All things being equal, like injuries, illness, and travel visas, 13 men with marathon personal bests under 2:06 will line up in Hopkinton, Massachusetts on April 17th for the 127th Boston Marathon (most sub-2:06s in Boston history). Intriguingly, the men’s field will be led by marathon world record holder, Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya.
When the BAA announced the full 2023 elite fields earlier this week, just about everyone noticed the same thing: Whoa, Boston is so deep this year!
I texted Mary Kate Shea, Director of Professional Athletes at the BAA, to get her perspective on how/why many runners we might have expected to go elsewhere, have ended up in Boston 2023.
Congratulations on the fields for Boston 2023. In your recruiting, what was the overall impression you got regarding the state of the sport these days? Are people getting tired of pacers and flat courses? Did Kipchoge‘s announcement help bring more people into the fold? Just seems like the fields are a little deeper this year for both genders. And I wonder if you could put a finger on it, irrespective of the amount of money spent. Or was that part of it? Did you have a bigger budget? Just wondering. Hope you had a good turn of the year.
Lots of questions!
Eliud’s participation did not bring more in – fields established without other athletes knowing who is running where, unless they have the same management.
Top-tier numbers are similar to the starting point of past fields (there was one more sub-2:04 in the 2022 field, 5, but fewer in all other times). Quality improvements, for sure. Recruiting against a lot of spring races.
We are now able to combine what was JH field with the BAA elite field.
We’re working toward increasing the pro start groups to include the deeper US talent – 2:11-2:16/ 2:30-35 etc.
At Boston, pros truly believe they equally have a shot at the title regardless of their PB- puts the grit factor back in the game- some pros are really attracted to that.
Hope all is well!
Thanks to MK for her candid, open response (she’s always been good like that).
Some conjecture that with American record holder Emily Sisson, former record holder Keira D’Amato, and Olympic medalist Molly Seidel not running, a huge chunk of money top Americans always command at the three USA-based Majors was now available to be spent elsewhere.
And then there’s the whole hot-stove league, race day conjecture. You know, what if somebody goes out hard and opens a big lead on Patriot’s Day, which we’ve seen recently, what will Eliud do?
I know it seems odd to even ask, because that’s what we used to call RACING in the days before paced time-trials became the overwhelming norm (and helped kill interest in the sport in the general public).
But if we look at each one of those recent early lead cases, there was a clear reason why the race turned out the way it did.
Let’s begin with CJ Albertson, the young American who opened a big early lead in 2021 before getting reeled in at an hour and 40 minutes on the hills in Newton. He finished 10th in a fine 2:10:23.
Simply put, the elite field didn’t take him seriously. No offense, but despite their courteous, polite demeanor while in street clothes, make no mistake, there’s an arrogance to the East African runners once they don their racing kits, a sense of self-worth born out of more than a generation of dominating results.
We recently read in The Nation how 2020 Olympic 10,000m gold medalist Selemon Berega of Ethiopia essentially dismissed the rest of the world outside the Horn of Africa, saying, “I believe, without Kenyan athletes, there is no competition.”
And as for Japanese champion Yuki Kawauchi in 2018, the weather was so outrageously foul, none of the East Africans had ever even trained in, much less competed in weather so extreme. They completely imploded, while Yuki had won a local marathon on Boston’s south shore on New Year’s Day at 0° Fahrenheit. He had run in every condition and did his job beautifully in Boston 2018.
Perhaps most famously, in 2014, Meb Keflezighi skipped an aid station at 15 km heading into Natick along with JB Boit, and opened a margin which stood at 59 seconds atop Heartbreak Hill. By that time Meb was alone and had running left in his legs. By the time the “real” Favorites realized what the had allowed to happen, it was too late.
Though Wilson Chebet closed within 11 seconds at the finish, Meb still prevailed, the first American to win in three decades, since Greg Meyer in 1983 victory.
But when Meb was pulling away, the attitude got in the pack was, “he’s a 38 year old guy with the 2:09 personal best. We are 2:04 and 2:05 guys. We will get him later.“
They never did.
People are now wondering what if someone does that in Boston 2023? How will that effect Kipchoge, who will have to make some racing decisions in the first half that he never has to make in his past races in London and Berlin?
