2024 Boston Marathon Women’s Preview: Hellen Obiri Seeks Repeat Victory

In 2023, Obiri became the first woman in 34 years to win Boston and NYC in the same year

We’ve already previewed the men’s race at the 2024 Boston Marathon. Now it’s time to do the same for the women.

The women’s field is led by a Kenyan returning champion who will be among the favorites in this summer’s Olympic marathon in Paris: Hellen Obiri. (That, of course, is assuming the Kenyan federation names Obiri to its team).

There is plenty of depth behind Obiri. This year’s race features nine women with sub-2:20 personal bests, the most in Boston history and the second-most of any marathon ever behind the 2023 London Marathon which had 10 (2024 London will also have nine sub-2:20 women). Among that group, Ethiopians Tadu Teshome (2:17:36 pb) and Hiwot Gebremaryam (2:17:59 pb) have the fastest pbs, but that is no guarantee of success in Boston: Gebremaryam was only 8th in last year’s race. The sub-2:20 group does not include Obiri (2:21:38 pb) or 2022 NYC Marathon winner Sharon Lokedi (2:23:23 pb), neither of whom have raced a marathon outside of Boston or New York.

Like the men’s race, the US women’s field is surprisingly strong considering the Olympic Trials were just two months ago. It includes the 5th and 6th placers from the Trials, Sara Hall and 2015 Boston champ Caroline Rotich (who became a US citizen in March 2023), as well as 2018 Boston champ Des Linden and Emma Bates, last year’s top American in Boston who had to miss the Trials due to injury.

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Here’s what you need to know about the women’s race at the 128th Boston Marathon.

What: 2024 Boston Marathon
When: Monday, April 15, 2024. Women’s elite start at 9:47 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 women’s entrants

Athlete Country PB Note
Tadu Teshome ETH 2:17:36 (Valencia, 2022)
Fastest in field but best result in 3 marathons last year was 5th in Chicago
Hiwot Gebremaryam ETH 2:17:59 (Valencia, 2023) 8th last year
Judith Korir KEN 2:18:20 (Eugene, 2022)
Silver at ’22 Worlds but only 10th in her last marathon in Sydney
Meseret Belete ETH 2:18:21 (Amsterdam, 2023) Won Doha + Amsterdam last year
Tiruye Mesfin ETH 2:18:47 (Valencia, 2022) 5th in Amsterdam last fall
Workenesh Edesa ETH 2:18:51 (Osaka, 2024) Set pb to win Osaka in January
Senbere Teferi ETH 2:19:21 (Berlin, 2023) Ran 64:40 at Barcelona Half in February
Dera Dida ETH 2:19:24 (Berlin, 2023) 3rd in Dubai in January
Edna Kiplagat KEN 2:19:50 (London, 2012)*
Won Boston in ’17 + ’21 but only 30th last year. 44 years old.
Mary Ngugi-Cooper KEN 2:20:22 (London, 2022) 2nd, 3rd, and 9th the last 3 years
Sara Hall USA 2:20:32 (Chandler, 2020) 5th at Trials in Feb; best finish in Boston is 15th
Ababel Yeshaneh ETH 2:20:51 (Chicago, 2019) 2nd and 4th the last 2 years
Vibian Chepkirui KEN 2:20:59 (Vienna, 2022)
Siranesh Yirga ETH 2:21:08 (Ljubljana, 2022)
Helah Kiprop KEN 2:21:27 (Tokyo, 2016)
Hellen Obiri KEN 2:21:38 (Boston, 2023)
In ’23 became first woman to win Boston + NY in same year since ’89
Emma Bates USA 2:22:10 (Boston, 2023) 5th last year
Desiree Linden USA 2:22:38 (Boston, 2011)* 11th at the Trials
Buze Diriba ETH 2:23:11 (Toronto, 2023)
Won Toronto in October, then ran 66:24 pb at Houston Half in January
Caroline Rotich USA 2:23:22 (Chicago, 2012) 2015 champ was 6th at Olympic Trials
Sharon Lokedi KEN 2:23:23 (New York City, 2022) Has finished 1st + 3rd at NYC in her 2 career marathons
Jenny Simpson USA N/A DNF’d her debut at the Trials

Obiri aiming for repeat

It’s been 19 years since we’ve had a repeat women’s champion in Boston — Catherine Ndereba was the last to do it, in 2004 and 2005 (Rita Jeptoo won in 2013 and 2014 but was stripped of the latter title after testing positive for EPO). But that challenge should not faze defending champion Hellen Obiri. It had been 34 years since a woman had won Boston and New York in the same year, but that is exactly what Obiri did in 2023. She will head to Boston as the clear favorite.

