Mother Nature could prove to be the prime influence today as the sixth-largest field in history at 29,937 is expected to answer the starting gun this morning in Hopkinton for the 122nd Boston Marathon.
The weather forecast calls for rain, a 40-degree temperature and a blustery 15 mph headwind for competitors.
“Obviously, right now the weather is the whole thing,” said race director Dave McGillivray, fresh off completing an arduous seven marathons on seven continents in seven days. “Anytime you have less than ideal conditions you have concerns, but we’re on top of it. Of course, it adds another layer to the challenge but we promise we will still have a safe and comfortable race, for all the runners.”
There is a total prize package of $830,000, including first-place open division awards of $150,000. The 2018 race is expected to generate $201 million in revenue to the greater-Boston area.
Defending champion Geoffrey Kirui returns after producing a phenomenal marathon season in 2017. The 25-year-old from Kenya crossed the line with a time of 2:09:37, just 21 seconds ahead of runner-up Galen Rupp, a two-time Olympic medalist from Portland, Ore.
Kirui, who trains at an altitude in Kenya’s Rift Valley of 2,700 meters, followed his Boston victory with a win in the 2017 World Championship Marathon (2:08:27) in London in August. His most recent effort was in the New Delhi Half-Marathon in January.
“I felt OK,” Kirui said through a translator. “I am going to try my best. It is a very hard course. It is really difficult. There are some things we won’t know until Monday.”
Rupp, 31, who represents the highly successful and scrutinized Nike Oregon Project, learned much from his Boston debut. Last October, he scored a win in the Chicago Marathon, posting a career-best 2:09:20.
“When I ran last year, I think I may have gotten a little too anxious, excited going through the hills,” said Rupp. “I know how important and what a key part of the race it is and I think I tried to give it a little too much. That was big lesson. The experience helps in the marathon but especially on a unique course like this. It’s unlike any other marathon in the world, how prestigious it is, how old, and the history behind it. The whole weekend is such a big thing.
“When I was here last year I was a little wide-eyed, so try to take it in a little bit but, at the same time, you want to make sure you’re not too hyped up. With the course having that knowledge with all the downhills, it’s different from most other marathon courses. There’s no way around it. You have to do a lot of hard work.”
Rupp isn’t concerned about the weather.
“Being an Oregon boy I’m not really too fazed by the weather,” he said. “I mean, cold rain is like what it is most of the time where I’m from. It’s just something you have to be aware of, especially the wind, headwind or from the side. It’s probably the first race that I’ve run where it hasn’t been really hot, really humid for a marathon. So, I’m actually looking forward to running in cooler conditions.”
The women’s field features a who’s who of the world’s best led by defending champ Edna Kiplagat, who finished in 2:21:52 in 2017. The Kenyan great will be opposed by four-time U.S. Olympian and Marblehead native Shalane Flanagan, the reigning New York City marathon winner (2:26:53), who is expected to garner the most crowd support.
Also running is two-time Olympian and ex-Notre Dame star Molly Huddle, who is coached by Providence College’s Ray Treacy. Another top American hopeful and rising star, Jordan Hasay, a teammate of Rupp, ran third (2:23:00) in her marathon debut a year ago. She matched that finish in the Chicago race with a career-best of 2:20:57, making her the second-fastest U.S. woman of all-time.
Hasay pulled out of the recent World Half-Marathon Championship in Valencia, Spain, due to a balky foot. She said it was done more as a “preventive measure and a precaution.”
Now, she claims to be 100 percent, she says. “We were just being smart about it.”
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