As always, it’ll depend how fast that someone else takes off. If you go out too fast on Boston’s downhills, it’s axiomatic you’re going to pound your quads, and by the time you get to the uphills in Newton, you’ll be shot. So there has to be some critical thinking that goes into an early attack at Boston that doesn’t happen in paced races on flat courses. And that’s another beauty of Boston.
Perhaps people forget, at Boston champions have to think their way through, not just run their way through. Kipchoge has the ability to do that, of course, as evidenced by his two Olympic gold medals. And you can tell by his light frame and easy, efficient stride that he’s not a pounder on the down hills. So that aspect of Boston is less likely to take a toll on him, especially with the new stacked-sole, carbon-plated shoes in play.
But with 2022 Boston and NYC champion Evans Chebet, and 2021 Boston and 2022 Chicago winner Benson Kipruto in the field, along with a slew of other major sub-2:05 performers, this might be the deepest competitive, non-paced field Kipchoge has ever faced in his career.
With limits on national entries at the Olympic Games, this year’s field in Boston might actually be more top-heavy than the two Olympic marathons Kipchoge won. And though London has been absolutely loaded in recent years, it remains a paced affair that removes competitive decisions for at least the first half of the race. But that’s what makes this such an intriguing year for Boston.
History tells us the man who leads the Boston Marathon for the first 10 miles almost never wins. But the keyword is ‘almost’. And then there’s the weather. Who the hell knows what’s gonna happen on Patriots’ Day 2023? Tune in to find out.
6 sub-2:06 Kenyans
4 sub-2:06 Ethiopians
8 thoughts on “ADDING UP BOSTON 2023”
I loved it when CJ took the lead early on.
We all knew he couldn’t keep the lead but we could hope and dream for a while.
As a back of the pack runner at Boston, the élite runners don’t do a thing for me.
I enjoy watching them duke it out and sometimes the finishes are exciting. But it’s really all of the heart and soul runners that I like to see out there.
I run because I want to and I was able to get a bib.
Happy to see the great pro field. Has BAA announced the prize money purse for 2023 yet? Of course it remains a big secret what they are paying in appearance money..
No one has any idea what is at stake in our sport outside of the glory. Sad to see the legacy of crippling amateurism still ruling our sport with their misguided ideas.
Runners are pro athletes and they are vying for big pay days, no need to apologize.
As a nonprofit entity they should be obligated to be transparent and athletics interest would certainly be enhanced.
Marathon Majors World Athletics wake up please, you are killing our sport.
Crippling legacy of (sh)amateurism, indeed. I can’t figure it out, either. It’s not like the BAA is a non-profit in the same sense that a charity raising funds for a disease and doesn’t want to show how much they have to spend to raise the money. I say put all the money on the table and let the athletes bring themselves in, put themselves up and dash for the cash. I know the public would take the sport more seriously if the winner received a seven-figure check. London publicly pays first place $55,000 (or used to). There is a lot of time bonus money, but that gets lost in the public reckoning. The huge appearance fees are completely opaque. The sport is the loser in this system. When will they ever address the issue?
Was the double WR of Alberto and Allison Roe in NYC 1981 Marathon a first time both records were set in the same race?
Will dig deeper, but it’s likely so. Given the early state of women’s running. I guess both those WR times were later wiped out by remeasuring the course and finding it 149 m short. Very unfair to the athletes, but the error was not one of commission, just road alterations in a busy urban grid.
To say paced marathons helped killed the sport is a bit of an overstatement. Marathons these days are basically big jogathons. The days of anyone caring about Beardsley-Salazar duels except for a tiny few are in the past. Even an American like Rupp winning a non paced Chicago Marathon the public barely noticed.
However, the one marathon event that got many excited who don’t follow the sport at all was Kipchoge’s 1:59:50. One guy being paced by multiple groups and the public loved it!
worth noting that it was believed that Salazar was the WR when he ran in 1982 which obviously put a target on his back that no one else had at that time. It is revisionist to make Deek the WR holder with his Fukuoka run and not place it in context. Just like Clayton’s 2:08:33, we can make a case that Salazar’s 2:08:13 and Deek’s 2:08:18 cannot be redone with modern calibration, and instead I think of them as, essentially, the WR breakers that, after a static WR for over a decade, ushered in a new era right before our eyes.
Good point. Alberto was the recognize world record holder, at the time. Along with his Wayland, Mass. roots, that WR status is what made his appearance in Boston 1982 such a big story. The race with Beardsley only added to what was a very special year. Thanks for bringing that up.