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April 14, 2017

Fearless Forecasting: idiot blogger Paul Snyder predicts the top 18 female finishers of the Boston Marathon

In the field of running punditry, there are those who maintain a strict journalistic ethos, and then there are the bloggers who use phrases like “fearless forecasting.” The former’s race previews will be full of nuance and a “let’s look at both sides” mentality. These folks are into things like citing statistics and drawing from a hard-earned bank of personal knowledge; their takes are lukewarm, their commentary impartial. You turn to these people to inform yourself about a situation, so that you may draw your own conclusions based on fact. The world needs these people.

But I’m a blogger, man. And the world needs us too, for we are fearless, stupid champions of internet-induced boldness. (To paraphrase The Boss, “tramps like us, baby we were born to blog.”)

So you’ll get none of the aforementioned removed sense of professionalism here. Instead, this preview of the women’s race will be loaded with bias and ignorance, as I attempt to accurately predict the finishing order of the 18 women in the Boston Marathon’s elite field. To do so, I will activate the most powerful of blogger tools, the Blogger’s Gut.

The Fearless Forecast

  1. Gladys Cherono, Kenya; Cherono boasts the field’s fastest PB (2:19:25), and though she ran that in 2015, she’s indicated similar fitness this year, winning the Osita-Roma Half Marathon in 67:01 last month. And perhaps most importantly, Cherono’s proven herself as someone more than capable of winning big races against stacked fields. Sorry folks, this dumbass blogger doesn’t see an American woman winning this year. But that doesn’t mean the women’s race won’t be extremely exciting, and way better than the men’s.
  2. Brigid Kosgei, Kenya; I’m a big fan of two things, which is why Kosgei gets the nod for silver ahead of a slew of very deserving athletes: momentum and inexperience. She’s coming off a 67:35 half marathon which she won by over 90 seconds, she’s young and relatively untested. She’s used to winning low-key races, and athletes like that are dangerous, because they don’t know to be afraid of the top dogs.
  3. Atsede Baysa, Ethiopia; A third contradictory attribute I value is experience. Give me a savvy veteran almost any day of the week, and I’ll tell you they’ll finish top three. Baysa is the reigning champ, and though her PRs are pretty weak compared to many of her peers, and she hasn’t looked great since her victory at last year’s slow race, I’m still calling a podium finish on the basis of her intangibles, which are THROUGH THE ROOF.
  4. Desi Linden, USA; I’m gonna catch some flack for this (and every other prediction here) but before you crucify this humble blogger online, hear me out. Fourth place is very good. And notice how I didn’t mention any times in my preview? Let’s just assume the top six or so runners will all be close, at least through mile 23. If that’s the case, you gotta err on the side of women with superior wheels, ammiright? On a different course, in a different race, Linden may not even place this high in this field, but American runners tend to get amped up for what might as well be called America’s Marathon.
  5. Diane Nukuri, Burundi; Though her best marathon’s just a 2:27:50, I won’t be surprised to see Nukuri mixing it up near the front for much of the race. She’s coming off of a third place finish at this year’s NYC Half Marathon, behind only Molly Huddle and Emily Sisson, both of whom would be in discussions for a top three finish were they in this Boston field. Plus Nukuri beat a couple of serious contenders who are racing Boston, and she’s in the habit of securing top-10 placings at some pretty legitimate international marathons.
  6. Edna Kiplagat, Kenya; Kiplagat is one of the aforementioned serious contenders displaced by Nukuri in NYC in March. And though her performance there shouldn’t inspire much confidence in her winning in Boston, it indicates she’s in at least decent shape. That’s where that savvy veteran bullshit I love so much comes in. She’s 37, has run 16 major marathons, and holds a PB of 2:19:50. At this point, her career’s likely on the decline, but expect her to employ tactics like running the tangents and elbowing competitors in the kidneys to her advantage; the sort of move elder NBA players use to make a fool of younger, more able bodied defenders.
  7. Jordan Hasay, USA; Yeah I know Hasay ran a really great half marathon in Prague not too long ago,and I also know that she’s being touted as the next great American marathoner. She very well may be, but it’s one thing to place highly and run fast in a debut marathon. It’s another entirely to win a race that has a tendency to be weird and wacky, and rarely a barn-burner. The more surges and mind games in a race, the more opportunities for rookie mistakes. Hasay will make a few.
  8. Caroline Rotitch, Kenya; Rotitch had a pretty bad race (by her standards) at the NYC Half, and that’s all we’ve seen of her in 2017. She won this race back in 2015, so I’ll go ahead and say she’ll beat some women she realistically shouldn’t, based on her proven ability to race the course.
  9. Valentine Kipketer, Kenya; Last year’s 5th place finisher on paper seems like a longshot to duplicate her performance, so I’ll slot her here at 8th. She’s got solid PBs (68:21 & 2:23:02) but so does everybody else.
  10. Lindsay Flanagan, USA; The former University of Washington standout has for a few years now quietly enjoyed a solid and steadily improving standing in the American women’s marathoning hierarchy. Her last attempt at 26.2 saw her placing fourth in Frankfurt running 2:29:29, a nearly four minute personal best.
  11. Rose Chelimo, Bahrain; Chelimo’s coming off a solid showing at the World XC Championships in Uganda, which I’d argue stupidly actually hurts her chances in Boston. Having spent a winter training for a shorter distance, I’d say she goes out with the leaders but fades painfully over the back six miles.
  12. Joyce Chepkirui, Kenya; Chepkirui’s run 66:19 and 2:24:11, but on any given day, not every good athlete can be “on.” This esteemed blogger just guessed that Boston will not be Chepkirui’s day, although she’ll hold on and finish, which is more than can be said for all 18 of these women, I’m afraid. More on that after we discuss the 13th through 16th place predictions.
  13. Liz Costello, USA; If Hasay weren’t also making her marathon debut in Boston, Costello’s first attempt at the distance would likely generate more fanfare. She got 6th at the Trials last summer in the 10,000m, and holds a personal best of 31:43.79 over the distance, plus, she trains locally in Boston. She hasn’t really run any road races indicating she should get top 10 on Monday, but she’s a smart racer with hometown ties, so I’ll give her a slot on the outside looking in.
  14. Esther Atkins, USA; Atkins’s best marathon ever was in Boston in 2014, where she ran 2:33:15 for 18th place. That same year she ran 74:46 for the half. This year she’s run faster than that for 13.1, so why not expect a superior showing for the full thing?
  15. Rachel Hannah, Canada; Hannah’s a 72:25 woman who hasn’t raced anything major this year. I have little in the way of blogging intuition surrounding this placement, but I sense she will finish, and beat at least one other elite woman who does not DNF.
  16. Blake Russell, USA; Russell’s fastest days are likely behind her, but she can still work her way up the master’s all-time American marathon rankings with a good showing in Boston.
  • DNFs: Ruti Aga, Ethiopia; Buzunesh Deba, Ethiopia; Both Aga and Deba have run incredible times, and there is no denying that. But their recent performances indicate a high probability of blowing up. Deba won (thanks Rita Jeptoo!) the 2014 Boston Marathon in 2:19:59. But since then her marathon performances have been 2:33 or slower, or DNFs. Aga ran a solid half last month (70:02) but her last marathon was in Dubai and she ran 2:46:16. If your last marathon was awful, you don’t forget it easily; you were out there struggling for nearly three hours. Snyder’s Razor says: an athlete can only stomach so many let downs in a row before getting discouraged to the point of realizing that dropping out is easier than sticking in a race they’ll run poorly. I don’t fault them. Marathons seem hard and if you’re a pro but won’t see any cash from finishing, why finish?
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