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Boston Marathon 2007 - The Preview
by Sharon Ekstrom
On April 16, 2007 - Patriot's Day Monday - the 111th Boston Marathon will welcome over 20,000 runners from around the world. In attendance will be many of the world's top men and women marathoners who will be competing in the main event as well as in a number of races within the race. In the men's and women's open event, runners will be competing against the best in the world for a total prize purse of $525,000 plus additional bonuses based on time goals. In addition to the main event, a field of top American women will be competing for $70,000 as part of the USA Women's Championships. And in a challenge started in 2006, the World Marathon Majors (WMM) Series will award $500,000 to both the top man and woman in the 2006-2007 seasons, and that is something that could be determined in Boston.
Due to the point structure of the WMM, a number of Boston participants will be especially incented to reach for a victory: a win by Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot would guarantee his place as champion of the WMM Series and a $500,000 bonus regardless of any performance in the Fall or any competition from another runner. A win by Jelena Prokopcuka would make her almost certain to win the competition with a mediocre Fall performance, while a win by Rita Jeptoo or Deena Kastor would ensure their place as one of four eligible to win the bonus at the end of the year. Beyond what is always an exciting competition, the guaranteed purses of $595,000 plus the prospect of a runner (or two) clinching additional $500,000 bonuses, the 2007 Boston Marathon might possibly be the richest day ever in the history of marathoning.
World Marathon Majors Series
Pts. awarded at Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago + New York City Marathons over two-year cycle entitle winners to a $500,000 bonus.
1st place = 25 pts
2nd place = 15 pts
3rd place = 10 pts
4th place = 5 pts
5th place = 1 pt
Leaders going into 2007
Robert K. Cheruiyot* 50 pts
Felix Limo** 25 pts
Haile Gebreselassie** 25 pts
Marilson Gomes dos Santos** 25 pts
Jelena Prokopcuka* 40 pts
Berhane Adere** 30 pts
Rita Jeptoo* 30 pts
Deena Kastor* 25 pts
Gete Wami** 25 pts
*Running Boston **Running London
The Men's Race
The men's race will feature an especially deep field with two - champion Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot and runner-up Benjamin Maiyo - of the top three finishers from 2006 returning (third place finisher, US Olympian Meb Keflizighi, will not return, opting to run the London Marathon instead). Beyond the 2006 leaders, the field will include 2005 champion Hailu Negussie and four other men who have run sub-2:10 marathons and have a legitimate chance of winning the 2007 race in addition to a couple of debut marathoners who have yet to be tested at the 26.2 mile distance.
Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot - the defending champion and course record holder - will be the most interesting story going into the 2007 Boston Marathon. The 28 year-old Kenyan was the 2003 Boston Marathon champion, dropped out in the heat of the 2004 race, was fifth at Boston in 2005 before winning again in 2006. 2006 was truly a breakthrough year for Kipkoech Cheruiyot as he set a new course record and personal best at Boston and then returned in the Fall to win the Chicago Marathon. In addition to running to defend his title, the two wins in 2006 also setup Kipkoech Cheruiyot in the dominant position at the top of the World Marathon Majors leaderboard where a win will guarantee him a $500,000 bonus. If Kipkoech Cheruiyot can hold it together, he will be running for $600,000. 2006 also nearly saw the end of Kipkoech Cheruiyot's career as he slipped on a race decal and suffered a serious head injury at the finish line of the 2006 Chicago Marathon (see video). Fortunately, Kipkoech Cheruiyot recovered after a short stay in a Chicago hospital.
2006 runner-up Benjamin Maiyo stands to be a serious contender. The 28 year-old Kenyan ran a tactically flawed 2006 Boston Marathon by pushing the already fast pace at mile 10 and breaking the pack apart. By mile 15, Maiyo had separated himself from all of the other contenders and was running nearly 2-1/2 minutes ahead of the split times set in 1994 by Cosmas Ndeti, the previous course record holder. That pace was unsustainable and Maiyo was caught at mile 19 by Kipkoech Cheruiyot who held a more conservative initial race pace. Nevertheless Maiyo held on for second place in 2006 and it is unlikely that he will make the same mistake in 2007.
