Czech Republic in May 2016, and it was a course record in a race she won by over two minutes. Ethiopian Mulu Seboka owned the previous CR at 69:11, set just four months after she ran 2:21 in the marathon. Jepkosgei went on to run 31:08 on the roads for 10k in September despite developing an injury that caused her to practically limp to the finish, and a month later clocked 67:02 for 20 kilometers in Marseille, another course record on a hilly course. She may not have been capable of 64:52 last year, but to Savija it was clear that she was much more than a 69:07 half marathoner.

Jepkosgei will run a few 10,000s on the track this spring at the Kenyan Defence Forces Championships and the Kenyan National Championships, but the plan is to return to the roads in late summer/fall to make a run at some more world records (she’s leaning against running Worlds on the track).

Rose Chelimo must be in pretty good shape as she just finished in the top 10 at World Cross Country

Bahrain’s Rose Chelimo is the only elite in the race that also raced three weeks ago at the 2017 World Cross Country Championships in Uganda. Chelimo finished 9th.

I was just training for the marathon. I was not preparing for the cross country. It was part of the training. It was a good [result]. I’m expecting to run good (on Monday),” said the 27-year-old Chelimo, who ran 2:24:14 and won her debut in Seoul last year. Chelimo added that she believes her current fitness is better now than last year when she ran in Seoul and last August when she was 8th in the Olympics.

For American Liz Costello, who would love to debut under 2:30, the transition to becoming a long-distance runner has been a gradual one

When we asked Costello, a 29-year-old Princeton grad, if she was excited or nervous for her debut, she replied, “Both.”

As for her goals, Costello wasn’t afraid to tell us what she was hoping to accomplish.

“I would love to debut under 2:30 but the marathon is an unknown so I’ll be positive about 2:30 to 2:32, but anything north of that I’ll come away disappointed, assuming the environmental conditions (are decent).”

Costello, the only marathoner in her New Balance Boston group, said she greatly enjoyed spending January in Flagstaff.

“It was wonderful as I was able to connect with some other runners and get some advice from people in the running mecca that is Flagstaff. I really appreciate the support that Betsy Saina and Kim Conley in particular gave me,” said Costello, was also full of praise for her New Balance Boston teammates who helped her get ready for the marathon by doing parts of her workouts or simply driving her out to Hopkinton for a workout she did on the race course.

However, Costello also said she learned to embrace training alone as being a prerequisite for marathon success.

“I asked Kim (Conley) who she was training with in her (marathon) buildup. She said if you end up training alone that’s fine as you inevitably will end up alone for parts of a marathon so it’s good to practice running hard while you were tired (and alone). So I appreciated the reminder of that,” said Costello.

Costello, who won the Ivy League mile title in 2008, said becoming a long-distance runner has been a gradual process.

“When I first started track, I thought I’d do the 100-meter dash for years to come. Throughout my Princeton career, I thought I was a 1500 runner. When I went to Tennessee (for a 5th year), I started to realize maybe I wasn’t a mid-d runner as I can’t run a 53 in the quarter. It’s really been a gradual process in moving up and increasing my mileage,” said Costello, who got up to 110 miles a week during her buildup but was probably running no more than 65 or 70 in college (she said she doesn’t know as she didn’t keep a training log).

When asked what advice did her coach, 1996 Olympic marathoner Mark Coogan, gave her, Costello responded: “Mark has advised that I try to enjoy this weekend a little bit as well. Take it all in – allow myself to have some fun with it. He and everyone else has emphasized the patience that is required at the beginning of this race – he knows I’m generally not a patient person.”

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