2024 Boston Marathon Men’s Preview: Evans Chebet Goes for 3-Peat & Kenyan Olympic Berth

Chebet, who has not raced in a year and dealt with an Achilles issue during his buildup is trying to become the first man to win three straight since 2008

We are four days out from the 2024 Boston Marathon, which means it’s time to start freaking out about the weather (What’s that? You’ve already started?) and figuring out who’s going to win the darn thing. Most of the latter discussion will center on Kenya’s Evans Chebet.

Boston loves to bring back its past champions, but this year Chebet, 35, is the only man in the elite field who has won the race before. Already a Boston legend for slaying Eliud Kipchoge last year en route to a 2:05:54 victory, on Monday Chebet will try to become the fifth man to win three straight Bostons, and the first to do it since Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot from 2006 to 2008. A win would also send a statement to Kenya’s Olympic selectors, who so far have left Chebet out of consideration for this summer’s Olympics in Paris.

However, Chebet has not raced at all since last year’s Boston due to injury, which means the likes of Ethiopia’s Sisay Lemma (2:01:48 win in Valencia in December), Tanzania’s Gabriel Geay (2nd last year in 2:06:04), and Kenya’s Albert Korir (2021 NYC Marathon champion, 4th in Boston last year) will be licking their chops at the opportunity to take him down.

Because we’re only two months removed from the US Olympic Trials, the American elite field is not as strong as deep as usual. But it’s about as good as you could hope for in an Olympic year. The 4th and 5th placers from the Trials, Elkanah Kibet and CJ Albertson, are both running, as is 2:08 marathoner Sam Chelanga, who DNF’d in Orlando.

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Here’s what you need to know about the men’s race at the 128th Boston Marathon. Women’s preview coming soon.

What: 2024 Boston Marathon
When: Monday, April 15, 2024. Men’s elite start at 9:37 a.m. ET.
How to watch: You can watch the race live on ESPN2 from 8:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. ET. WCVB5 will also air the race locally in Boston. For how to watch in the rest of the world, click here.

*Full elite field

Top men’s entrants

Athlete Country PB Note
Sisay Lemma ETH 2:01:48 (Valencia, 2023) Coming off huge pb win in Valencia
Evans Chebet KEN 2:03:00 (Valencia, 2020)
Two-time defending champ hasn’t raced in a year due to injury
Gabriel Geay TAN 2:03:00 (Valencia, 2022) 4th and 2nd the last 2 years
Cybrian Kotut KEN 2:04:34 (Amsterdam, 2023) Coming off pb in Amsterdam
Haftu Teklu ETH 2:04:43 (Berlin, 2023) 5th in Berlin
Shura Kitata ETH 2:04:49 (London, 2018) ’20 London champ was 2nd + 3rd in NYC last 2 years
John Korir KEN 2:05:01 (Chicago, 2022) 9th last year; 3rd + 4th in last 2 Chicagos
Mohamed Esa ETH 2:05:05 (Amsterdam, 2022) 2nd Tokyo, 8th Valencia in ’23
Suguru Osako JPN 2:05:29 (Tokyo, 2020) 3rd in Boston debut in ’17; hasn’t raced here since
Sondre Moen NOR 2:05:48 (Fukuoka, 2017)
Zouhair Talbi MAR 2:06:39 (Houston, 2024) 5th last year, then set CR in Houston in January
Isaac Mpofu ZIM 2:06:48 (Valencia, 2022)
Albert Korir KEN 2:06:57 (NYC, 2023) Three top-2 finishes in NYC; best Boston was 4th in ’23
Sam Chelanga USA 2:08:50 (Chicago, 2023) DNF Olympic Trials
Elkanah Kibet USA 2:09:07 (Boston, 2022) 4th at Trials; 9th at ’22 Boston in 2:09:07
Matt McDonald USA 2:09:49 (Chicago, 2022) 64th at Trials; 10th at ’23 Boston
CJ Albertson USA 2:10:07 (Orlando, 2024) 5th at Trials; 10th, 13th, 12th last 3 Bostons

The weather

No race will drive you crazier when it comes to the weather than the Boston Marathon. Mid-April in Boston means any sort of weather is on the table, from snow to 80-degree heat, and because Boston is a point-to-point course, the wind plays a huge factor. Grab a tailwind and you can shave a couple minutes off your pb; a headwind and suddenly those hills in Newton are even harder.

