Ethiopian runners Lemi Berhanu Hayle and Atsede Baysa will defend their Boston Marathon titles; they won the 2016 edition, men and women titles, respectively.

By Svea Herbst-Bayliss (Reuters) |

BOSTON, MA―Ethiopian runner Lemi Berhanu Hayle will defend his Boston Marathon title in a wide open race on Monday (April 17) against a men’s field that includes the first American champion in three decades and no clear favorite.

Lemi Berhanu Hayle won last year’s race in two hours 12 minutes 44 seconds after pulling away from twice champion and countryman Lelisa Desisa, who is not competing this year.

The last men’s repeat winner was five-time champion Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot of Kenya, who completed a triple in 2008.

An Ethiopian woman, Atsede Baysa, will also be defending her title after winning in 2:29:19.

Lemi Berhanu Hayle’s main challengers will include countryman Sisay Lemma, who ran 2:05:16 in Dubai last year, and Kenyans Geoffrey Kirui who ran 2:06:27 in Amsterdam last year and Emmanuel Mutai, who was second in New York and Chicago, and has the field’s fastest personal best of 2:03:13.

The hilly Boston course usually leads to slower times than other major marathons.

“Any move (Lemi Berhanu Hayle) makes will be taken seriously by the others,” said Scott Douglas, a contributing editor at Runner’s World. “With no clear standouts this year, Boston will be a very interesting race to watch.”

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