Boston Marathon 2021 Preview

The 2021 edition of the Boston Marathon takes place on Monday 11th October, here’s our preview. A few former winners will be making their bid for Boston glory with a number of interesting names to watch out for.

Who is in the Boston Marathon 2021 men’s elite field?

The elite field for the men’s marathon is as follows (only sub 2.12 and notable debuts included):

AthleteCountryPersonal Best (where they set it)Recent Notable Performances
Asefa MengstuEthiopia2.04.06 (Dubai, 2018)Milan 2021 – DNF, Tokyo 2020 – 7th (2.06.23)
Lemi BerhanuEthiopia2.04.33 (Dubai, 2016)Valencia 2020 – DNF, Tokyo 2020 – DNF
Benson KiprutoKenya2.05.13 (Toronto, 2019)Prague 2021 – 1st (2.10.16), London 2020 – 7th (2.06.42)
Wilson ChebetKenya2.05.27 (Rotterdam, 2011)Milan 2021 – 13th (2.08.38), Los Angeles 2020 – 3rd (2.09.17)
Filex KiprotichKenya2.05.33 (Daegu, 2019)Lake Biwa 2020 – 3rd (2.08.48)
Dejene DebelaEthiopia2.05.46 (Chicago, 2019)Xiamen 2020 – 5th (2.11.07) Chicago 2019 – 2nd (2.05.46)
Thomas KiplagatKenya2.06.00 (Seoul, 2019)Prague 2021 – 13th (2.17.39), Valencia 2020 – DNF
Felix KandieKenya2.06.03 (Seoul, 2017)Milan 2021 – 18th (2.11.34), Valencia 2020 – 13th (2.06.47)
Paul LonyangataKenya2.06.10 (Paris, 2017)Taipei 2020 – 1st (2.09.18), Lens Half 2021 – 5th (60.53)
Tsedat AyanaEthiopia2.06.18 (Dubai, 2020)Valencia 2020 – DNF, Dubai 2020 – 3rd (2.06.18)
Geoffrey KiruiKenya2.06.27 (Amsterdam, 2016)Valencia 2020 – DNF, Doha World Champs 2019 – 14th (2.13.54)
Yuki KawauchiJapan2.07.27 (Lake Biwa, 2021)Lake Biwa 2021 – 10th (2.07.27) Hofu Yumiuri 2020 – 2nd (2.10.56)
Abrar OsmanEritrea2.07.46 (Amsterdam, 2019)Ethiopian 10,000m Olympic Trials – 9th (27.37), Gent Half 2021 – DNF
Jake RobertsonNew Zealand2.08.26 (Lake Biwa, 2021)Houston Half 2020 – 10th (60.12)
Bayelign TeshagerEthiopia2.08.28 (Los Angeles, 2020)Ethiopian 10,000m Olympic Trials – 17th (28.36), Los Angeles 2020 – 1st (2.08.28)
Abdi AbdirahmanUSA2.08.56 (Chicago, 2006)Olympic Games Marathon – 41st (2.18.27)
Scott FaubleUSA2.09.09 (Boston, 2019)Marathon Project 2020 – 4th (2.09.42)
Colin BennieUSA2.09.38 (Marathon Project, 2020)USA 15km Road 2021 – 6th (43.57) – Marathon Project 2020 – 3rd (2.09.38)
Scott SmithUSA2.09.46 (Marathon Project, 2020)Marathon Project 2020 – 6th (2.09.46)
Stephen ScullionIreland2.09.49 (London, 2020)Antrim Half – 9th (63.54), Olympic Games Marathon – DNF, London 2020 – 11th (2.09.49)
Augustus MaiyoUSA2.10.47 (Atlanta, 2020)Cherry Blossom Ten Mile 2021 – 3rd (46.23), US Olympic Trials 2020 – 5th (2.10.47)
Dylan WykesCanada2.10.47 (Rotterdam, 2012)Vancouver Half – 10th (68.34)
Parker StinsonUSA2.10.53 (Chicago, 2019)Naples, Florida Half 2021 – 1st (63.34)
Matt McDonaldUSA2.11.10 (Chicago, 2019)Marathon Project 2020 – 24th (2.14.14), US Olympic Trials 2020 – 10th (2.12.19)
CJ AlbertsonUSA2.11.18 (Marathon Project, 2020)Grandma’s Marathon 2021 – 2nd (2.14.29)
Eric GillisCanada2.11.21 (Toronto, 2014)Not raced since 2018
Reid BuchananUSA2.11.38 (Marathon Project, 2020)US Olympic Trials 10,000 2021 – 9th (28.03)
Jemal YimerEthiopiaNever completedAntrim Half 2021 – 1st (60.30), Valencia 2020 – DNF
Leonard BarsotonKenyaDebutIstanbul Half 2021 – 5th (59.59), Delhi Half 2020 – 5th (59.10)
David BettKenyaDebutGum Tree 10k 2021 – 1st (29.01)

