2023 Boston Marathon Preview: Eliud Kipchoge + Top Athletes, Storylines To Watch

By Chris Chavez

April 13, 2023

The oldest annual marathon in the world is almost here! The 127th Boston Marathon will welcome world record holders, first-time racers, and 30,000+ people in between to the starting line in Hopkinton, Massachusetts before they begin the 26-mile trek across eastern Massachusetts to the famous Boylston Street finish line. Both the men’s and women’s pro fields feature historic firsts and legendary talent, as well as an early preview of many of the major players in the hunt to represent Team USA at the 2024 Olympics.

Our team will be celebrating Boston weekend at the Brooks Hyperion House at 137 Newbury St. all day on Saturday, April 15. Join us as we jog at the shakeout run with Des Linden on Saturday morning at 8 a.m. Tune in or join us live for the CITIUS pre-show Saturday at 3:30 p.m. Enjoy some beverages and trivia at the CITIUS Trivia Hour at 5 p.m. Most importantly, join us live on the CITIUS MAG YouTube channel on Monday morning at 9 a.m. for our squad’s expert race commentary. A full list of Hyperion House events and RSVP info can be found here.

The race kicks off on Monday, April 17th with a 9:37 a.m. start for the pro men, 9:47 a.m. start for the pro women, and a 10:00 a.m. start for the open race (wheelchair pros kick off a little after 9 a.m.). You can follow the action by downloading the BAA Racing app or online (live tracking link not available yet). The race will be broadcast locally on WCVB (ABC) and around the U.S. on ESPN and the ESPN app.

Without further ado, here’s everything you need to know and all the top storylines to watch at this year’s Boston Marathon. Share with your family and friends so they know who to follow and cheer for too!

Eliud Kipchoge Is Shipping Up To Boston

One way or another, we’ll be witnessing history in the making on Monday. Eliud Kipchoge, the undisputed greatest marathoner of all time, is taking on the Boston Marathon for the first time in his illustrious career. This race will be one to tell the grandkids about.

The world record holder and double Olympic champion has won 15 of 17 career marathons and picked up wins in 4 of the 6 Abbott World Marathon Majors. Pretty much the only thing left for the 38-year-old to do in his career is win Boston and New York before his planned retirement in 2024. Even with three former Boston champions in the field and 7 men entered with sub-2:05 personal bests, he has to be considered the heavy, heavy favorite.

Fellow Kenyan Evans Chebet might be his biggest threat - the defending champ won both Boston and New York in 2022 and has run 2:03:00 in a sprint finish in Valencia, showing he can deliver in both hilly, tactical races and quicker affairs. One of the very few criticisms one could levy against Kipchoge is his preference for flat, fast courses, but his victories in Tokyo and Rio show that he can thrive in championship-style racing and tough conditions as well.

With no pacers in the race, Kipchoge will likely not set out at a world record clip on his own - expect him to make his move around mile 20 sometime during or after the Newton hills. When Chebet won last year, he did it in classic Kipchoge style, running 13:55 from 35k to 40k to break apart what remained of the field. If it’s those two in contention late in the race, we could see some even bigger fireworks this time around.

The weather may be Kipchoge’s biggest foe of all - the 2020 London marathon was one of his rare off days, where he finished 8th and complained of a blockage in his ear during the race. That race was cold and wet, and with April showers hovering in and out of the forecast, the famously unreliable Boston spring weather breaking for the cold and rainy might be what ultimately throws the GOAT off his game (more on the weather below).

Historic Women’s Field Hits The Streets

We’re truly in a new era of women’s marathoning. Of the 27 sub-2:18 marathons ever recorded, an astonishing 25 of them have been recorded in the “super shoes” era of the last six years. In fact, no woman not named Paula Radcliffe had ever run under 2:18 before Mary Keitany and Tirunesh Dibaba did it in London in 2017.

