2017 Chicago Marathon Women’s Preview: Jordan Hasay Faces A Big Challenge Against 2:17 Woman Tirunesh Dibaba & 2-Time Defending Champ Florence Kiplagat

By LetsRun.com
October 5, 2017

So far we’ve spent a lot of words previewing the men’s race at the 2017 Bank of America Chicago Marathon. There are a ton of storylines in that race, so if you’ve missed any of our articles, be sure to check them out below.

LRC Is Galen Rupp a 2:05 Guy? LetsRun Debates: How fast can Galen Rupp run for 26.2 at Sunday’s Chicago Marathon?
LRC The 2017 Chicago Marathon Men’s Race Is LOADED With American Talent Besides Galen Rupp – Find Out Who Here
LRC Chicago Marathon International Men’s Preview
LRC Aaron Braun And The Question All Runners Eventually Face – “Should I Hang ‘Em Up?”

But there’s a women’s race in Chicago too, including a massive name at the very top in Ethiopia’s Tirunesh Dibaba and a big American story – as Chicago is marathon #2 for American star Jordan Hasay. Dibaba, who became just the third woman in history to break 2:18 in London in April, is the heavy favorite, but she should be challenged by Kenya’s Florence Kiplagat (2:19 pb), who also happens to be the two-time defending champ. We’re also very excited to see how fast Hasay can run. Her 2:23:00 in Boston was the fastest debut by an American woman by almost three minutes and puts her #5 on the all-time U.S. list. And while Deena Kastor‘s American record (2:19:36) is out of the picture for now, Shalane Flanagan (2:21:14), Joan Benoit Samuelson (2:21:21), and Desi Linden (2:22:38) all could be within range for Hasay within the next few years. There are no pacers in Chicago, but the men and women start at the same time in Chicago, so Hasay should have plenty of sub-elite men to run with.

We provide the race details below, followed by our analysis of the women’s elite field.

What: 2017 Bank of America Chicago Marathon

When: Sunday, October 8, 8:30 a.m. ET (7:30 a.m. local time)

Where: Chicago, Illinois

Article continues below player.

How to watch: For Chicago-area residents, the race will be shown live on NBC 5 starting at 7 a.m. local time. For everyone else, you can stream the race live online at NBCChicago.com starting at 8 a.m. ET or watch it live on NBC Sports Network or NBC Sports Gold at 8 a.m. ET.

Important links: LRC All 2017 Chicago Marathon coverageLRC 2016 Chicago Marathon coverage * Race website * Course map

Women’s elite field * Full elite field

Name Nation PB Comment
Tirunesh Dibaba Ethiopia 2:17:56 Her 2:17 in at ’17 London put her #3 all-time; 10k silver at Worlds in August
Florence Kiplagat Kenya 2:19:44 2-time defending champ, but Dibaba destroyed her in London
Madai Perez Mexico 2:22:59 Ran 2:22 for 4th in ’06 but hasn’t come close to that since; 32nd at Olympics
Jordan Hasay USA 2:23:00 Exceeded all expectations with fastest American debut ever in Boston (by a lot)
Valentine Kipketer Kenya 2:23:02 2013 Amsterdam champ was 3rd in Chicago last year; 6th in Boston in April
Brigid Kosgei Kenya 2:24:45 2016 Honolulu champ was 8th in Boston in April
Lisa Weightman Australia 2:25:15 Became 3rd-fastest Aussie ever by taking 5th in London in April
Karolina Nadolska Poland 2:26:31 PR’d at 2014 Osaka, then won 2014 Lodz, but no marathons since
Jessica Draskau Petersson Denmark 2:30:07 40-year-old PR’d here in ’15 but DNF last year
Becky Wade USA 2:30:41 3rd in Houston in Jan in 2:35
Dot McMahan USA 2:31:48 40-year-old was 14th in Boston in April
Sarah Crouch USA 2:32:44 6th, 12th, and 9th here the last 3 years
Maegan Krifchin USA 2:33:30 7th at the Oly Trials in her last marathon
Alia Gray USA 2:34:00 Ran PR here in ’16 to place 10th
Michelle Lilienthal USA 2:34:50 Hasn’t run marathon since taking 21st in NYC in ’14
Danna Herrick USA 2:34:53 12th in Boston in April
Kristen Heckert USA 2:39:37 Ran PR to take 15th last year

