5 Pro Men to Watch in the 2022 Boston Marathon

There’s no clear favorite in the deepest field in race history.

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This year’s Boston Marathon men’s pro field is the deepest in race history. How deep? We’re betting that the third-fastest marathoner in history, Birhanu Legese of Ethiopia, won’t win. And when the second-fastest in history, Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia, withdrew in early April, it didn’t really detract from the quality of the field.

As is the case with the New York City Marathon, the winners at Boston are seldom those with the fastest personal records. Only once in the past few decades, in 2019, did that year’s men’s and women’s winners have the best PRs in the field. The quirky course and lack of hired pacers makes Boston a race for place, not time. So when deciding who might prevail on Patriots Day, it’s important to look more at competitive records than who is great at being a metronome on a flat course.

Here are five men we’ll be watching carefully in Monday’s race, with mentions of a few other worth keeping an eye on.

Albert Korir (Kenya)
PR: 2:08:03

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Albert Korir celebrates as he wins the 2021 New York City Marathon.
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Korir is a great example of a competitor, not a time trialer. He won New York City last November over men who have run much faster marathons. That win was no fluke, as Korir was second at New York City in 2019, and has won marathons in Houston, Toronto, and Vienna.

Korir has only the 14th best PR in the field. Then again, Meb Keflezighi started the 2014 Boston with the 15thbest PR, and he finished as the first American man to win in 31 years. The Boston men’s race has increasingly become a cat-and-mouse game until and sometimes through the Newton hills. Then it comes down to a hard last 10K. That’s exactly how Korir won New York City five months ago.

If and when he appears near the front, Korir will be easy to spot. He runs with an ungainly hitch in his stride that belies how quickly he’s moving. We won’t be surprised to see him break the tape on Boylston Street.

Jemal Yimer (Ethiopia)
PR: 2:10:38

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Jemal Yimer crosses the finish line for third place in the 2021 Boston Marathon.
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That’s right, we’re picking someone with a PR even slower than Korir’s as another top contender.

Monday will be Yimer’s second marathon. He debuted last October in Boston, where he placed third, one second behind runner-up and 2016 champ Lemi Berhanu, also of Ethiopia. Yimer has also recorded top-five finishes in events such as the world half marathon championship, the world cross-country championship, and the world 10,000-meter championship. The guy knows how to race.

With a personal best of 58:33, Yimer is the Ethiopian national record-holder in the half marathon. If Monday’s race again comes down to a fast final 10K, he has the wheels, and he might feel more confident in pressing with 5K to go after his successful debut.

Geoffrey Kamworor (Kenya)
PR: 2:05:23

new york, ny   november 03 geoffrey kamworor celebrates a first place finish during the tcs new york city marathon in central park on november 3, 2019 in new york city photo by photorunnew york road runners via getty images
Geoffrey Kamworor celebrates winning the 2019 New York City Marathon.
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Speaking of entrants with super-fast half marathon PRs and great competitive records…

Kamworor has won New York City twice, the world cross-country title twice, the world half marathon title three times, and a world 10,000-meter silver once. His half marathon best of 58:01 used to be the world record. The average time of his 10 fastest half marathons is 59:14! (For comparison, Ryan Hall’s American record is 59:43.) The hills and uneven pacing that are integral to Boston shouldn’t faze Kamworor. Another chit in his favor: He trains with world record-holder and double Olympic champion Eliud Kipchoge.

Kamworor set his PR in December at Valencia, so he appears to be over the injury that kept him out of last summer’s Olympics. Kamworor was fourth in Valencia, nine seconds behind the winner, Lawrence Cherono of Kenya. Cherono is also running Monday, and would seem an obvious pick to prevail. He finished fourth, just two seconds off the bronze medal, at the Olympics in August. His PR of 2:03:04 is the third best in the field. Oh, and he won Boston in 2019.

But almost nobody repeats as Boston champ these days. Since 2008, Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia is the only man to win a second Boston title. So we’ll mention last year’s winner, Benson Kipruto of Kenya, mostly to say odds are against him successfully defending his title. The same holds for Cherono.

Sisay Lemma (Ethiopia)
PR: 2:03:36

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Sisay Lemma crosses the line to win the 2021 London Marathon.
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Lemma was added to the field in the first week of April. This usually means the runner is really fit and his or her agent is willing to forgo a big appearance fee for the chance to capitalize on that fitness.

Lemma won London last October. He has won marathons in five other cities, and has top-five finishes in Berlin, Chicago, and Tokyo. But we’re not yet ready to go all in on him for Monday’s race. Most of his impressive marathons have come on flat courses in races with pacers. In his one previous appearance at Boston, in 2017, he dropped out. Still, we like his apparent momentum coming into this year’s race.

Colin Bennie (United States)
PR: 2:09:38

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Colin Bennie nears the finish line at the 2021 Boston Marathon.
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Massachusetts native Bennie was the top American at Boston last October, placing seventh. He ran patiently but confidently with the lead pack while fellow American CJ Albertson blasted to an early lead that wound up lasting for 20 miles. We like Bennie’s chances of another top-10, top-American finish on Monday.

Before the runners hit Boylston Street, don’t be surprised if Albertson again runs his own race. He told us after last year’s race he considers himself the best downhill runner in the world. So he’s likely to exploit that talent again in the mostly downhill first 16 miles, especially if the guys with much faster PRs run the early part conservatively.

Two American Olympians, Jared Ward and Jake Riley, will run on Monday, as will Scott Fauble, who set his 2:09:09 PR while placing seventh (and first American) at Boston in 2019. But if Bennie isn’t the top American, our money is on U.S. Army First Lieutenant Elkanah Kibet, who placed fourth at New York City in November and will run the world championship marathon in July.

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