Who is in the Boston Marathon 2021 women’s elite field?

The elite women’s field for the 2021 Boston Marathon is as follows (only sub 2.30 and notable debutants included):

AthleteCountryPersonal Best (Where they set it)Recent Performances
Yebrgual MeleseEthiopia2.19.36 (Dubai, 2018)Xiamen 2020 – 5th (2.27.03)
Edna KiplagatKenya2.19.50 (London, 2012)Fresh 15k 2021 – 3rd (49.41)
Mare DibabaEthiopia2.19.52 (Dubai, 2012)Last appearance 2019 Berlin Marathon – 2nd (2.20.21)
Workenesh EdesaEthiopia2.20.24 (Valencia, 2019)Milan 2021 – DNF, Valencia 2019 – 6th (2.20.24)
Sutume KebedeEthiopia2.20.30 (Tokyo, 2020)Telesia 10k 2021 – 1st (32.31), Tokyo 2020 – 3rd (2.20.30)
Jordan HasayUSA2.20.57 (Chicago, 2017)Woodlands Half 2021 – 1st (74.10), Valencia 2020 – 27th (2.33.51)
Besu SadoEthiopia2.21.03 (Amsterdam, 2019)Milan 2021 – 8th (2.27.06), Amsterdam 2019 – 4th (2.21.03)
Helah KipropKenya2.21.27 (Tokyo, 2016)Eldoret 2021 – DNF, Tokyo 2018 – 5th (2.28.58)
Bedatu HirpaEthiopia2.21.32 (Frankfurt, 2018)Prague 2021 – 4th (2.22.58)
Atsede BayisaEthiopia2.22.03 (Chicago, 2012)Philadelphia Half – 11th (70.42)
Diana Chemtai KipyogeiKenya2.22.06 (Istanbul, 2020)Istanbul 2020 – 1st (2.22.06), Ljubljana 2019 – 3rd (2.22.07)
Desiree LindenUSA2.22.38 (Boston, 2011)Brooks 50k 2021 – 1st (2.59.54), US Olympic Trials 2020 – 4th (2.29.03)
Biruktayit EshetuEthiopia2.22.40 (Toronto, 2019)Dhaka 2021 – 3rd (2.35.16), Houston 2020 – 2nd (2.24.57)
Tigist AbayechewEthiopia2.22.45 (Dubai, 2020)Prague 2021 – 6th (2.26.13)
Purity ChangwonyKenya2.22.46 (Siena, 2021)Siena 2021 – 2nd (2.22.46), Seville 2020 – 5th (2.24.30)
Caroline RotichKenya2.23.22 (Chicago, 2012)Valley Half 2021 – 5th (72.06)
Molly HuddleUSA2.26.33 (London, 2019)New York 10k 2021 – 11th (33.06), US Olympic Trials 2020 – DNF
Mary NgugiKenya2.27.36 (New York, 2019)Middlesbrough 10k 2021 – 1st (30:50)
Nell RojasUSA2.28.09 (Duluth, 2019)America’s Finest Half 2021 – 1st (71.44)
Paige StonerUSA2.28.43 (Marathon Project, 2020)US Ten Mile – 16th (55:46)
Shiho KaneshigeJapan2.28.51 (Osaka, 2020)Osaka 2021 – 10th (2.31.56), Osaka 2020 – 16th (2.28.51)
Dakotah LindwurmUSA2.29.04 (Duluth, 2021)Grandma’s Marathon 2021 – 1st (2.29.04)
Netsanet GudetaEthiopia2.29.15 (Paris, 2017)World Half 2020 – 8th (66:46), Rak Half 2019 – 2nd (65:45)
Kelly AriasColombia2.29.36 (Hamburg, 2016)Enschede 2021 – 13th (2.34.40)
Julia GriffeyUSA2.29.58 (Marathon Project, 2020)Portland 10,000m 2021 – 15th (33:29), Marathon Project 2020 – 11th (2.29.58)
Caroline ChepkoechKenyaDebutFresh 15k 2021 – 1st (47:30), Houston Half 2020 – 3rd (68.13)
Monicah Wanjuhi KenyaDebutFaxon Half 2021 – 1st (72:55), Houston Half 2020 – 11th (69:29)