As we pointed out in our Berlin Marathon preview last month, since Tokyo was added to the Abbott World Marathon Majors in 2013, there have been 28 WMM races, and in 27 of the 28, the winner on the women’s side has entered with either a sub-2:24 pb or a World Championship medal. The lone exception came this year in Tokyo when Sarah Chepchirchir — training partner of doper Jemima Sumgong — “amazingly” went from 2:24 to 2:19 at age 32.

With that in mind, the stats indicate there are five “potential winners” in Sunday’s race  (if you haven’t broken 2:24 or won a Worlds/Olympic medal, you aren’t a potential winner in our book). But one of them, Mexico’s Madai Perez, is 37 years old, ran 2:22:59 in 2006 and hasn’t broken 2:27 since. Sorry, Madai, you’re not winning this race either. That leaves four women, and the good news for American fans is that Jordan Hasay is one of them. Let’s run through them one by one.

The Favorite

Tirunesh Dibaba — Ethiopia, 32 years old, 2:17:56 pb (2017 London), 66:50 half
Last two marathons: 3rd 2014 London (2:20:35), 2nd 2017 London (2:17:56)
“Tuneup” race: 2nd in 10,000 at World Championships in 31:02

Dibaba’s run in London this spring was overshadowed by Mary Keitany‘s monumental 2:17:01 up front, but her 2:17:56 runner-up showing was still one of the best performances in the history of women’s marathoning. Only Keitany and Paula Radcliffe have ever run faster than Dibaba did in London, and Dibaba accomplished that by running a sizeable positive split (1:07:54-1:10:02) and stopping to dry-heave around mile 25. Without the stop, Dibaba probably would have knocked another 20 seconds off an already exceptional time.

That run alone makes her the favorite for any marathon she entered this fall (apart from New York, which Keitany is running) as there is a huge gap between 2:17:56 and the next-fastest group of active female marathoners. Here’s the list of the 10 the fastest active marathoners and what they’ve been up to recently (with “active” a somewhat loose term in this context):

Fastest active female marathoners
1. Mary Keitany, Kenya, 2:17:01:
Still crushing it and going for a 4th straight NYC victory in November.
2. Tirunesh Dibaba, Ethiopia, 2:17:56: Running career marathon #3 in Chicago.
3. Tiki Gelana, Ethiopia, 2:18:57: Won the Olympics in 2012 but hasn’t run faster than 2:24 since then and hasn’t raced at all since April 2016.
4. Gladys Cherono, Kenya, 2:19:25: Won her second Berlin Marathon title last month after battling injuries in 2016.
5. Aselefech Mergia, Ethiopia, 2:19:31: Still a contender in World Marathon Majors. 3rd in London in April, then 12th at Worlds in August.
6. Lucy Kabuu, Kenya, 2:19:34: Ran 2:20 to take 3rd in Dubai in 2015 but hasn’t run a marathon since.
7. Yoko Shibui, Japan, 2:19:41: Ran her pb in 2004 as a 25-year-old. Still competing at age 38, but hasn’t broken 2:30 in five years.
7. Tirfi Tsegaye, Ethiopia, 2:19:41: Ran her pb to win Dubai last year, then finished 2nd in Boston and 4th at the Olympics but hasn’t raced since.
9. Florence Kiplagat, Kenya, 2:19:44: Going for her third straight Chicago title on Sunday against Dibaba.
10. Sarah Chepchirchir, Kenya, 2:19:47: Training partner of doper Jemima Sumgong made sudden stunning improvement at age 32 to run 4+ minute pb and win in Tokyo in February. Hasn’t raced since and we haven’t seen her announced for a fall 2017 marathon.

