RRW: Sixteen Prior Champions, Including Des Linden, To Run 2020 Boston Marathon

By David Monti, @d9monti
(c) 2019 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

(17-Dec) — In a joint statement this morning, John Hancock and the Boston Athletic Association announced that sixteen prior race champions, including 2018 winner Desiree Linden, would run the 2020 Boston Marathon scheduled for Monday, April 20.  The 2020 race, always held on the third Monday in April, will be the 124th running of the world’s oldest marathon.

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Desiree Linden winning the 2018 Boston Marathon (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)

“In our 35th year as principal sponsor of this historic race, we are excited to welcome back our accomplished champions,” said John Hancock chief marketing officer Barbara Goose through a statement.  “Their return is a testimony to the tradition and legacy that is the Boston Marathon. These champions are not just racing each other, they are chasing history.”

While today’s announcement included the race’s four open and wheelchair division champions from 2019 –Lawrence Cherono of Kenya, Worknesh Degefa of Ethiopia, Manuela Schär of Switzerland and Daniel Romanchuk of the United States– it is the inclusion of Linden, a two-time Olympian, which will likely get the most attention, at least domestically.  Linden, 36, who won the bitterly cold and rain-soaked edition of the race in 2018 where three quarters of the elite field couldn’t finish, will run Boston for the eight time.  Moreover, she plans to double back from the USA Olympic Team Trials Marathon which will take place 51 days earlier in Atlanta on February 29.  A top-3 finish there would put her on her third Olympic team.

“Running the Boston Marathon seven weeks after the U.S. Olympic Trials is a plan that has been in the works for roughly a year,” Linden explained in a written statement.  “I crossed the finish line in 2019 and knew if my body was capable, I wanted to return to Boston in 2020. My coach, Walt Drenth, and I had some long conversations on doing the double, how we would tailor the training, and if it was reasonable to expect to run well in both races.  We were both excited about the challenge.”

Linden’s marathon career began inauspiciously in Boston in 2007 when she finished 18th in 2:44:56, a time which would only have qualified her for next year’s Olympic Trials by four seconds.  But when she returned to the race in 2011, she was a different athlete, nearly winning in a personal best 2:22:38 after a thrilling three-way battle against Kenya’s Caroline Kilel and Sharon Cherop on Boylston Street.  Kilel got the win in 2:22:36, just two seconds ahead of Linden and six seconds ahead of Cherop.

Since then, Linden finished eighth in 2014 (2:23:54), fourth in 2015 (2:25:39), fourth in 2017 (2:25:06), first in 2018 (2:39:54), and fifth in 2019 (2:27:00).

“I’m ecstatic to have another opportunity to line up at the Boston Marathon as part of the John Hancock Elite Team,” Linden continued.  “At this point in my career I enter each race with a heightened sense of urgency and have become very selective in what races I’m willing to commit my time and energy to. The Boston Marathon has always been the most motivating race on my schedule; I’m grateful that in an Olympic year John Hancock is supportive of me competing in the U.S. Olympic Trials as well. I hope to stand on the start line in Hopkinton as the first U.S. women to have made three Olympic Marathon teams.”

Other prior race champions in the open division announced for the 2020 marathon were Yuki Kawauchi of Japan (first in 2018); Edna Kiplagat (2017), Geoffrey Kirui (2017), and Caroline Rotich of Kenya (2015); and Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia (2013 and 2015), the reigning World Athletics marathon champion.  Prior wheelchair division champions who have entered were Tatyana McFadden of the United States (2013 – 2016, 2018), Marcel Hug of Switzerland (2015 – 2018), Ernst van Dyk of South Africa (2011 – 2016, 2008 – 2010, 2014), Hiroyuki Yamamoto (2013) and Masazumi Soejima (2007 and 2011) of Japan, and Josh Cassidy of Canada (2012).

“The race for the tape on Patriots’ Day will surely be both competitive and compelling, as John Hancock has fielded a tremendous team of champions,” said Tom Grilk, the B.A.A. CEO.  “With 16 returning champions, the roads leading to Boston will be filled with many of the most decorated runners and wheelchair racers in history. Another memorable chapter in Boston Marathon history will surely unfold on April 20.”

The Boston Marathon –which recorded 26,632 finishers in 2019– is part of the Abbott World Marathon Majors, a confederation of the world’s top marathons, and is also a World Athletics Platinum Label road race.  The Platinum Label is new for 2020 and has been given only to a super-elite group of eight marathons so far: Tokyo, Nagoya Women’s, Seoul, Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago and New York (two to four more may be added, according to World Athletics).

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