Peres Jepchirchir and Joyciline Jepkosgei (© Getty Images)
Olympic marathon champion Peres Jepchirchir and London Marathon winner Joyciline Jepkosgei will renew their rivalry when they compete at the Boston Marathon, a World Athletics Elite Platinum Label road race, on Monday (18).
The Kenyan duo have similar backgrounds in that they initially made a name for themselves at the half marathon, breaking world records and earning global medals at that distance. It’s only since 2019 that both women started to focus more on the full marathon, but already they have achieved great things at the classic distance.
After a DNF in London in 2019, Jepkosgei rebounded later in the year to win the New York City Marathon in 2:22:38, narrowly missing the long-standing course record. One month later, Jepchirchir set a PB of 2:23:50 to win the Saitama Marathon.
In December 2020 the two women clashed at the Valencia Marathon with Jepchirchir winning in 2:17:16 and Jepkosgei taking second place in a PB of 2:18:40. Jepchirchir achieved the ultimate prize in the sport in 2021, winning the Olympic title at the Tokyo Games. Later in the year, she won the New York Marathon in 2:22:39. Jepkosgei didn’t compete at the Olympics, but she won the London Marathon last year in a lifetime best of 2:17:43.
In terms of head-to-head clashes between the pair, Jepchirchir has won all three of their encounters to date – two at the half marathon and one in the marathon. She also has the slightly faster marathon PB. Jepkosgei, meanwhile, has a better set of PBs at other distances, and her winning time in New York three years ago is one second faster than Jepchirchir’s victory on the same course in 2021.
The fact that both have won in New York – a relatively hilly course – will stand them in good stead for Monday’s race. Likewise, both women have performed well in championship races with no pacemakers, which will be similar to the race in Boston.
“I’m feeling good and I’m feeling fit,” said Jepchirchir. “It will be a good race because there are lots of strong ladies in this field.”
Jepkosgei felt just as confident. “My preparation has gone well,” said the 28-year-old. “I’ve been focused on this race for the past three months. I know the course is tough, but I’m prepared for it and feeling strong. I’ll do my best.”
Two other women with sub-2:20 bests are also in the field. Degitu Azimeraw, who finished second to Jepkosgei in London last year with a PB of 2:17:58, and two-time world champion Edna Kiplagat.
Azimeraw has contested just three marathons to date, but all of them have been inside 2:20. She debuted with a 2:19:26 victory in Amsterdam in 2019, then clocked 2:19:56 in Valencia in 2020.
Kiplagat, winner in Boston in 2017, is one of the most successful marathon runners of her generation. The Kenyan’s PB of 2:19:50 was set 10 years ago, but the 42-year-old continues to be a contender in big races and finished fourth at the 2019 World Championships.
Local fans will likely be focused on USA’s Olympic bronze medallist Molly Seidel, a former Boston resident who became only the third US woman in history to claim a medal in the Olympic marathon.
“When I lived and trained in Boston I just became totally enamoured with the Boston Marathon,” said Seidel, who has a PB of 2:24:42. “Every Patriots’ Day I would go to Heartbreak Hill to watch the runners, and whenever I trained on the course I dreamed of getting to run the race some day.
“There’s something uniquely special about the Boston Marathon, and I absolutely can’t wait to line up in Hopkinton this April for the race.”
Other contenders include Ethiopian duo Etagegn Woldu and Ababel Yeshaneh, 2018 Boston winner Desiree Linden of the USA, and Kenya’s Mary Ngugi.
Woldu made her marathon debut in Valencia last year, finishing second with a highly promising 2:20:16. Yeshaneh has more experience on the roads, having placed third in New York last year and second in Chicago in 2019 in a PB of 2:20:51. She also has a PB of 1:04:31, which at the time was an Ethiopian record.
Linden will be making her 10th appearance in Boston. Including her victory in 2018, she has achieved five top-five finishes there to date. Ngugi, meanwhile, has contested just three marathons so far, two of them in Boston. The two-time world half marathon medallist placed third in Boston last year in 2:25:20.
The men’s field, which features eight athletes with lifetime bests faster than 2:05, is led by two-time Tokyo Marathon winner Birhanu Legese, who has a PB of 2:02:48.
The 27-year-old Ethiopian rarely gets it wrong in the marathon. Along with his Tokyo Marathon victories in 2019 and 2020, he placed second in Berlin in 2019 – which is when he set his lifetime best – and was third in Valencia in 2020 and fifth in London last year.