Obviously Dibaba isn’t going to run 2:17 every time out — in fact, chances are good she never runs faster in her career. But by PR, this is how the world of women’s marathoning looks right now:

(small gap)
(big gap)
Everyone else

Kiplagat has run 2:19:44, and that’s exceptional, but that’s almost two minutes slower than what Dibaba’s best. And remember, Dibaba beat Kiplagat by over eight minutes when they raced in London in April. If Dibaba runs to her potential on Sunday, she’s not losing.

One potential complication is that Dibaba ran the track & field World Championships just two months ago, but we’re not particularly worried about any sort of abbreviated buildup. Just as in her last trip to London for the marathon, it took a crazy effort from someone else to deny Dibaba the win as Almaz Ayana hammered the final five kilometers of the 10,000-meter final in 14:24 with Dibaba taking the silver in 31:02.

Had that effort come at the end of a lengthy track season, there would be questions about Dibaba’s ability to extend her season into the fall for a marathon. But Worlds was Dibaba’s only track race of 2017, and her only race of any kind since May. We only view it as a positive as it shows Dibaba was in fantastic shape two months ago. As a result, barring any setback, we expect she’s still in fantastic shape right now.

More than any runner, we view the conditions as the biggest threat to Dibaba. She’s only run two marathons, both in relatively mild conditions in London. Maybe the warm weather (projected high of 76 on Sunday) gets to her in Chicago. Or maybe the stomach issues she battled late in London come back to bother her again. But if everything goes smoothly, Dibaba should win this race.

The Defending Champ

Kiplagat has been a consistent threat in majors for years Kiplagat has been a consistent threat in majors ever since winning her debut in Berlin in 2011

Florence Kiplagat — Kenya, 30 years old, 2:19:44 pb (2011 Berlin), 65:09 half
Marathons since the start of 2016: 3rd 2016 London (2:23:39), 1st 2016 Chicago (2:21:32), 9th 2017 London (2:26:25)

Normally when you enter a race as the two-time defending champion, you’re the favorite, no questions asked. But, as we explained in the previous section, the presence of Dibaba makes Chicago 2017 — where Kiplagat will attempt to become the first-ever three-peat winner (male or female) — a special situation. Still, if Dibaba falters, Kiplagat is the best bet to claim the title. This will be the fourth straight year she has run Chicago, and she’s finished 2nd, 1st, and 1st in her three appearances. Her 2016 run was particularly impressive as she clocked 2:21:32. How fast is that? Since 2006, only two women have run faster in Chicago: Rita Jeptoo and Jemima Sumgong, both of whom were later busted for doping.

In fact, it’s hard to find many bad marathons by Kiplagat in recent years. Check out her last eight marathons:

2013 Berlin: 1st, 2:21:13
2014 London: 2nd, 2:20:24
2014 Chicago: 2nd, 2:25:57
2015 London: 5th, 2:24:15
2015 Chicago: 1st, 2:23:33
2016 London: 3rd, 2:23:39
2016 Chicago: 1st, 2:21:32
2017 London9th, 2:26:25

Three wins and a second in four fall marathons is a terrific record. And three straight top-fives in London is mighty impressive as well considering London consistently attracts the best field of the year. Really the only bad race in that stretch was her race in London this April, but we’ll give her a pass on that one because of the “Keitany effect.” Keitany went out so fast in that race that it caused everyone else to do the same, and most of them weren’t equipped to handle the second half. As a result, Kiplagat wound up running 2:26:25 after going out near world-record pace (1:08:17) and slogging home in 1:18:08 for the second half. Point is, unless she goes out like a crazy woman, expect Kiplagat to run a solid race. Unfortunately, solid may not be enough for a three-peat against Dibaba.

If the Top Two Falter, Watch Out For…

Jordan Hasay — USA, 26 years old, 2:23:00 pb (2017 Boston), 67:55 half
Marathons in her career: 3rd 2017 Boston (2:23:00)

Hasay, who turned 26 on September 21, knocked it out of the park in her first career marathon in April. 2:23:00, 3rd place at Boston. That’s the 13th-fastest debut in history. Enough said.