Who are the favourites for the 2021 Boston Marathon men’s race?

For my money the favourites for the men’s race are not the quickest on paper. Lemi Berhanu Hayle may be the winner from 2016 but he has failed to finish three of his last four marathons, including his last two visits to Boston in 2019 and 2018. The Ethiopian stud just hasn’t shown the 2.04.33 form that saw him finish second in Dubai and first in Boston both in 2016.

Asefa Mengstu displays some slightly better form with podiums at Dubai, Paris and Chicago in 2019 but he failed to finish last time out in Milan. His sole performance in 2020 was a 7th in Tokyo.

Benson Kipruto comes into Tokyo on the back of a strong win in Prague and was seventh in a stacked London last October. The Kenyan was 10th in Boston in 2019 and may be the most likely of the fastest three.

Tailor-made for Kirui?

A better bet yet would be Geoffrey Kirui, the man for the big occasion, though this is not one without risk. In 2017 Kirui won both Boston and the World Champs. The following year he faded badly to finish second at Boston to Yuki Kawauchi. Such conditions you would hope are unlikely to repeat themselves this year.

Kirui’s form of late, however, has been poor. A DNF in Valencia in 2020, 14th in the Doha World Champs he was just fifth on his last time out at Boston in 2019. That said on his day Kirui is a fantastic championship performer. Kirui and Kawauchi are just two examples of fast personal bests not equating to a Boston win.

MenBerlinBostonChicagoLondonNew YorkTokyo
Average Winning Times02:03:4102:09:4502:06:5002:04:5902:07:5702:07:09

The one’s to watch in the Boston Marathon men’s race?

First on my list is Jake Robertson who, having spoken to him, I know to be fired up for Boston. Injuries have meant he hasn’t raced since the Houston Half in January 2020 but he is an athlete with great pedigree. He has run two marathons, both times dipping under 2.10 and will hope to tough it out in Boston. Having twice given Mo Farah a scare at the Great North Run (2017 and 2018) he could well be the surprise of Boston.

One to watch is Paul Lonyangata. The two-time Paris Marathon winner (2017 and 2018) has also won in Shanghai (2019) and last time out in Taipei (2020). His only previous appearance at Boston was fifth in 2016 (2.15.45).

Tsedat Ayana of Ethiopia seems to be an athlete coming into his own. This will be his eleventh marathon and he has steadily improved throughout that time. A win in Riga in 2018 was followed by Seville in 2019 and a third place in Dubai in 2020. His last outing was a DNF in Valencia but the experienced athlete could find himself in contention.

Yuki Kawauchi pulled off one of the most impressive Boston performances of all time in winning in 2018. If the biblical conditions seen that day repeat itself don’t bet against him repeating the feat this year.

