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For the first time ever, all six World Marathon Majors will be contested in the fall of the same year. Due to postponements caused by COVID-19, the Berlin, London, Tokyo, Chicago, Boston, and New York City marathons are all scheduled to take place within a seven-week timeframe.
For many athletes, these marathons will be their first 26.2 since the onset of the pandemic, and they’ve set big goals for the return of the sport.
Between runners doubling in events to some chasing national records, the best marathoners in the world are taking full advantage of these highly anticipated competitive opportunities. Here, we outlined some quick takeaways and storylines we’ll be watching based on the early elite field announcements. (And we’ll keep this list updated if and when top runners throw their name into one of these amazing fields!)â€¨
Berlin Marathon—Sunday, September 26
Kenenisa Bekele, Ethiopia (2:01:41)
Right now, the only elite runner confirmed for the Berlin Marathon is Kenenisa Bekele. Berlin will be the first of two marathons in 42 days for the Ethiopian runner, who is also scheduled to race the New York City Marathon on November 7, a grueling double that will mark Bekele’s first races since March 2020.
As three-time Olympic champion told Sports Illustrated, he is ready for the challenge.
“For a whole year, I couldn’t race and it’s been really difficult for athletes,” Bekele said. “I want to take this chance and see what is possible.”
London Marathon—Sunday, October 3
Eight weeks after winning silver at the Tokyo Olympics, Brigid Kosgei aims to defend her title in London. The world record-holder from Kenya will be going for her third consecutive victory in London against a stacked field that includes defending New York City Marathon champion Joyciline Jepkosgei and two-time Tokyo Marathon winner Birhane Dibaba.
On the men’s side, Shura Kitata will also be looking to defend his title in London after a disappointing performance in Tokyo. The Ethiopian standout struggled in the heat during the Olympic marathon in Sapporo and dropped out of the race, but he’s aiming for redemption on a course where he experienced a breakthrough last year.
“I was disappointed to have to pull out of the Olympic Games Marathon, but I just did not adapt to the weather well,” Kitata told World Athletics. “It was very cold in Ethiopia prior to leaving for Tokyo and when we got there the weather took its toll on my body and made my breathing very hard. But I’m healthy and looking forward to racing in the Virgin Money London Marathon again. I am preparing very well and my coach has me very ready to defend my title in London.”
Chicago Marathon—Sunday, October 10
Almost a year after she nearly broke Deena Kastor’s American marathon record, Sara Hall is gearing up to again chase the elusive time set 15 years ago. In Chicago, Hall aims to continue her breakthrough streak, which started during the 2020 COVID-adjusted season, and run under the record of 2:19:36.
“It has been too long since I’ve been back, and when I thought about where I wanted to chase the American record, I thought it would be more exciting to do it at home, in the U.S., and Chicago is such an epic race,” Hall said in a statement. “I’m really excited to have my best marathon yet on U.S. soil.”
After dropping out of the 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials, Hall made an impressive comeback with a runner-up finish at the London Marathon last October, and a victory at the Marathon Project in December. Hall’s winning time of 2:20:32 is her personal best and the second-fastest performance ever by an American woman.
Hall will have stiff competition up front with Ruth Chepngetich in the field. The Kenyan marathoner set the half marathon world record in April. She had an off day at the Tokyo Games and dropped out of the marathon around the 20-mile mark. Chicago will be the 2019 world champion’s first major marathon since the Olympics and her first race on U.S. soil.
Another American to watch will be Keira D’Amato; she made headlines in 2020 with huge improvements on the track and the roads, which helped her land her first professional contract with Nike at 36 years old. D’Amato was expected to be an Olympic team contender in the 10,000 meters, but she withdrew from the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials, citing a hamstring injury. The Chicago Marathon will be D’Amato’s first race since February.
Gï¿¼alen Rupp, who placed eighth in 2:11:41 at the Tokyo Olympics on August 8, is returning to race the marathon in Chicago. This marathon holds some significance for Rupp, who became the first American male athlete since Khalid Khannouchi to win the race in 2017. The last time he competed in the Windy City was during his comeback to the sport after having Achilles surgery. In the 2019 race, he dropped out just before the 23-mile mark, but he’s looking to improve this time around.
“My goal is winning,” Rupp said in a statement. “I want to come back and win. 2019 left a sour taste in my mouth. I didn’t finish that race so I cannot wait to get back out there and come back stronger than ever. It has been a wild ride since then. I’m healthy, I’m happy, and it’s going to be tremendous to come back.”
Boston Marathon—Monday, October 11
Boston will have one of the deepest elite fields on the women’s side with nine women who have run under 2:22, including Olympic bronze medalist Mare Dibaba and 2017 Boston Marathon winner Edna Kiplagat.
The race will also be Des Linden’s first of two marathons this fall. The 2018 Boston Marathon champion is entered in the New York City Marathon on November 7, a shorter than normal timeframe between major marathons. Boston will be Linden’s first major marathon since she finished fourth at the 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials. This spring, Linden set the 50K world record by averaging 5:47 pace for more than 31 miles.
Fellow Americans Jordan Hasay and Molly Huddle will also be returning to Boston after the event took a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic.â€¨â€‹
In the men’s field, several past podium finishers are making their return to Boston, including Kenyan standouts Wilson Chebet, Felix Kandie, and Paul Lonyangata. A large American contingent will be led by four-time Olympian Abdi Abdirahman, who finished 41st in the marathon at the Tokyo Games. Including Abdirahman, eight of the top 12 finishers from the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials are scheduled to compete.
New York City Marathon—Sunday, November 7
The field assembled for the women’s race, especially the American contingent, is the most stacked marathon of all the fall races. Tokyo Olympians Molly Seidel, Sally Kipyego, and Aliphine Tuliamuk are all slated to return to competition in the Big Apple after representing Team USA in Sapporo.
Fellow podium finisher Peres Jepchirchir of Kenya is also returning to the distance after dominating the marathon to win gold in her first Olympic Games. She has the fastest personal best among the field after running 2:17:16 in Valencia last year. Including Jepchirchir, the New York City field includes four women who have run under 2:21.
Outside of the Olympic team, a handful of the top Americans are also gearing up for fast times in the city. Emily Sisson, Kellyn Taylor, Stephanie Bruce, Roberta Groner, and Laura Thweatt are scheduled to compete. And Des Linden will be racing her second marathon of the fall after competing in Boston on October 11.
Along with Bekele’s double, Abdi Nageeye’s performance will draw fans in to watch the men’s race in New York City. The runner from the Netherlands secured a silver medal in the Tokyo marathon by crossing the finish line in 2:09:58, a huge improvement from his 11th-place finish in Rio. He’s finished in the top 10 twice at the Boston Marathon, but this fall will mark his debut in New York City and he’s feeling confident in his chances.
“For me, winning the silver medal in the Olympic Games was not a surprise,” Nageeye said in a statement. “There were many good athletes in the race, but I knew my preparation had been good. I was ready for the conditions, and most importantly I believed in myself. I will take that same focus into my preparations for New York, and my belief and confidence in my abilities is even higher than it was in Sapporo. There is nothing I want more than to bring a New York City victory back home along with my Olympic medal.”
There will also be a couple of highly anticipated marathon debuts, including Kibiwott Kandie and Ben True. Kandie is the half marathon world record-holder and a world championships silver-medalist. True will be aiming for redemption after finishing fourth in the 10,000 meters and narrowly missing out on making Team USA at the Olympic Trials in June.(08/28/2021) Views: 1,027 ⚡AMP