That’s the good news. The bad news is Hasay now has to try to top that performance. Nothing else in Hasay’s career converts to anything close to a 2:23 flat marathon. Yes, we know Boston was her first marathon but that doesn’t mean a lot to us. As we mentioned after Berlin, there are plenty of people who run their PRs in their first marathon. Of the 10 fastest debut marathoners in history on the men’s side, only three have run faster elsewhere.

We decided to look up the stats for the women. Of the 12 women who have debuted faster than Hasay, only four – yes just four of them – have ever run a marathon faster than their debut marathon.

The 13 Fastest Debut Marathoners in History (according to Ken Nakamura)

Bold = PR Came After Debut

1. Paula Radclife – GBR – 2:18:52 – Yes. She ran faster – 2:15:25.
2. Lucy Kabuu – Kenya – 2:19:34 – Hasn’t run faster. 2:20:21 is next best.
3. Gladys Cherono – Kenya – 2:20:03 – Ran 2:19:25 in her next marathon.
4. Tirunesh Dibaba – Ethiopia – 2:20:35. Showed why she may be the GOAT for women’s running by running 2:17:56 in her second marathon.
5. Amane Beriso – Ethiopia –  2:20:48 – She’s only finished 3 marathons but her next best is 2:22:15.
6. Shure Demise Ware – Ethiopia – 2:20:59 – World junior record holder is still young but she’s now run 7 marathons with her next best time being 2:22:57.
7. Meselech Melkamu – Ethiopia – 2:21:01 – Hasn’t run faster but has run 2:21 twice more.
8. Yuka Ando – Japan – 2:21:36 – Her 2:21:36 debut was in March in Nagoya at age 23. Ran 2:31:31 at World Champs in marathon #2.
9. Naoko Sakamoto – Japan – 2:21:51 – Ran 9 other marathons in her career and never broke 2:25.
10. Ejegayehu Dibaba – Ethiopia – 2:22:09 – Her debut was in 2011 but she never ran another marathon.
11. Gete Wami – Ethiopia – 2:22:19 – Ended up with a 2:21:34 pb.
12. Worknesh Degefa – Ethiopia – Debut was in January – still waiting to run marathon #2.
13. Jordan Hasay – USA – 2:23:00 – Second marathon is coming up on Sunday.

So history says Hasay faces a tough task in topping her Boston performance on Sunday – she may never do better in her entire career.

The fact that’s it’s very hard to top an A+ type effort is a facet of our sport that many fail to recognize. Think of it this way, if you walk out onto a basketball court and sink a half-court shot the first time you pick up the ball, it’s hard to top that. Same thing is true if you get a 98 on your first exam in a class.

But that’s what Hasay will try to do on Sunday. And her prep races certainly don’t indicate a sub-2:23 is likely. Prior to Boston, Hasay ran 68:40 and 67:55 for the half-marathon with that 67:55 being the only thing in Hasay’s career that anyone might think was indicative of a 2:23 flat marathon. Those times are far better than what Hasay has put up in her two prep races prior to Chicago. On September 4 in New Haven, she won the US 20k champs in 66:35 – that’s just 70:14 half-marathon pace. Then in Philadelphia on September 17, she ran just 70:42 for the half marathon. Yes, the weather was warmer than ideal in both cases but those times are a lot slower than what she did before Boston.

Now, we haven’t talked to Hasay – we’ll do that on Friday at the pre-race press conference – so maybe there is a reason why her prep races were slower. It’s possible Hasay was purposely holding back and trying run a certain time (but we don’t think so as she was slowing down as the race progressed in her last race), or was sick or was purposely entering the races really tired, but for now, we think Hasay features stiff odds of topping what she did in Boston.

MB: Will Jordan Hasay ever run faster than her 2:23:00 debut in Boston? Yes or no.

Valentine Kipketer — Kenya, 24 years old, 2:23:02 pb (2013 Amsterdam), 68:21 half
Marathons since the start of 2016: 3rd 2016 Mumbai (2:34:07), 5th 2016 Boston (2:33:13), 3rd 2016 Chicago (2:23:41), 6th 2017 Boston (2:29:35)

Kipketer has a solid 2:23:02 pb and finished 3rd in Chicago last year, her highest finish in five major appearances. The problem is, that might be her ceiling in this race barring catastrophes by Dibaba and Kiplagat as she was still over two minutes behind Kiplagat last year. Kipketer did win Mumbai and Amsterdam in 2013, but she didn’t run any marathons in 2014 or 2015 and since returning in 2016, she hasn’t finished higher than 3rd in a marathon. Considering Hasay has a faster PR on a tougher course than Kipketer — and considering Hasay has run just one marathon to Kipketer’s nine — Hasay has the greater potential and is more likely to win in Chicago should the top two falter.