Others to watch in the field include 2005 winner Hailu Negussie (27, Ethiopia) who dropped out in the record-setting pace of the 2006 race. Negussie, an Ethiopian, broke a 14 year Kenyan winning streak with his win in 2005 and will look to challenge the predominantly Kenyan elite field. Robert Cheboror (28, Kenya) has the fastest personal best of any competitor in the 2007 field and the second fastest time recorded in 2006. Also in the mix for a top five, if not better, position will be Samuel Ndereba in his marathon debut. Ndereba is the younger brother to four-time Boston Marathon champion and former World Record Holder Catherine Ndereba. When we spoke with Catherine "The Great" Ndereba in late 2006, she told us to keep an eye on her brother as one to watch; and his 61:50 Half-Marathon best puts him in the same sphere as the other runners - anything can happen at Boston...
The 2006 Boston Marathon had a strong American finish with five American men placing in the top ten. Four of those five will not be returning to Boston: Meb Keflezighi is running the 2007 London Marathon; and the other three - Brian Sell, Alan Culpepper and Clint Verran - are not running a Spring Marathon and are instead focusing exclusively on the 2008 US Olympic Time Trials in the Fall. The strong favorite for first American is the remaining returnee from 2006, Peter Gilmore who finished 7th overall in the 2006 Boston Marathon with a personal best of 2:12:45. Gilmore has been a consistent performer arriving as first American at the 2006 New York City Marathon where he beat both Keflezighi and Culpepper. Gilmore's strong finishes in 2006 prove that he is on the rise and to be taken seriously as a contender.
The Women's Race
Women's Milestones at Boston
- 5 years ago: Two women's records are set. Margaret Okayo sets the women's record of 2:20:43 and Firaya Sultanova-Zhdanova sets the masters record of 2:27:58.
- 10 years ago: Fatuma Roba becomes the first African woman to win the Boston Marathon
- 35 years ago: Nina Kuscsik finishes in 3:10:26 as the first official female finisher
- 40 years ago: Katherine Switzer (as K.V. Switzer) is the first woman to obtain an official entry to the Boston Marathon which officially banned female entrants
Expect an incredible women's race in a year marking many historic anniversaries of women running Boston. 2006 Boston Marathon champion Rita Jeptoo and 2006 runner-up Jelena Prokopcuka will both be returning after having had the closest finish in Boston Marathon women's history. Also in the field will be Olympic Bronze Medalist, American Record Holder and fourth fastest female marathoner of all-time: Deena Kastor.These three sit atop the World Marathon Majors leader board, with Prokopcuka, winner of the 2006 New York City Marathon and runner-up at Boston the clear leader in the points standing. A win by Prokopcuka at Boston would mean that she would be nearly assured of taking home the $500,000 prize at the end of 2007 - so she has the most to gain or lose by a win. On the other hand, a win by Jeptoo or Kastor could propel either of them into the top position in the WMM allowing that a strong Fall marathon would then provide them with the bonus. Also of note in the field is Mexican standout Madai Perez who has been improving each year and holds the third fastest personal best in the field, just seconds behind Prokopcuka's best. Rounding out the top athletes of the women's race are seasoned Russians Lidiya Grigoryeva and Lyubov Denisova and relative newcomer Robe Tola Guta, a 20 year-old Ethiopian who has shown impressive improvement over her two years of running marathons
We expect the winner to be one of the four fastest in the field - Kastor, Prokopcuka, Perez, Jeptoo - but anything can happen. Kastor gathered worldwide attention in 2004 running on a hot and hilly Athens Olympic course where she ran her own conservative race passing runners who were falling like flies from a too fast pace. Since that 2004 Olympics, Kastor has focused on the fast and flat marathons, working to break the 2:20 mark which she did at London in 2006. We would normally say that Kastor is the clear favorite except that on the tougher New York City Marathon course in 2006 Kastor (6th) was beaten by both Prokopcuka (1st) and Jeptoo (4th), although admittedly Kastor explained that she was not feeling well in that race. That result, combined with Jeptoo's victory over Prokopcuka at Boston in 2006, the fact that Jeptoo was faster than Perez at the Helsinki Championships in 2005 coupled with Perez's continued improvement - means.... The 2007 women's race in Boston will be more interesting and strategic than any fantasy sports league. Ultimately, these four fast women will be frontrunners, but who will win will be determined by the day.
