We are now just a few days away from the 2018 Boston Marathon. There is so much excitement surrounding the races this year. There is particular excitement around the women’s race, as it features the deepest American field ever assembled at a major marathon aside from the Olympic Trials. There is a real feeling that the 33 year drought of an American female victor is going to end. As I think about who can win this year, it takes me back to the three years when I ran from the distance from Hopkinton to Boston. They were three of the most thrilling experiences of my life.
I started my quest for ending the drought of female American victors at Boston in 2009. I had just finished 3rd in the NYC Marathon in my debut of the distance, and knocked a minute off the American course record. I wanted this victory. I loved the city, I loved the history of the marathon, and I wanted to be the one to deliver. The media attention was something I had never experienced before. It was intense. I was proud to be the hopes of the city, but I felt a little lonely, either I won or I didn’t. In the end it wasn’t meant to be. Leading at the 25 mile mark I was passed and lost more ground down Boylston Street to the finish tape. I would have to settle for 3rd, and another year without a female American victor went by.
I returned to Boston in 2011. Once again I was the favorite to deliver, although there was another American who was very fit and ready in the race. As hard as I had worked to prepare, I had given brith to my son 6 1/2 months before the date of the race. I just didn’t have enough time to properly prepare. I ran as hard as I could, and finished 5th with a new PR of 2:24:52, but well outside the win. However, Desi Davila (pre-Linden days) almost came away with the victory. She stayed calm, focused on her own race plan, and was narrowly was defeated. She finished less than 2 seconds behind the winner. She still remains the closest American to come to winning the race since Lisa Rainsberger did back in 1985.
Following the London Olympics in 2012, Shalane (Flanagan) and I decided to return to the Boston Marathon in 2013. I was returning from a foot injury that had been aggravated during the Olympics, but Shalane was in tremendous shape. The attention turned to Shalane. She was strong, fast, fit, and focused. She grew up in Marblehead and for her this was a hometown race. She was embraced by everyone and it seemed like the drought was about to end. But unfortunately, it is Boston. It is one of, if not the, most premier marathon in the world. Winning it would never come easily. Shalane ran a fantastic race and finished 4th. I would come in behind her in 6th. When I finished she cried in my arms. She wanted it so bad for everyone, Desi and I could relate.
So who will win the Boston Marathon this year? There are numerous American women who truly can win.
Let’s start with Shalane Flanagan. She is the fastest American ever over the course of the Boston Marathon running 2:22:02 in 2014. She has at one point in her career held the American Record in the indoor 3000 meters, the outdoor 5000 meters and the outdoor 10,000 meters. She has competed in 4 Olympic Games, won a silver medal at the 2008 Olympics and a bronze medal in the 2011 World Cross Country Championships. And last November, at the age of 36, she won the NYC Marathon. She has run marathons fast, and last fall she proved she could win big in a technical and tactical race. She closed out and ran her last 3 miles faster than at any other point in the race. She has what it takes to be Boston Marathon champion.
Next let’s talk about Molly Huddle. Molly has only run one marathon, but what a marathon it was, taking 3rd in the NYC Marathon in 2016. Molly has destroyed records on the track setting new American Records in both the 5000 meters and the 10,000 meters (30:17!). She has broken 15 minutes in the 5000 meters on the roads and the track more than any other American female. She has competed in 2 Olympic Games. She started racing on the roads years ago and she has proven to be nearly unbeatable. She set a world’s best in the 12k on the roads in 2013. She has won the NYC Half-Marathon 3 times. She set the American Record in the half-marathon earlier this year, running 67:26. She is one of, if not the most talented Americans ever. She has what it takes to be Boston Marathon Champion.
Desi Linden. Desi is the one true marathoner of our US Women. She embraced the distance early on in her career and has made 2 Olympic Teams in the marathon. She set the American Boston course record in 2011 running 2:22:38 (it would be broken in 2014). She has been the fastest American women finisher at several majors including Boston, NYC, and Chicago. She also has speed, winning a silver medal at the 2015 Pan American Games in the 10,000. She is arguably the most consistent American female marathoner. She rarely gets caught up in what anyone else is doing, and stays focused on what she knows she is capable of doing. She finished 7th in the Olympic Marathon in Rio. She has what it takes to be Boston Marathon Champion.
The final of the “big 4” is Jordan Hasay. Jordan is the youngest of the American marathoners at just 26 years old. She was a High School phenom, who while ran great in college, didn’t quite make the impact people thought she would. She made the World Championship track team in 2013, running the 10,000 meters in Moscow. Last year she made her marathon debut in the marathon at the Boston Marathon and ran an incredible 2:23:00 to finish in 3rd. This made her the fastest American debutante by nearly 3 minutes. (The previous mark was 2:25:53 set by yours truly in NYC in 2008). She followed that up by placing 3rd at the Chicago Marathon in a time of 2:20:57, which makes her the 2nd fastest American ever over the distance. Only Deena Kastor has run faster. She is fast and she is determined. She has what it takes to be Boston Marathon Champion.
As if that isn’t enough American talent, there are two other names that more than deserve mention. Kellyn Taylor will be lining up in Boston. Kellyn finished 6th at the 2016 Olympic Marathon Trials and has a PR of 2:28:40. She broke 2:30 at the 2017 NYC Marathon and she has been on the edge of a big breakthrough. And we can never count out Deena Kastor, the woman who carried the flag for American distance running for so long. She has placed second at World Cross country, held the 5000 meter and 10,000 meter American records, held the American half-marathon record, is a 3 time Olympian, won two Marathon Majors (London and Chicago), and is the current American record holder with a time of 2:19:36. She is past her “prime”, but doesn’t need to be in the best shape of her life to be a real threat. Either of these women could step up and be there in the running for the title.
So who will win the Boston Marathon on April 16th? In my opinion we already won. We are talking about 4 American women with a very good chance to win, and 2 more that are also contenders. For years we put all our hopes and dreams into one woman to carry the weight for us. Now we have many. US women’s marathoning is at an all-time high. We have women that can win from any race strategy. We are winning majors and we are running fast. I am so excited for Marathon Monday. I have no doubt that these women will leave it all out on the roads, and that we will be immensely proud. But the real victory is in how strong our women are. Regardless if they win the title or not, we are at a new era in American marathoning. An era where we can compete with anyone and the women are not afraid to face the best or each other. The winner? The US women, no matter the result.