Six of the past eight winners will also return to Boston: defending champion Benson Kipruto of Kenya, 2019 winner Lawrence Cherono, 2018 champion Yuki Kawauchi, 2016 victor Lemi Berhanu, and two-time winner Lelisa Desisa.
Kipruto, a 2:05:13 performer, may not have the fastest PB, but times often count for very little when it comes to the Boston Marathon. The fact he has previously won on this course, however, counts for a lot.
“Being back in Boston as a champion is very exciting, but at the same time I feel the pressure and the responsibility to defend my title,” said Kipruto. “I really admire those athletes that managed to be multiple champions in big races. I really want to do my best to be one of them and I really hope to make my name among those Boston champions that people will remember for a long time.”
Winners of two other big city races in 2021 will also be on the start line: London Marathon champion Sisay Lemma and New York City Marathon winner Albert Korir.
Lemma, who has a PB of 2:03:36, has unfinished business in Boston. He placed 30th in 2019 and failed to finish in 2017. Korir will be making his Boston debut, but his New York victory in 2021 and runner-up finish in 2019 means he’ll be one to watch on Monday.
Three-time world half marathon champion Geoffrey Kamworor is also one to watch. Twice a winner in New York, he finally broke his long-standing PB in Valencia last year, clocking 2:05:23. His reputation as a proven competitor in championship-style races means he cannot be overlooked in this field.
Evans Chebet, the 2020 world leader, has finished in the top four at the past 12 marathons he has completed. The only DNF of his career, however, came at the Boston Marathon in 2018, so he will be keen to make amends for that blemish on his otherwise impressive record.
Organisers for World Athletics
Peres Jepchirchir (KEN) 2:17:16
Joyciline Jepkosgei (KEN) 2:17:43
Degitu Azimeraw (ETH) 2:17:58
Edna Kiplagat (KEN) 2:19:50
Etagegn Woldu (ETH) 2:20:16
Ababel Yeshaneh (ETH) 2:20:51
Desiree Linden (USA) 2:22:38
Viola Cheptoo (KEN) 2:22:44
Charlotte Purdue (GBR) 2:23:26
Molly Seidel (USA) 2:24:42
Malindi Elmore (CAN) 2:24:50
Mary Ngugi (KEN) 2:25:20
Monicah Ngige (KEN) 2:25:32
Natasha Wodak (CAN) 2:26:19
Sara Vaughn (USA) 2:26:53
Nell Rojas (USA) 2:27:12
Stephanie Bruce (USA) 2:27:47
Dakotah Lindwurm (USA) 2:29:04
Angie Orjuela (COL) 2:29:12
Bria Wetsch (USA) 2:29:50
Maegan Krifchin (USA) 2:30:17
Elaina Tabb (USA) 2:30:33
Sydney Devore (USA) 2:32:39
Kodi Kleven (CAN) 2:32:45
Birhanu Legese (ETH) 2:02:48
Evans Chebet (KEN) 2:03:00
Lawrence Cherono (KEN) 2:03:04
Sisay Lemma (ETH) 2:03:36
Kinde Atanaw (ETH) 2:03:51
Lemi Berhanu (ETH) 2:04:33
Lelisa Desisa (ETH) 2:04:45
Gabriel Geay (TAN) 2:04:55
Benson Kipruto (KEN) 2:05:13
Geoffrey Kamworor (KEN) 2:05:23
Eric Kiptanui (KEN) 2:05:47
Bethwell Yegon (KEN) 2:06:14
Yuki Kawauchi (JPN) 2:07:27
Albert Korir (KEN) 2:08:03
Amanuel Mesel (ERI) 2:08:17
Tsegay Tuemay (ERI) 2:09:07
Scott Fauble (USA) 2:09:09
Colin Bennie (USA) 2:09:38
Trevor Hofbauer (CAN) 2:09:51
Jared Ward (USA) 2:09:25
Ian Butler (USA) 2:09:45
Mick Iacofano (USA) 2:09:55
Jake Riley (USA) 2:10:02
Jerrell Mock (USA) 2:10:37
Jemal Yimer (ETH) 2:10:38
Matt McDonald (USA) 2:11:10
Matt Llano (USA) 2:11:14
Elkanah Kibet (USA) 2:11:15
CJ Albertson (USA) 2:11:18