Still, in a field as shallow as this one, Kipketer must be considered a contender.

One More Woman to Keep An Eye On

Brigid Kosgei — Kenya, 23 years old, 2:24:45 pb (2016 Lisbon), 66:35 half
Marathons since the start of 2016: 1st 2016 Milan (2:27:45), 2nd 2016 Lisbon (2:24:45), 1st 2016 Honolulu (2:31:11), 8th 2017 Boston (2:31:48)
Tuneup races: 72:16 for 1st at Bogota Half on July 30; 66:35 for 3rd at Copenhagen Half on September 17

Kosgei’s PR says that she shouldn’t be able to win this race, but given how rapidly the 23-year-old has been improving, we’re not counting her out. She showed promise last year by sandwiching wins in Milan and Honolulu with a PR in Lisbon, and though she struggled in her major debut in Boston in April (8th in 2:31), she has been on fire in the half marathon in 2017. She began the year with a PR of over six minutes in a race in Italy, running 67:35 in March, then won in Bogota in July (72:16 at 8,600 feet), where she beat some studs. Check out the top five finishers in that race:

Top 5 finishers, 2017 Bogota Half Marathon
1. Brigid Kosgei, Kenya 72:16
2. Veronicah Nyaruai, Kenya 72:43: 2017 Houston Half Marathon champ, 4th at Kenyan World Champs Trials in 10,000.
3. Ruth Chepngetich, Kenya 73:57: Won her other four half marathons in 2017, including a 66:19 in Istanbul in April.
4. Mary Wacera, Kenya 74:36: 2nd and 3rd at last two World Half Marathon Champs, 66:29 pb.
5. Meskerem Assefa, Ethiopia 74:45: Has won Houston and Rotterdam Marathons in 2017.

Beating a field like that is no joke, and Kosgei backed it up by running another PR of 66:35 in Copenhagen on September 17. It’s still a big jump to go from running good half marathons to challenging Dibaba and Kiplagat over a full 26.2, but Kosgei has certainly shown the potential this year to win a major one day.

If the big two of Dibaba and Kiplagat are off, we actually think Kosgei is your winner. Keep coming back all weekend long as we’ll have more from Chicago on Friday.

Talk about all things Chicago Marathon on our messageboard:

MB: Is Galen Rupp a 2:05 Guy? Wejo, Rojo and You Debate
MB: Jeff Eggleston has run 2:10, Derrick, Chelanga, Puskedra, Estrada Should be 2:08 or better
MB: The 2017 Chicago Marathon is loaded with American talent – find out who here
MB: Rupp’s last workout before Chicago- what is he wearing (pics)?
MB: Is there any chance that Chris Derrick could be the next Ryan Hall?
MB: Chicago Marathon weather not looking great, other options?
MB: Joan Benoit Samuelson Out of Chicago with Injury
MB: Chicago Elite Marathon Field. Who is the favorite?

Read our men’s race preview articles.

LRC Is Galen Rupp a 2:05 Guy? LetsRun Debates: How fast can Galen Rupp run for 26.2 at Sunday’s Chicago Marathon?
LRC The 2017 Chicago Marathon Men’s Race Is LOADED With American Talent Besides Galen Rupp – Find Out Who Here
LRC Chicago Marathon International Men’s Preview
LRC Aaron Braun And The Question All Runners Eventually Face – “Should I Hang ‘Em Up?”

Correction: The following sentence was deleted from the Jordan Hasay section, “Nothing else in Hasay’s career converts to anything close to a 2:23 flat marathon,” as later on in the section we explained how her half-marathon PB was the only thing indicative of a 2:23 marathon.

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