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Boston Marathon spotlight on Eliud Kipchoge, U.S. Olympic team contenders

Eliud Kipchoge

File photo taken on Sept. 25, 2022 shows Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya celebrates after the Berlin Marathon 2022 in Berlin, Germany. On September 25, Kenya’s two-time Olympic champion Eliud Kipchoge clocked two hours, one minute and nine seconds to win the 2022 Berlin Marathon, beating his own world record set in 2018 by 30 seconds. (Photo by Ren Pengfei/Xinhua via Getty Images)

Xinhua News Agency via Getty Ima

The Boston Marathon is the world’s oldest annual 26.2-mile race, and Monday’s elite contests are its most anticipated in recent memory.

Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge, a two-time Olympic marathon champion and world record holder, toes the start line in Hopkinton for the first time on Patriots’ Day morning.

Kipchoge, 38, eschewed his usual April routine of entering the London Marathon to chase a goal of becoming the first runner to win all six annual World Marathon Majors.

He already checked off four of them over an 11-year marathon career that’s included an unprecedented 15 wins in 17 races: Berlin (where last September he lowered his world record to 2 hours, 1 minute, 9 seconds), Chicago (where he won his first major marathon in 2014, his last time racing anywhere in the U.S.), London and Tokyo.

All that’s remaining are Boston and New York City, the latter a November marathon that Kipchoge has attended but never raced.

Boston may be Kipchoge’s toughest test yet given his age, an unfamiliar and hilly course and the challengers. Supporting stars Evans Chebet and Benson Kipruto, Kenyan training partners, are arguably the world’s second- and third-best marathoners.

Chebet, 34, won Boston and New York City in 2022. Kipruto, 32, won Boston in 2021 and Chicago in 2022.

All signs point to Kipchoge leading Kenya’s three-man team for the 2024 Olympic marathon in Paris, where he could become the first person to win three gold medals in the event.

The U.S. Olympic marathon teams of three men and three women will be decided at next February’s trials in Orlando. The Boston fields include the most top Americans of any spring marathon.

Conner Mantz and Scott Fauble are the only Americans to break 2:09 since the start of 2022. They share similar stories.

Both abandoned the American distance-running tradition that stipulates moving up to the marathon only after a long track career. Mantz, 26, and Fauble, 31, each made their 26.2-mile debut at age 25, one year after placing fifth and fourth in Olympic Trials 10,000m finals, respectively.

Mantz may be the early Olympic Trials favorite, solely because of what he did in his marathon debut in Chicago last October. He was the top American man in seventh, running the fastest marathon of any American in 2022 and becoming the seventh-fastest American in history.

Fauble is the most consistent American man, when factoring in four-time Olympian Galen Rupp‘s injury struggles (Rupp hasn’t entered a spring marathon). The burrito aficionado has been one of the six fastest U.S. male marathoners in five of the last six years but was 12th at the 2020 Olympic Trials.

The two fastest U.S. women in history -- Emily Sisson and Keira D’Amato -- both chose the April 23 London Marathon over Boston, then scratched with minor injuries.

Those two aside, it’s likely that the top U.S. woman in Boston on Monday, from a deep group, will be a favorite to make the Olympic team.

Sara Hall, who turns 40 on Saturday, was the third-fastest U.S. female marathoner last year behind Sisson and D’Amato. She would be the oldest U.S. Olympic female runner in history, according to Hall has competed in six different Olympic Trials events — the first in 2004 — spanning the 1500m, 5000m, 10,000m, 3000m steeplechase and the marathon. She has never made an Olympic team.

Emma Bates was the fourth-fastest U.S. woman last year (and the fastest in 2021, a year after placing seventh at the Tokyo Olympic Trials). At 30, she is younger than Sisson, D’Amato and Hall, plus makes her Boston debut on Monday.

Aliphine Tuliamuk, the surprise Tokyo Olympic Trials winner, also races Boston for the first time. Last November, she was the top American in New York City in seventh place, a result all the more impressive given an ankle injury limited her to a seven-week build-up. It was her first marathon since dropping out halfway through the Olympics with a hip injury, seven months after childbirth.

Then there is 39-year-old Des Linden, a 2012 and 2016 Olympian and 2018 Boston Marathon champ. Since placing fourth at the February 2020 Olympic Trials, Linden finished 16th, 13th and 16th in three marathons with a best time of 2:28.47, making her the 24th-fastest American woman in this Olympic cycle.

It’s likely that most U.S. Olympic team contenders will race a fall marathon, but at least until then, Monday’s results will be the single biggest indicator of trials prospects.

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