When we first wrote about the weather on Saturday, conditions looked nearly ideal for marathoning (mid-50s and a tailwind), and that seems like it’s still the case but please realize that things still are subject to change. As recently as Wednesday, the forecasted high for Marathon Monday ranged quite a bit depending on where you were getting the forecast from — from 66 degrees Fahrenheit (the Weather Channel) to 71 (AccuWeather) to 74 (Apple’s weather app), but now all the apps have narrowed in their forecast. We’re updating the forecast every day here so bookmark that page as it makes a big difference in the finishing times. And if you’re running on Monday, be prepared to take on some extra fluids.

Chebet will try to draw upon experience to win third straight Boston title

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There is an argument to be made that Evans Chebet is currently the greatest marathoner on Earth. With Eliud Kipchoge slowing down (he was beaten convincingly by Chebet in Boston last year and was only 10th in last month’s Tokyo Marathon) and world record holder Kelvin Kiptum tragically losing his life in a car accident in February, Chebet’s case is as strong as anyone’s.Chebet has won six of his last seven marathons, including the last three (2022 Boston-2022 New York-2023 Boston).

Exhibit A and Exhibit B in Chebet’s argument are his two Boston victories, which were among the most impressive in the race’s 127-year history. In 2022, he split a staggering 13:55 for the 5k segment from 35-40k to pull away from the field. One year later, Chebet outdueled Gabriel Geay and 2021 champion Benson Kipruto to repeat in 2:05:54 — the fastest winning time in Boston since 2011.

If Chebet is at his best, he is close to unstoppable in Boston. But he will not be at his best on Monday. Chebet had to withdraw from his last marathon in New York last November due to a left Achilles injury, and it has continued to bother him throughout this Boston buildup. This sort of thing tends to happen when you are 11 years into your marathon career.

At some points during the buildup, Chebet’s coach Claudio Berardelli told LetsRun.com, Chebet was not sure if he would make it to the start line. But the last few weeks have gone well, Berardelli said, and Chebet’s morale has improved.

“We had to be cautious, especially during the buildup, because we’re coming out from the injury before New York,” Berardelli said. “So we couldn’t maybe load the volume, the mileage we wanted at the beginning. On a couple of occasions when we tried to inject a bit of faster pace, we had to retreat a little bit. But then towards the end of the preparation, things weren’t bad. He’s himself. He’s happy.”

As he ages, Chebet has become more susceptible to injury, but his experience is also an advantage. Boston will be Chebet’s 18th marathon. That lifetime of work means he no longer needs quite as much to prepare for each race. It also means he knows how to race 26.2 miles. In particular, he knows how to race the 26.2 miles from Hopkinton Town Common to Copley Square. If Chebet is to prevail on Monday, he will need to rely on guile and marathon savvy as well as his fitness. But even at his best, Chebet is no workout warrior.

“He’s not the fastest guy in my group when it comes to certain workouts,” said Berardelli, who also coaches 2024 Tokyo champ Benson Kipruto (2:02:16 pb) and 2022 London champ Amos Kipruto (2:03:13 pb). “But then when (the time) comes to put together all the pieces in the marathon, he has this perfect coordination of all the aspects to be make him a good marathon runner. He’s very efficient biomechanically and physiologically. His running economy is very good and he’s able to run at a high percentage of his VO2 max…He’s someone who knows how to train. Very rarely [do] you have Evans forcing himself in training. He’s never the one who wins the workout.”

As impressive as Chebet’s marathon career is — he’s made the podium in 13 of his 17 career starts — he has never competed at an Olympic Games. Whether it was due to injury concerns or forgetfulness after he missed the fall marathon season, Athletics Kenya did not name Chebet to its 10-man provisional Olympic squad in December, nor the five-man team announced on April 4. We explained why Chebet could still run himself onto the team with a big performance in Boston, but coach and athlete are trying not to stress about it ahead of the race.

“Let’s finish Boston and then we will know more,” Berardelli said.

Lemma leads challengers

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Outside of Chebet, Sisay Lemma is the most accomplished marathoner in the field. The 33-year-old Ethiopian won London in 2021 and is coming off the best race of his career, a 2:01:48 victory in Valencia in December. In that race, Lemma went out in 60:35 and held on to win by over a minute. He joined Kiptum, Kipchoge, and Kenenisa Bekele as the only men in history to break 2:02.