It’s been thrilling to watch the leveling up of the women’s marathon, and this year’s Boston and London fields both feature major clashes of the titans. On Monday, five women with sub-2:18 personal bests will be on the starting line at the same time. Amane Beriso enters with the fastest PB in the field, the Ethiopian record of 2:14:58 set in Valencia 5 months ago. There, she took advantage of world champion Letesenbet Gidey’s much-publicized world record attempt by beating her compatriot and setting a 6-minute personal best to boot. The real question now is whether she can replicate the performance in a race without pacers. Reigning world champ Gotytom Gebreslase knows how to perform without rabbits, but she’s also run 2:18 twice and won the Berlin Marathon, so she can hammer as well.

One of the most credentialed runners in the race is Kenyan Joyciline Jepkosgei, the 2019 New York and 2021 London champion. She only finished 7th in this race last year, but she bounced back to a runner-up finish in London last fall, and the former world record holder in the half marathon can clearly handle a fast pace. The woman who might deliver that heat is Hellen Obiri, a late addition to the field following her commanding win at the United NYC Half in March. Obiri, who recently joined On Athletic Club and is training in Colorado under coach Dathan Ritzenheim, has such a long list of medals on the track that her 6th-place finish in her debut marathon in New York last fall was seen as a letdown. The second time could be the charm for the Kenyan star - and don’t be surprised if she hits the front early as she loves to keep the pace honest.

And you can never count out the veterans in a race like Boston. The ageless wonder Edna Kiplagat, who finished 2nd in 2021 at age 41 before being elevated to first with Diana Kipyokei’s DQ and doping suspension, is back, and with 4th place finishes in both Boston and New York in 2022, she’s shown she can still hang with anyone. Mary Ngugi finished 2nd in 2021 and 3rd in 2022, so keep an eye on her to move up through the pack in the last few miles.

Fauble And Mantz Face Off

In 2022, only two American men broke 2:09 in the marathon and they’re both lining up in Hopkinton on Monday. But despite being two of the brightest stars in U.S. distance running in recent years, Scott Fauble and Conner Mantz have never raced head-to-head before now. Mantz, who turned pro last year, ran an impressive 2:08:10 debut marathon in Chicago, but he has a small sample size at the longer distances so far. Fauble, on the other hand, is on his 9th marathon and has four top-10 finishes at a World Marathon Major (2 in Boston; 2 in New York). So who you think has the edge depends on whether you favor experience or potential.

There are four other sub-2:11 Americans in the race, including Brooks runner CJ Albertson, who led parts of last year’s race before fading to 13th. But perhaps the most intriguing dark horse is ASICS’s Ben True, a proven commodity on the track long considered a top marathon prospect. True finished 7th in New York in 2021 in his debut but illness kept him from his sophomore performance last year. He has shown he’s fit this season with a 4th-place top-American finish at the NYC Half in March. His PB is “only” 2:12:53, but he’s shown time and again that he’s a strong racer on tough courses.

American Women Take On The World

>If the women’s race turns into a 2:17-type slugfest, there likely won’t be many Americans hanging out near the front, but a slightly more conservative pace could make things very interesting for the U.S. podium chances. Nell Rojas, the top American from 2022 and 2021, is back again this year looking to improve on her 2:25:57 personal best set at Boston last year, but she’ll have her work cut out for her to threepeat top American honors. Sara Hall is the fastest in the field by PB (2:20:32) but she had a tough 2022 - while she was able to set the then-American record in the half marathon and finished 5th at the World Championships marathon in Eugene, she also battled injuries that led her to withdraw from Boston, Berlin, and New York. Hall also turns 40 years old two days before the race, but she’s shown no signs of age slowing her down over the past few years when she’s healthy.

Two other Americans to watch are Emma Bates and Aliphine Tuliamuk. Bates’s marathon career has been a picture of consistency: in 7 efforts she’s never finished lower than 8th (NYC 2022) or run slower than 2:29:35 (Trials 2020). Tuliamuk, the 2020 Olympic Trials champ, had a tough road back after giving birth to her daughter Zoe in 2021, but she was able to finish 7th in New York last fall in a new PB of 2:26:18 with an abbreviated buildup. A victory at the U.S. Half Marathon championships in February showed she was fit and healthy, and especially if the race stays tactical, she could be a major factor.

