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    Wednesday, May 22, 2024

    Emma Bates, a top US contender in the Boston Marathon, will try to beat Kenyans and dodge potholes

    FILE - Emma Bates, of Minnesota, crosses the finish line of the Boston Marathon, April 17, 2023, in Boston. Bates is hoping to improve on last year's fifth-place finish when she lines up for the marathon Monday, April 15, 2024. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)

    Hopkinton, Mass. — Emma Bates should be extra weary of the Boston Marathon course on Monday when she tries to improve upon last year’s fifth-place finish.

    Not the hills or the headwinds.

    The potholes.

    The 31-year-old former Boston resident stepped in one midway through the Chicago Marathon last fall, tearing a tissue in her foot. She finished 13th but left the course in a wheelchair.

    A setback during her recovery forced Bates to withdraw from the Olympic marathon trials in February. So, instead of planning for Paris, Bates is running Boston again a year after she led the pack through Brookline, with the crowd chanting her name.

    “That was the coolest thing I’ve ever done in my career, that’s for sure,” she said last week. “Being in the lead and setting myself up for the most success that I could have on that day, it was just really special to know that as long as I trust myself, as long as I go after it, that I can do pretty big things.”

    The runner-up in Chicago in 2021, Bates stayed with the lead pack in Boston last year until winner Hellen Obiri led a breakaway with about one mile to go. Bates finished fifth in 2 hours, 22 minutes, 10 seconds – the second-fastest American woman ever in Boston, and 68 seconds better than her previous personal best.

    “I’ve learned that I can run with the best of them,” Bates said. “I expect myself to be the top American. The fact that everybody else wants me to be is just more encouragement and support, rather than pressure.”

    Obiri, a two-time Olympic medalist, is among the favorites in Monday’s race, the 128th edition of the world’s oldest and most prestigious annual marathon. Sara Hall, who has reached the podium in two major marathons, joins Bates in a strong American contingent.

    A Minnesota native who was an NCAA champion in the 10,000 meters at Boise State, Bates lived locally for two years as part of the Boston Athletic Association’s High Performance Team.

    So she knows the course — including the notoriously pock-marked roads that emerge from the long and fickle Boston winters.

    “Yes, I will be looking out for those,” she said. “That’s for sure.”

    Three-peat

    A third straight men’s victory for Evans Chebet would be the first Boston three-peat since Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot won three in a row from 2006-08.

    He’s also running for something more.

    Despite winning six of his last seven races — including major victories in Boston and New York — Chebet was left off the provisional roster for the Kenyan Olympic team. He said last week he is hoping a strong finish will rekindle his candidacy.

    Kenya swept the marathon gold medals in Tokyo three years ago, with Eliud Kipchoge winning his second straight Olympic title and Peres Jepchirchir taking the women’s race. For the three spots per gender in 2024, the country produced a provisional short list of five men and six women.

    Kenyans have won the last four men's races in Boston and three straight in the distaff division.

    Kiptum remembered

    World record-holder Kelvin Kiptum was supposed to race in the Netherlands this weekend, with plans to attack the flat Rotterdam course in pursuit of the 2-hour barrier.

    But the 24-year-old Olympic gold-medal favorite died in a one-car accident in his native Kenya in February, leaving a void in the marathon world.

    “He was my teammate. We trained together,” fellow Kenyan Sharon Lokedi said. “If you were able to meet him, you know how happy and always smiling and always excited to support people he was. And he was always very present and wanting the best for everybody. So we dearly miss him.”

    Kiptum was the first man to run a competitive marathon in under 2 hours, 1 minute when he set the world record of 2:00.35 in Chicago in October. That broke the official mark of 2:01:09 set by Kipchoge, who had also run 1:59:40 in an exhibition on a closed course with pacers that is not eligible for the world record.

    “(Kiptum) was such a big part of our group,” said Lokedi, who won New York in 2022 in her marathon debut. “He always believed in us. … It’s sad. He meant so much for a lot of people.”

    Weather

    Forecasts for Monday call for sunshine with temperatures in the 40s greeting the runners when they arrive in Hopkinton in the morning, then warming to the mid- and high 50s by the time the field departs. Stragglers could see temps in the mid- to high 60s in Copley Square by midafternoon.

    History

    The race marks the 100th anniversary of the start moving from Ashland to Hopkinton in 1924 to conform to the new international distance standard of 26.2 miles. It's also the 10th anniversary of Meb Keflezighi's win in 2014, when he snapped a three-decade American drought the year after the finish line bombing.

    FILE - Evans Chebet, of Kenya, breaks the tape to win the 127th Boston Marathon, April 17, 2023, in Boston. Chebet is trying to be the first person to win three straight Boston Marathons since 2008 when he competes in the race Monday, April 15, 2024. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson, File)
    FILE - Kenya's Kelvin Kiptum crosses the finish line to win the men's race at the London Marathon in London, April 23, 2023. World record-holder Kiptum was supposed to race in the Netherlands this weekend, with plans to attack the flat Rotterdam course in pursuit of the 2-hour barrier. But the 24-year-old Olympic gold-medal favorite died in a one-car accident in his native Kenya in Feb. 2024, leaving a void in the marathon world. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali, File)

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