Kevin Morris photo

Obiri has succeeded by turning the marathon into a sit-and-kick. Last year in Boston, she did not move until after 40k. In New York, Obiri waited even longer before finally outdueling Letesenbet Gidey over the final 800 meters. For many years, we at LetsRun.com argued that track speed is not important at the end of a marathon — 26.2 miles is so grueling that a marathon comes down to what you have left, not raw speed. We’re not entirely ready to abandon that position — it’s not as if Obiri is closing in sub-60 for her last 400m — but one thing has become clear: you do not want to leave track studs like Obiri or Sifan Hassan (who kicked her way to the win at 2023 London) hanging around at the end of a marathon. Easier said than done, considering Hassan’s pb is 2:13 and Obiri’s coach Dathan Ritzenhein told LetsRun she was in 2:11 shape when she won NYC in November.

While Obiri was a late addition to last year’s field — her addition was announced less than three weeks before the race — it was clear she was in good shape as she had won competitive half marathons at RAK and NYC. She just had to be convinced to run another marathon after a disappointing debut in New York in November 2022.

This year is a bit different. Obiri has long known she was doing Boston — she was announced as part of the initial Boston field on January 10 — but she took a longer break after her NYC win in November than she did after 2022 NYC. By the time she ran the Houston Half on January 14, where Obiri finished 2nd in 66:07, 90 seconds behind winner Sutume Asefa, she had only just returned to full volume. Ritzenhein was not concerned about the result.

“It was her at 80%,” he told LetsRun.com.

Kevin Morris photo

This buildup was a slight adjustment for Obiri in that it was the first time she had experienced a full winter in Boulder (Obiri was in Kenya for much of her last Boston buildup before relocating to Boulder in March). Overall, Ritzenhein said things have gone very well, highlighting the consistency of her long runs.

“She’s been running 20-25 miles every single week at a higher level than she has run in the past,” Ritzenhein said. “Those have been really good. Her benchmark workouts were significantly faster than what she had done in both Boston and New York [last year]. We feel pretty confident that her fitness is the best it’s been for a marathon.”

If that is the case, Obiri will be very hard to beat on Monday, particularly because she has proven, in Boston and New York, that she has no problem with hills.

The other story to watch with Obiri regards Olympic marathon selection. Ritzenhein believes that by winning Boston and NYC last year — in addition to claiming back-to-back Olympic silvers in the 5,000 — Obiri has already done enough to earn selection to the Olympic team. But poor spring results have scared off Athletics Kenya in the past. Back in 2016, AK left Mary Keitany off the Olympic team after she had an off day and finished 9th in London that spring. Keitany responded by winning NYC that fall by 3+ minutes and setting a women’s-only WR of 2:17:01 (pre-super shoes) in London in her next two races.

The Challengers

Sometimes, a marathon start list is deceiving. It’s tempting to look at the top, at the athletes with the fastest personal bests, and conclude they have the best chance of winning the race. That is often the case, but not at Boston 2024.

Nine women have personal bests of under 2:20, yet it is distinctly possible that none of them finish on the podium on Monday. Just look at the top seed, Tadu Teshome of Ethiopia. She has a sexy pb of 2:17:36, run in perfect conditions in Valencia. But in her three marathons last year, she finished 8th (London, 2:21:31), 5th (Chicago, 2:20:04), and 6th (Shanghai, 2:25:05). Doesn’t fill you with confidence.

The women with the second best pb, Hiwot Gebremaryam, may have run 2:17:59 in Valencia in December, but she was only 8th in Boston last year. Granted Gebremaryam has finished on a World Marathon Major podium before (she was 2nd in Berlin in 2021), but you never know how an athlete’s fitness will translate to Boston.

Meanwhile, you’ve got women like Obiri, Ababel Yeshaneh, and Mary Ngugi-Cooper who have all finished in the top two in Boston within the last three years but have never broken 2:20.