The half marathon men stepping up

Jemal Yimer’s 58:33 from Valencia in 2018 makes him the tenth fast half-marathoner in history. The Ethiopian comes into Boston off a win at the Antrim Half. His only marathon appearance was a DNF in Valencia in December in 2020 but if he gets it right this time he will be very difficult to beat.

My final mention goes to Leonard Barsoton, making his marathon debut with an impressive resume over the half. The Kenyan has dipped under the hour on five occasions and is a world cross country silver medalist from Uganda in 2017.

Who are the favourites for the Boston marathon women’s race?

The Boston marathon women’s team may look stacked on times alone but scratch the surface and those further down the list may stand the best chance of taking the crown. Again Boston has played host to a series of unlikely winners over the years so it is wise to look outside the favourites.

WomenBerlin BostonChicagoLondonNew YorkTokyo
Average Winning Times (since 2007)02:20:5602:27:1202:22:5202:20:3202:23:0002:25:08

An experienced sub 2.20 trio.

Edna Kiplagat is now 41 and has raced sparingly in the last two years. The two-time world champion has won three marathon majors in her career and was second here in 2019. Her most recent outing, a 49.41 15k is unlikely to have her competitors too intimidated.

Yebrgual Melese has better recent form, but not enough to make her a favourite in Boston. The two-time Shanghai marathon winner (2018 and 2019) was third in Dubai in 2018 in running 2.19.35. The Ethiopian was only fifth in Xiamen in January 2020 and will head to Boston as an unknown entity. At her best she may well challenge for top honours.

Like her compatriot Mare Dibaba is one of the world’s best on her day, but she has not raced since finishing second in Berlin in 2019 (2.20.21). In 2014 she won Chicago, 2015 the World Marathon title in Beijing and in 2016 was a Rio Olympic bronze medalist. Little indicates she is in that form but such is the pedigree it would be brave to bet against her.

The women with good recent form

For my money Diana Chemtai Kipyogei enters the race as the woman to watch. The Kenyan ran 2.22.06 on a difficult Istanbul course to win in 2020 and ran only a second slower in finishing third in Ljubljana a year before.

Sutume Kebede was third in a stacked Tokyo in 2020 and has shown some form over 10k this year (32.31).

Purity Changwony ran 2.22.46 for second in Siena earlier this year and has history of finishing on podiums. Four of her five marathons have resulted in top two placings and she boasts wins in Ljubljana (2016) and Nairobi (2019). I would be surprised to see her not contend.

The half marathon stars

Boston will boast a seriously impressive duo of half stars making the step up. Netsanet Gudeta was eighth in the World Half Marathon Champs (66:46) in 2020 and ran even quicker in Rak in 2019 (65:45). The Ethiopian is a World Half champion from 2018. Her sole appearances over the marathon have been a DNF in New York in 2018 and sixth in Paris in 2017. If she has learnt from those experiences she may well contend in Boston.

Caroline Chepkoech is an athlete of similar standing and boasts a 2018 best of 65.07. The Kenyan is a half-marathon starlet and will hope for an impressive debut. She comfortably beat Kiplagat earlier this year, albeit over only 15k.

My outside pick

Mary Ngugi has twice won medals in World Half Marathon Championships (2016 and 2018) and has displayed impressive form over 10k this year. Based out of the UK this summer she ran 30:50 in Middlesbrough. She will hope for significant improvements from her 2019 appearances over the distance where she was seventh and tenth at Boston and New York respectively.

The US challenge

A few years ago it would be difficult to forsee writing a preview of the 2021 Boston Marathon which didn’t fancy the chances of Jordan Hasay. The once great hope of American marathoning has, however, endured a difficult few years, never coming close to replicating the form that saw her run 2.20.57 to finish third in Chicago in 2017. This doesn’t look to be her year either with some underwhleming runs so far in 2021. She was only 16th at the recent USA 20k Champs.

Desiree Linden comes to Boston as the World 50k record holder and may be the USA’s main hope. Linden will have fond memories of her 2018 win and will hope for similar tough conditions.

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Featured image “2014 Boston Marathon Elite Women” by Kinchan1 is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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