US Women's Marathon Championships
Thirty-one women are scheduled to participate in the US Women's Marathon Championships. Of those, twenty-two have already qualified for the 2008 Olympic Trials Marathon to be held in Boston in April 2008.
It has been twenty-two years since an American woman has won the Boston Marathon. In 1985, 23 year-old Lisa Larsen-Weidenbach, the 1984 US Olympic Marathon alternate, ran uncontested to finish in 2:34:06 and win by more than eight minutes. In 1986, John Hancock stepped up to offer prize money for the first time attracting the world's top women and since then the winning time has only once been above 2:27 and only two American women have been able to earn a top-three finish. Deena Kastor looks to be able to break that drought and hopefully arrive as the first American women's winner in the professional era for Boston.
Along with Kastor, the fastest American women will be in Boston competing in the 2007 USA Women's Championship to be held simultaneously with the 2007 Boston Marathon. In addition to the open women's prize purse which runs fifteen places deep, an additional $70,000 of prize money will be awarded to the top 10 finishers of the Women's Marathon Championships. USA TUSATF will award an additional $10,500 to the top five finishers of the Championship. In addition to Kastor, some of the top American women (with PRs indicated) will be Heather Hanscom (2:31:53), Sara Wells (2:33:15), Sylvia Mosqueda (2:33:37), Mary Akor (2:33:50), Turena Johnson Lane (2:34:43) and Zoila Gomez (2:35:26).
The 2007 Boston Marathon Elite Lineup Follows:
Men's Open Field Personal Best
Robert Cheboror, Kenya 2:06:23 (Amsterdam, 2004)
Benjamin Maiyo, Kenya 2:07:09 (Chicago, 2005)
Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot, Kenya 2:07:14 (Boston, 2006) CR
Philip Manyim, Kenya 2:07:41 (Berlin, 2005)
Teferi Wodajo, Ethiopia 2:08:11 (Seoul, 2004)
Hailu Negussie, Ethiopia 2:08:16 (Hofu, 2002)
Stephen Kiogora, Kenya 2:09:21 (Chicago, 2004)
Ruggero Pertile, Italy 2:10:12 (Rome, 2004)
Stanley Leleito, Kenya 2:10:17 (Zurich, 2005
Hosea Rotich, Kenya 2:10:18 (Nairobi, 2006)
James Kipsang Kwambai, Kenya 2:10:20 (Brescia, 2006)
Stephen Biwott, Kenya 2:11:16 (Carpi, 2005)
Tekeste Kebede, Ethiopia 2:11:48 (San Diego, 2004)
Mohammed El Hattab, Morocco 2:11:50 (London, 2002)
Samuel Ndereba, Kenya Debut
Women's Open Field Personal Best
Deena Kastor, United States 2:19:36 (London, 2006) NR
Jelena Prokopcuka, Latvia 2:22:56 (Osaka, 2005) NR
Madai Perez, Mexico 2:22:59 (Chicago, 2006) NR
Rita Jeptoo, Kenya 2:23:38 (Boston, 2006)
Roba Tola Guta, Ethiopia 2:24:35 (Hamburg, 2006)
Lidiya Grigoryeva, Russia 2:25:10 (Los Angeles, 2006)
Lyubov Denisova, Russia 2:25:18 (New York, 2004)
Alice Chelangat, Kenya 2:26:36 (Milan, 2001)
Adanech Zekiros, Ethiopia 2:27:38 (Rome, 2006)
Giovanna Volpato, Italy 2:28:59 (Treviso, 2006)