It would take forever to analyze every single runner in the women’s pro field, but here are a few to keep an eye on based on their recent accomplishments.

  • Meseret Belete, Ethiopia (2:18:21 pb): Belete won both of her marathons in 2023 and set pbs in both — 2:20:46 in Doha, then 2:18:21 in Amsterdam.
  • Workenesh Edesa, Ethiopia (2:18:51 pb): Edesa just ran the race of her life, clocking a 2:18:51 pb in Osaka on January 28 to take more than two minutes off the course record. The bad news is that Edesa has never made the podium in four World Marathon Major appearances (including a 6th-place finish at 2021 Boston).
  • Senbere Teferi, Ethiopia (2:19:21 pb): Teferi is a big-time talent, running 14:15 for 5,000 on the track and earning the silver at the ’15 Worlds. She is coming off a 64:40 half marathon pb in Barcelona in February; the question is whether her range extends to the marathon, where she has never finished higher than 5th in four starts.
  • Edna Kiplagat, Kenya (2:19:50 pb): Is Kiplagat finally starting to show her age? She won Boston at 37 in 2017, then again at 41 in 2021, sprinkling in a runner-up finish in 2019 in between. She’s 44 now, however, and last year she was just 30th in Boston and 7th in NYC.
  • Mary Ngugi-Cooper, Kenya (2:20:22 pb): Ngugi-Cooper has plenty of Boston experience, running the race four times, including podium finishes in 2021 (2nd) and 2022 (3rd). She won her tuneup race at the Rome-Ostia Half on March 3 in 67:38.
  • Ababel Yeshaneh, Ethiopia (2:20:51 pb): Yeshaneh came just four seconds shy of winning Boston two years ago when she was beaten by Peres Jepchirchir in the final miles. She was with the leaders in the final mile last year too despite falling during mile 24 (she wound up 4th). Is this the year the former half marathon WR holder takes it all the way to the finish line?
  • Sharon Lokedi, Kenya (2:23:23 pb): Lokedi shockingly won 2022 NYC in her debut, then backed up that performance by taking 3rd last year behind only superstars Obiri and Letesenbet Gidey. Lokedi had to withdraw ahead of Boston last year due to an ankle injury but has been healthy this time around and has the skillset to succeed in Boston.

Bates leads American hopes

Bates led much of the 2023 race and wound up 5th (Kevin Morris photo)

One year ago in Boston marked the high of Emma Bates‘ marathon career. Before the race, she spoke about being in American record shape on a flat course, and she backed it up by leading much of the way and running a pb of 2:22:10 to finish as the top American in 5th.

But the last 12 months have been a struggle for the 31-year-old Bates, who trains under coach Joe Bosshard in Boulder as part of Team Boss. She went into October’s Chicago Marathon ready to run another big pb but stepped in a pothole at mile 14 and wound up 13th in 2:25:04. A post-race MRI revealed she had torn her plantar fascia.

Then, as she tried to quickly get healthy ahead of the Olympic Trials, Bates developed another injury: shin splits. The result was that Bates did not have enough time to run the Trials on February 3, but with another two months to prepare, she signed up for Boston and wrote on Instagram on Thursday that she feels “strong, confident, and ready” for the race. Considering she is one of the few US contenders not doubling back from the Trials, she has the best odds of finishing as top American on Monday.

Sara Hall has the best Trials result among Boston entrants, finishing 5th in Orlando, and she’s typically been able to bounce back quickly between races. But the Boston course does not suit her — she was 15th (2019) and 17th (2023) in her two Boston finishes. Caroline Rotich has had success in Boston before, taking 4th in 2011 and winning the race in 2015, but it’s fair to wonder how the 39-year-old will fare with just 10 weeks to recover from the Trials.

Des Linden is back for her eleventh Boston Marathon. She has not cracked the top 12 in her last three appearances, but she finally gets to try the Trials-Boston double that she was denied by COVID four years ago.


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Jenny Simpson is the other big name in the US field. The 2011 world champ and 2016 Olympic bronze medalist at 1500m dropped out of her marathon debut in Orlando but is back for more in Boston. She ran 72:06 to finish 6th in her tuneup race at the NYC Half on March 17.

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