Can Keira D’Amato Win a Medal in the World Championships Marathon?

The World Championships marathon occupies a peculiar place in our sport. While the winners can, technically, call themselves “world champions” it’s a bit misleading. In every other event, all the best (healthy) runners in that event show up and run Worlds. Usually. That’s not the case in the marathon. The world’s best marathoners can only compete twice, maybe three times, per year, and most athletes would prefer to run a race that could earn them an appearance fee or at least a personal best. Worlds does not offer the former and rarely offers the opportunity for the latter.

That said, the prize money at Worlds isn’t bad ($70,000 for first, $35,000 for second, $22,000 for bronze) and earning a World Championship medal is a cool honor and a nice way to boost your future appearance value. Plus some federations require (or strongly encourage) their athletes to run Worlds (the Ethiopian squad this year is four-deep and it’s LOADED as the slowest of the four is the defending champion, Gotytom Gebreslase (2:18:11 pb)) so the fields are typically World Marathon Major-quality.

American Keira D’Amato is one athlete who did not need to be convinced to run this year’s World Athletics Championships marathon in Budapest (the women’s race is on Saturday, August 26 at 7:00 a.m. local/1:00 a.m. ET; the men’s race is Sunday, August 27 at 7:00 a.m. local/1:00 a.m. ET). D’Amato, 38, had long dreamed of representing the US and was poised to do so at the 2020 World Half Marathon Championships in Poland before USATF decided it was not sending a team. Last year, at age 37, D’Amato finally made her debut in a US singlet as a late injury replacement for Molly Seidel in the World Championships marathon, but because of the late notice, D’Amato had a limited buildup and finished 8th in 2:23:24.

Article continues below player.

In 2023, D’Amato has known for months she will be running at Worlds and is entering the meet in the shape of her life, having run 66:39 to set the American record at the Asics Half Marathon in Australia on July 1. In the 40-year history of the World Championships, only two American women have ever medalled in the marathon: Marianne Dickerson at the inaugural Worlds in Helsinki in 1983, and Amy Cragg in London in 2017. Could D’Amato become the third in Budapest?

The Competition Is Tough, But There Is a Path to a Medal

D’Amato owns a 2:19:12 pb, the #2 in US history, which she set to win the Houston Marathon in January 2022. Considering she just ran 66:39, it’s not unreasonable to suggest D’Amato is in 2:18 shape right now. That’s good, but there are a number of women who have even more impressive resumes. Here are the strongest competitors on the entry list in Budapest:

  • Amane Beriso, Ethiopia (2:14:58 pb) — Went from solid marathoner to one of the fastest ever by running 2:14:58 to win Valencia in December. 2nd in Boston in April.
  • Rosemary Wanjiru, Kenya (2:16:56 pb) — Ran 2:18:00 in her debut in Berlin last year, then won Tokyo in 2:16:28 in March — the fastest time in the world in 2023.
  • Tsehay Gemechu, Ethiopia (2:16:56 pb) — Ran 2:16:56 to finish 2nd in Tokyo behind Wanjiru in March.
  • Yalemzerf Yehualaw, Ethiopia (2:17:23 pb) — Crazy fast pbs at shorter distances (29:14 10k, 63:51 half) and has run 2:17 twice, including a win at 2022 London.
  • Lonah Chemtai Salpeter, Israel (2:17:45 pb) — Consistent big-race performer has finished on the podium in last four marathons, including bronze at Worlds last year.
  • Gotytom Gebreslase, Ethiopia (2:18:11 pb) — Has four World Marathon Major podiums since debuting in 2021 including a win at last year’s Worlds.

(You can find full entries here. The other Americans are Lindsay Flanagan and Susanna Sullivan, who both have 2:24 pbs and are unlikely to medal)

D’Amato was part of a 5-7-8 US finish at Worlds last year (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images for World Athletics)

Those are six women who probably beat D’Amato if they run their best in Budapest (they’re also the only six women in the field with faster pbs than D’Amato). The good news for D’Amato is that conditions often serve to level the playing field at the World Championships marathon. There is attrition in any marathon, and that’s doubly so for a summer race like the Worlds. The race is starting early — 7 a.m. local time — and we’re still too far out to get an accurate forecast for race day on August 25. But the high temperature in Budapest is slated to be right around 90 degrees for much of the next week, which likely means temperatures in the high 60s/low 70s during the race even with the early start. The dew point at the time tomorrow will be in the 60s. If the sun is out by then, those aren’t fun conditions to run a marathon.

D’Amato, meanwhile, trains in humid Richmond, Va., and excelled last year to win the US 20k champs in steamy conditions. She didn’t fare as well at the warm 2021 Chicago Marathon, but part of that was due to an abbreviated buildup. Either way, she should be better-suited to the conditions than some of her rivals.

Note that of the six women listed above, four are Ethiopian. Now look at how the Ethiopian women have done in the last three Worlds/Olympic marathons:

2022 Worlds: 1st (Gotytom Gebreslase), DNF (Ashete Bekere), DNF (Ababel Yeshaneh)
2021 Olympics: 4th (Roza Dereje), DNF (Birhane Dibaba), DNF (Zeineba Yimer)
2019 Worlds: DNF (Ruti Aga), DNF (Shure Demise), DNF (Roza Dereje)

That’s a DNF rate of 78%! Obviously some Ethiopians can still run well — Gebreslase won the whole thing last year — but that race in Eugene was not particularly hot. Whether it’s the hot weather or the Ethiopians simply showing up to appease the federation, something seems to be up. History suggests it is very unlikely all four (or even three) Ethiopians run well in Budapest.

Of course, D’Amato has the rest of the field to worry about, but if she runs a good race, the natural attrition of the World Championships marathon should put her in medal contention. A great race likely lands her on the podium. Either way, it should be worth staying up for if you’re an American fan. 1 a.m. ET is definitely a late start but it’s the weekend — you can sleep in on Saturday. And with a 10 p.m. Friday night start, West Coasters have no excuse.

Will Keira D'Amato medal in the 2023 World Championships marathon?

Your vote has been counted. Thank you!

Men’s Race

Ethiopia’s Tamirat Tola is the headliner and normally he’d be the favorite. He has a strong track record at Worlds, finishing 2nd in 2017 and winning last year, and a victory next Sunday would make him the first man to repeat at Worlds since Kenya’s Abel Kirui in 2009-11. Tola also enters in strong form having run 2:03:40 in Valencia in December before finishing 3rd in London in April. The complicating factor is that Tola has also been announced for the Sydney Marathon, which is taking place on September 17 — which is just 22 days after Worlds. Running two elite marathons in three weeks is basically impossible so he may not be a factor in this one if he’s prioritizing Sydney.

2023 Tokyo champ Chalu Deso of Ethiopia, 2021 Olympic silver medalist Abdi Nageeye of the Netherlands, and Ethiopia’s Leul Gebresilase (2nd at ’22 London, 4th at ’23 London) are also in the field while the US team consists of Elkanah Kibet (2:10:43 pb), Zach Panning (2:09:28 pb) and Nico Montanez (2:09:55 pb). For a full preview of the men’s race, you can read World Athletics’ preview here.

Want More? Join The Supporters Club Today
Support independent journalism and get:
  • Exclusive Access to VIP Supporters Club Content
  • Bonus Podcasts Every Friday
  • Free Shirt (Annual Subscribers)
  • Exclusive Discounts
  • Enhanced Message Boards