And of course you can’t count out Boston fan favorite Des Linden, the 2018 champion who consistently draws the loudest cheers from fans on this particular course. Her 2:22:38 personal best is now 12 years old, but a strong performance to take top American honors on a cold, windy day at the United NYC Half in March was a good reminder that the worse the weather is, the better Des seems to run. She might be the only one out there on Monday hoping for a headwind.

How do World/Olympic qualifiers work?

Boston is a point-to-point net downhill course with an elevation drop of a little over 3 meters per kilometer, so times on this course are not eligible for world or national records or World/Olympic qualifying purposes. You can, however, qualify for the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials at Boston (although most of the top pros have already hit the qualifying marks).

There is one way to guarantee your qualification for Budapest (for 2023 Worlds) or Paris (2024 Olympics), however: because Boston is a World Athletics Platinum Label race, a top-5 finish counts as an auto qualifier for either championship. 3 American women have finished in the top 5 since 2019, and Shadrack Biwott finished on the men’s podium in the crazy 2018 edition of the race, but top 5 is still a tall order - especially with these elite fields. However, high finishes at World Marathon Majors are heavily weighted in both the USATF selection and World Athletics ranking processes, so every place counts for the top U.S. pros.

What about the weather?

April weather in New England is famously variable, so don’t take anything you read as reliable if you’re packing your bags to race. While we were writing this preview, the wind changed direction entirely. Right now, it looks like the temperatures will be relatively mild, with highs in the mid-50s expected and scattered rain showers on the radar. Boston’s mid-morning start times can cause heat to slow things down in warmer years, but if the temperature stays on the cool side of 60 degrees for much of the race, it shouldn’t be too much of a factor.

The wind is a larger issue for Boston’s point-to-point west-to-east course. In 2011, a famously strong tailwind helped runners to fast times, including eventual winner Geoffrey Mutai who ran the fastest all-conditions marathon in history at the time. The current forecast projects a 5-10mph headwind, not ideal but hardly insurmountable. A few days ago, the forecast was calling for a tailwind, so it’s entirely possible things may shift over the next few days. All in all, the CITIUS meteorologists are cautiously optimistic for favorable racing conditions but take our words with a mountain-sized grain of salt.

Strong Fields At BAA 5k & Invitational Mile

The Boston racing fun actually begins Saturday with the BAA 5k and Invitational Mile. The 5k starts in Boston Common on an out-and-back loop through Back Bay, kicking off at 8 a.m., and the road mile is a three-lap loop of the marathon’s finish area with the pro races kicking off at 11:20 a.m.

The women’s 5k will feature reigning World XC champion Beatrice Chebet of Kenya, also the 2022 World silver medalist at 5000m, taking on American road all-star Weini Kelati and Puma’s Natosha Rogers, who’s fresh off 10,000m and 5,000m PBs on the track already this year. Ethiopian steeplechaser Mekides Abede will also be a factor as she’s run 14:35 for 5k on the roads.

The men’s race returns its defending champ Charles Philibert-Thiboutot who will face off with fellow Canadian Ben Flanagan, Kenyan steeplechasers Benjamin Kigen and Leonard Bett, and NAZ Elite’s Wesley Kiptoo. Flanagan’s Very Nice Track Club teammates Mason Ferlic, Morgan Beadlescomb, and Eric Avila are also in the mix and the fastest entrant by track PB is Emmanuel Bor, although Bor only finished 9th at this year’s Cherry Blossom 10 Miler.

Road miles tend to be an unpredictable tactical affair, but defending champ Johnny Gregorek is a hometown hero and will have the crowd behind him. The women’s race features Taryn Rawlings and BYU alums Anna Camp Bennett and Whittni Orton Morgan, as well as NAZ Elite’s Krissy Gear and high schooler Ellie Shea coming off strong indoor seasons.

Chris Chavez

Chris Chavez launched CITIUS MAG in 2016 as a passion project while working full-time for Sports Illustrated. He covered the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and grew his humble blog into a multi-pronged media company. He completed all six World Marathon Majors and is an aspiring sub-five-minute miler.