But Lemma has had MAJOR problems at the Boston Marathon. He DNF’d his Boston debut in 2017, finished 30th in 2:22:08 in 2019, and DNF’d again in 2022. Given his success on the flat, fast Valencia course, it’s surprising he’s not in London this spring. Lemma’s determination to return and try to conquer Boston is admirable but he may not be the smartest pick on Monday. We are looking forward to talking to him on Friday at the pre-race press event to see why he chose to come to Boston.

If you’re looking for a guy who has run well in Boston before, Tanzania’s Gabriel Geay is your man as he has finished 4th and 2nd the last two years. Outside of the crazy wind year of 2011, Geay’s 2:06:04 last year is the #3 time ever run in Boston. The only guys close to him in 2023 were Chebet and 3rd placer Benson Kipruto, who isn’t running Boston this year (he won Tokyo instead). After that, it was a two-minute gap to Albert Korir in 4th. If Geay replicates his 2023 performance, it may be enough to win considering Chebet is not as strong as last year.

Korir is also returning and should be one to watch. Korir has been incredible at the NYC Marathon, winning in 2021 and finishing second in 2019 and 2023, the latter in a terrific time of 2:06:57. He has not been quite as successful in Boston (6th in 2022, 4th in 2023), but the races require similar skill sets so he should be in the podium mix. Ethiopia’s Shura Kitata, the 2020 London champ, is the other former major winner in the field and was close behind Korir in NYC last fall, taking 3rd in 2:07:11.

The winner is likely coming from the Chebet/Lemma/Korir/Kitata group, but there is decent depth here as well, with 10 guys under 2:06. That includes Chebet’s training partner Cybrian Kotut (2:04:34 pb in Amsterdam last fall), Haftu Teklu (2:04:43 for 5th in Berlin in September), John Korir (3rd and 4th in Chicago the last two years, younger brother of 2012 Boston champ Wesley Korir), Japanese Olympian Suguru Osako (3rd in Boston in 2017), former European record holder Sondre Nordstad Moen (2:05:48 pb), and former NAIA star Zouhair Talbi (5th last year, just set 2:06:39 course record in Houston in January). One of those guys could easily pop off and finish on the podium on Monday, though it would take a big effort to get the win.

Kibet & Albertson lead the American entries

Albertson & Kibet leading the way at 2022 Boston (Kevin Morris photo)

Considering all the best Americans ran the Olympic Trials 10 weeks ago, this is not a bad American pro field. Both Trials 4th placer Elkanah Kibet and 5th placer CJ Albertson have signed up for Boston, while Sam Chelanga, who ran 2:08 in Chicago but DNF’d the Trials, is also running as is the BAA’s Matt McDonald, who was 64th in Orlando after running 2:10 in Chicago last fall.

Kibet (9th in 2022 in 2:09:07), Albertson (10th in 2021), and McDonald (10th in 2023) have all run well in Boston before. Of the three, Albertson has the best shot to replicate that performance. Yes, Kibet beat Albertson at the Trials, but Kibet is 40 and Albertson has made a career out of running fast marathons in close proximity (he ran 2:11 three times in five weeks last fall, including twice in eight days).

Albertson famously led Boston by more than two minutes at the halfway mark in 2021, where he hung on to run 2:11:44, then followed that up by running 2:10:23 in 2022 and 2:10:33 in 2023. Don’t be surprised to see him take control early if the rest of the pack dawdles on the downhills. (Albertson, who has famously never broken 2:10 in an official marathon, has also mapped out his “ideal” splits for running a 2:09 on Monday though he self-deprecatingly wrote that he won’t run them).

Leonard Korir, who was 3rd at the Olympic Trials, will be going for the 2:08:10 Olympic standard in Rotterdam on Sunday. If he does not get it, he will be rooting for one of the Americans in Boston to finish in the top five as that would clinch a third Olympic spot for Team USA which would go to him. Even if neither of those things happen, Korir still has a good shot to earn an Olympic spot via world ranking, but he would have to wait until May 5 to know for sure.

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Our women’s preview will come out soon. Be sure to come back to LetsRun.com later in the week as we’re bound to learn a lot during Friday’s pre-race press event. Join the Supporters Club as we will share all of the inside scoop on our Friday bonus podcast for SC members.

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