February 20 2018
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The race for the women’s title at the Boston Marathon on April 16 seems destined to produce some of the most thrilling performances in the history of the prestigious event.
The U.S. women set to run, including big names such as Shalane Flanagan and Deena Kastor, is considered the most accomplished group of American women ever assembled for Boston.
Not only will they have to contend with each other–they will also face tough competitors from other countries.
To find out who we should watch for in the lead pack and how the race might unfold, we reached out to former pro runner Carrie Tollefson, a 2004 Olympian, TV commentator and host of the podcast C Tolle Run.
Without a doubt, reigning Boston champion Edna Kiplagat, 38, is expected to be a frontrunner again.
Kiplagat, who hails from Kenya, has also won the marathons in New York, London and Los Angeles.
“She is a true champion in so many ways, but the fact that she is a mother and continues to win and place high as she nears 40 is so inspiring,” Tollefson says. “She is smart, savvy and seasoned.”
Kiplagat posted her best marathon time in 2012, when she ran a blazing 2:19:50 in the London Marathon.
In addition to running, Kiplagat owns and operates a farm in Kenya and is the mother of five, including her late sister’s two children, whom she adopted.
Just five months after becoming the first American woman in 40 years to win the New York City Marathon, Flanagan, 36, will toe the line in Boston. Flanagan, who grew up in nearby Marblehead, Mass., has long said she would love to win Boston to cap her already illustrious career, which includes a 2008 Olympic bronze medal (upgraded to silver last year) in the 10,000 meters.
“I know winning New York City was huge for her, but if she could end her career winning Boston, that would be amazing,” Tollefson says.
Flanagan ran 2:22:02 at Boston in 2014, a time that made her the third fastest American woman marathoner. Last year, a back injury forced her to withdraw from the race, but she has said the break gave her the rest she needed to tackle New York City and win.
Shalane Flanagan co-authored a cookbook, titled Run Fast, Eat Slow, with her friend Elyse Kopecky, a chef. The book became a New York Times bestseller in 2016, and the pair is working on a follow-up cookbook.
The 34-year-old Ethiopian is no stranger to the marathon podium. She won the Frankfurt Marathon in 2011 and 2016 and placed third at the 2017 New York City Marathon.
“She handled the hills well in New York City, so if her quads can handle the downhills in Boston, I think we will see her up front,” Tollfeson says.
Last year, Daska won her fifth Bolder Boulder 10K title, tying the record of Portugal’s Rosa Mota.
The 33-year-old Kenyan native who now runs for Bahrain has the talent and experience to snag the title in Boston.
Kirwa earned a silver medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics and last year won the Nagoya Women’s Marathon in Japan for the third consecutive time. In that race, she ran a personal best of 2:21:17.
Kirwa’s younger brother, Felix, is also an elite marathoner. In December 2017, the siblings were the top male and female finishers in the Macau International Marathon. They both broke course records.
Hasay is returning to Boston after a record-breaking debut in last year’s race.
In the first marathon of her career, the Califorian shattered the American women’s record for fastest debut marathon, running an impressive 2:23:00. In October 2017, she lowered her personal best to 2:20:57 to take third in the Chicago Marathon.
She also became one of the fastest American marathoners of all time, second only to Deena Kastor (whose personal best is 2:19:36).
The 26-year-old started running in elementary school and became a national star on the track by the time she was a teenager. In 2008, when Hasay was just a high school junior, she competed in the 1500-meter final at the U.S. Olympic Trials.
Earlier this month, Huddle, 33, broke the American women’s record in the half marathon—previously held by Deena Kastor—when she ran 1:07:25 in the Aramco Houston Half.
The two-time Olympian also holds the American record in the 10,000 meters, a mark she set in the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
The 2016 New York City Marathon was her first 26.2-mile race. She finished third with a time of 2:28:13.
“Molly is so talented and strong,” Tollefson says.
Huddle did not run high school cross-country until her senior year. She ran as a solo representative for her upstate New York school, which did not have a team at the time. With her father as her coach, she ran undefeated and finished fourth at the 2001 FootLocker National Cross Country Championships.
Don’t count out Desiree Linden, 34, a two-time Olympian and Boston veteran. She finished second in 2011, narrowing missing the win and placed fourth last year. After that race, disappointment and exhaustion led her to take a hiatus from running. She started training again in the fall.
Deena Kastor could also deliver an impressive performance. Even though she holds an Olympic bronze medal in the marathon and the American record for the marathon, Kastor continues to challenge herself at age 44 as a masters runner. In 2015, she broke the U.S. Women’s Masters marathon record at the Chicago Marathon, finishing with a time of 2:27:47.
Tollefson expects a crowded lead pack, but doesn’t think it will be a blistering pace from start to finish.
“I think it will be tactical again like both New York City and Chicago (last year),” she says. “Being strategic and instinctual later in the race is typically how we see Boston won.”
In the last few miles, it will be exciting to watch who makes a move and if the others respond.
“It is going to be a barn burner,” Tollefson says.