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The 2023 Boston Marathon will feature no shortage of top talent, with 12 former champions expected to take part in the 127th running of the storied event.
But it is a distance-running icon, set to grace the roads from Hopkinton to Boylston Street for the first time ever, that is stealing most of the headlines.
Eliud Kipchoge, the world’s greatest men’s marathoner, will look to conquer another 26.2 miles on Patriots’ Day.
Here’s what you need to know about the legendary runner ahead of his first Boston Marathon.
The credentials of the elite field of men’s and women’s runners on Monday is impressive.
But Kipchoge’s resume speaks for itself.
The 38-year-old Kenyan has shattered multiple records during his running career, posting four of the six fastest marathon finishes in history — including an absurd sub-two-hour performance at the Ineos 1:59 Challenge in Vienna in 2019. He has won 15 of the 17 official marathons that he’s entered.
Along with capturing two Olympic gold medals, Kipchoge holds the official world record in the marathon with a time of 2:01:09, set last September at the 2022 Berlin Marathon.
Kipchoge’s world-record showing in Berlin was so impressive that he had time to hug his trainer, Patrick Sang, pose for photos and wave a Kenyan flag before the second-place finisher, Mark Korir, crossed the finish line .. a whopping 4:49 later.
Back in December, Kipchoge described the Boston Marathon as part of his “bucket list,” according to John Powers of The Boston Globe. Boston will stand as the fifth of the six major marathons (Boston, New York, London, Berlin, Tokyo, Chicago) that Kipchoge has run.
During his previous forays in those primetime events, Kipchoge has won the London and Berlin marathons four times each, along with individual victories at both Tokyo and Chicago.
And even at his age, Kipchoge still has his sights set on taking home an unprecedented third gold medal at the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.
Kipchoge lining up with the rest of the men’s elites on Monday morning stands as the culmination of an extensive effort by the Boston Athletic Association (BAA) to get the running legend to such a premier event.
It was an objective so integral to the BAA’s planning that the quest to get Kipchoge to sign on for the 127th annual race was given a codename: “Project Eagle”.
Of course, given Kipchoge’s own internal quest to win all six major marathons, heading to New England was all but inevitable.
Poor timing has usually been the culprit in previous years when it came to the BAA’s efforts to bring in Kipchoge. The COVID-19 pandemic did away with the 2020 race, while the 2021 event was pushed to October — too soon of a turnaround for Kipchoge after the Olympic Games in Tokyo. His regular participation at the London Marathon (also held in April) has also complicated things.
“We’ve had an open invitation to Eliud for many years,” Mary Kate Shea, who recruits the elite runners for the Boston Marathon, told Powers. “It was never presented in any kind of pressure-filled way. It was always that Boston is the most historic race in the world. We acknowledge your successes and how you approach your preparation and training. And, boy, do we have a course for you.”
Even though Kipchoge has dominated on just about every course on which he’s set foot, the Boston Marathon serves as a stark departure from other events like Berlin — where the road is generally flat.
“I can say I know nothing about the course,” Kipchoge told Powers of the Boston Marathon route. “I believe what I am hearing as stories, and the stories go like this: that Boston is hard and tough. After the first 30 kilometers, it starts to build up-down, up-down. I will see the real Boston next year.”
Considering his track record of shattering the record books at just about every race he’s participated in, Kipchoge will likely be looking to eclipse the Boston course record of 2:03:02 set by fellow Kenyan, Geoffrey Mutai, back in 2011.
Of course, that’s easier said than done, given the hilly terrain and inconsistent weather that can thwart even the most established runners on Patriots’ Day.
But even if Kipchoge did manage to best the 2:01:09 time that he set last year in Berlin, it actually wouldn’t count, as far as the official record books are concerned.
According to World Athletics, (the governing body that holds court over road running and other sports), records set in Boston are not considered due to both the route and elevation of the Boston Marathon course.
One strike against the Boston course is that it doesn’t start and finish in a loop — or at least in close proximity to one another.
And while routes like Berlin are primarily on flat land and follow a circular path around the city, the variables in place with Boston in terms of those hills, weather, and wind create a standard that is hard for World Athletics to adhere to when it comes to weighing record performances.
Also, Kipchoge’s sub-two-hour showing in Vienna in 2019 also didn’t technically count because of the pacers and optimized conditions designed to help get the distance-running star under that coveted timing threshold.
But covering 26.2 miles in 1:59:40 is a superhuman achievement, regardless of which record book it falls under. If Kipchoge posts a similar result in Boston on Monday morning, that same sentiment should carry over.
It should come as no surprise that an athlete with Kipchoge’s track record is also unchallenged in terms of his training regimen.
As part of his usual routine, Kipchoge runs up to 136 miles per week, although Kipchoge and his coaches opt for an 80/20 workload — where 20 percent of that training is devoted to high-intensity exercise, with the remaining 80 percent comprised of lighter runs.
During that “easier” workload, Kipchoge still clears a kilometer (0.6 miles) in 4:30 – 5:00. Every two weeks, Kipchoge and his staff also take part in a “long run” that totals 24.8 miles.
Even in the weeks leading up to a marathon, Kipchoge doesn’t exactly taper his daily work. As noted in his training log ahead of the 2017 Berlin Marathon, Kipchoge still logged 113 miles just a week out from the event.
As far as rest and recovery are concerned, Kipchoge noted in an interview before his Ineos 1:59 Challenge that he sleeps an average of 10 hours, including two hours during the day.
As for a “rest day” during his weekly training, Kipchoge opts for a nice change of pace by way of a 12-mile run.
In anticipation of the Boston Marathon’s arduous terrain, Kipchoge has logged more reps on hilly terrain in order to account for what awaits next week.
“I think it’s the right time now to train on the Boston route, which we have named it here in Kenya,” Kipchoge said in a video posted in March. “It’s really uphill and [a] tough course [for] all 40 kilometers. I think I will benefit from it.”
Kipchoge’s debut in Boston will capture plenty of headlines. Given his body of work, he will be the overwhelming favorite once the race commences in Middlesex County.
But the 38-year-old runner is just one of many elite participants looking to best Mutai’s record. No runner since Mutai in 2011 has posted a finish time in Boston under 2:05:00, a testament to the arduous conditions that even the world’s best must endure.
But there will be another six runners with person bests below that 2:05:00 who will compete against Kipchoge. Reigning 2022 Boston Marathon champion Evans Chabet completed a marathon in 2:03:00 (2020, Valencia Marathon), as has Tanzania’s Gabriel Geay.
Benson Kipruto of Kenya — the 2021 Boston and 2022 Chicago winner — will also race, along with two-time winner Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia, who paced the pack in Boston in both 2013 and 2015.
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