125 up for Boston

We are finally here. The 125th Boston Marathon is ready to run on Monday.

After more than 900 days since the last finish line on Boylston Street, the city will welcome back 18,250 runners, including 140 elites and 13 past champions.

Also earning a Boston marathon ahead of race day are 28,000 runners from 114 countries who are taking part in the virtual race which ends on Sunday.

The city is alive with the taste of the marathon. Runners are back spilling out of bars and restaurants – with mandatory masks – and the Expo and Fan Fest both began on Friday as the autumnal sun shone on a city that lives for its race.

Course record holder for the women’s wheelchair event, Manuela Schär, is in town and feeling strong ahead of her third Major in 16 days. The 36-year-old has already sealed top spot in Series XIII of the Abbott World Marathon Majors, so will watch in comfort as her rivals battle in Chicago tomorrow before she takes to the start line on Monday.

“I am feeling pretty good. London was a bit tougher than Berlin because of the course. We had great conditions, I feel my arms a little bit but it’s not too bad,” she said.

“It’s supposed to be dry on Monday and the wind can affect this race a lot, so I will need to see what it’s doing. When I broke the course record last time it was perfect conditions. So if it is similar to that year then I think it would be possible and I would definitely want to go for it.

Schär’s 1:28:17 set in 2017 remains the world best, albeit not the official world record, which she also owns, a 1:35:42 set in Oita at the end of 2019.

“I feel a lot more experienced and stronger than when I broke the record,” she explained. “I have worked a lot on my strength. That was always the thing – that I felt that I wasn’t strong enough compared to the others, but now I don’t lose as much energy on the hills and that gives me a better speed over the whole race.”

In the women’s open elite field, 2018 champion Des Linden has garnered most of the media spotlight ahead of her return to the scene of her finest hour, but her fellow American  Jordan Hasay has only good memories from her last two Boston Marathons – third in 2017 and 2019 – and told in Friday that she will be carrying that positive energy with her to the start line.

“I am going to run my own race and am hoping to have a solid result. It’s been a rough few years since the 2019 race so I really want to have a great race.

“I’ve never had a bad Boston Marathon and that gives me a lot of confidence, so I know that no matter where I am at the crowd is going to carry me through to the end.

“I feel in a good place right now. I was going through some injuries and coaching changes in the last few years so for me to have the extra time before this race was actually a blessing and I wouldn’t have been ready at all (in April) so this is a really good thing for me.”

In the men’s field, Ethiopia’s Lelisa Desisa was out-sprinted by Lawrence Cherono last time he was in the hunt for the famous olive wreath in 2019, but the 2015 champion is ready to try a new tactic this time to stay in front and take the win.

“That year I missed by a technical error of going too fast too early but this year I will try other ways to win,” he said. “I feel physically stronger this time and I am going for the win.”

Desisa arrives as reigning world champion after his victory in Qatar in 2019, and a first place here can put him in a strong position to claim the AbbottWMM Series XIII crown.

The matriarch of the sport at 41 years old, Edna Kiplagat also finished second in 2019 having taken the crown in 2017, and she is not counting herself out of contention in 2021. The three-time AbbottWMM series champion has been preparing quietly for another crack at a race she has enjoyed hugely over the years.

“My preparation has been good,” she said. “I’ve had a good build-up with two small races including Falmouth, [a seven-mile race in Massachusetts] so they’ve given me a lot of confidence. I think I have done enough to run well on Monday.

“For the last two years it has been very difficult for everyone but it is great that we have seen two World Marathon Majors taking place so successfully in the last two weeks and I hope that this one is very successful too. We will do our best and I am so happy that we are back to running again, seeing our friends and seeing the crowds. I am so happy to be here.”

And with that, she encapsulated just how we all feel to have Boston back.

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