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Desiree Linden announced in December that she’s not only racing the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials on February 29, but competing at the 2020 Boston Marathon, too—and on Wednesday, officials revealed that she’ll face formidable competition April 20 on the road from Hopkinton to Copley Square.
The international elite women’s field is led by the defending champion, Worknesh Degefa, 29, who also holds the Ethiopian national record of 2:17:41. On the way to her victory in 2019, Degefa split from the pack at mile five and never looked back, decisively taking the victory and leading by as much as three minutes during the race.
But the woman who ultimately cut Degefa’s lead to just 47 seconds is coming back, too. Kenyan Edna Kiplagat, 40, was runner up last year and is returning to Boston. She’s a two-time world champion and has won the Boston, London, and New York City marathons. Two other former champions are also scheduled to return: Caroline Rotich, 35, of Kenya, who won in 2015, and Buzunesh Deba, 32, the 2014 winner who represents Ethiopia.
Mare Dibaba, 30, of Ethiopia, placed second in September at the Berlin Marathon in 2:20:21 and will compete at Boston, too. She is the 2016 Olympic marathon bronze medalist.
Four-time New York City Marathon champion Mary Keitany, who placed second in New York last year, was set to make her Boston Marathon debut in April, but will not make it due to a back injury.
In all, John Hancock, the sponsor that organizes the elite fields, has assembled five women who have run faster than 2:20 and a dozen under 2:23.
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The only U.S. elite women currently planning to race are Linden, the 2018 Boston Marathon champion, and Kate Landau, 43, who has also qualified for the Olympic Marathon Trials (2:31:56). During Olympic years, many athletes opt out of other major marathons to focus on making the Games, though some will enter races like Boston later, pending the outcome at the trials.
Linden’s decision to double—or triple, if she makes her third Olympic team by placing in the top three on February 29—took many fans by surprise. But at 36, she’s made it clear that she’s not holding back as she approaches the last chapter of her pro running days.
“As I get towards the end of my career, I have to think about what’s most meaningful and it was an impossible thing to choose,” she said. “In weighing the pros and cons of all of it, I couldn’t decide.”