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Top Boston Marathon competitor will be on the lookout for potholes

Boston Marathon

FILE – Emma Bates of Minnesota crosses the finish line of the Boston Marathon, April 17, 2023, in Boston. AP Photo/Charles Krupa, file

HOPKINTON, Mass. (AP) – Emma Bates is expected to be very tired of the Boston Marathon course Monday when she attempts to improve on her fifth-place finish from last year.

Not the hills or the headwinds.

Potholes.

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

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

“It’s the coolest thing I’ve ever done in my career, for sure,” she said last week. “Being in the lead and setting myself up to have as much success as possible that day, it was really special to know that as long as I trust myself, as long as I keep going, I can make big things.”

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

“I learned that I can race with the best of them,” Bates said. “I expect to be the best American. The fact that everyone wants me to be is just extra encouragement and support, rather than pressure.

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

A Minnesota native and NCAA 10,000-meter champion at Boise State, Bates lived locally for two years on the Boston Athletic Association High Performance Team.

So she knows the route, including the notoriously pockmarked roads that emerge from Boston’s long, fickle winters.

“Yes, I will take care of it,” she said. “That’s for sure.”

A third straight men’s victory for Evans Chebet would be the first in Boston 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 hoped a good result would revive his candidacy.

Kenya won the gold medals at the Tokyo marathon three years ago, with Eliud Kipchoge winning his second consecutive Olympic title and Peres Jepchirchir winning the women’s race. For the three places by gender in 2024, the country has established a provisional shortlist of five men and six women.

The Kenyans have won the last four men’s races in Boston and three in a row in the distaff division.

World record holder Kelvin Kiptum was supposed to race in the Netherlands this weekend, intending 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 car crash in his native Kenya in February, leaving a void in the marathon world.

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

Kiptum was the first man to run a competitive marathon in under 2 hours and 1 minute when he set the world record of 2:00.35 in Chicago in October. This surpassed 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 a very important part of our group,” said Lokedi, who won New York in 2022 in his marathon debut. “He always believed in us. … It’s sad. He meant so much to so many people.

The forecast for Monday calls for sunshine with temperatures in the 40s welcoming runners as they arrive in Hopkinton in the morning, then warming up to the mid to upper 50s as the peloton leaves. Latecomers could see temperatures in the mid to 60s at Copley Square by mid-afternoon.

The race marks the 100th anniversary of Ashland starting in Hopkinton in 1924 to meet the new international distance standard of 26.2 miles. It’s also the 10th anniversary of Meb Keflezighi’s victory in 2014, when he ended a three-decade American drought the year after the finish line bombing.

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