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One of the biggest fields ever will assemble in Hopkinton, Massachusetts, for the 118th Boston Marathon on Monday morning, which is Patriots’ Day in Massachusetts. It’s the first Boston Marathon since the bombings near the finish line last April.
This year, 36,000 people will be running, including elite athletes from all around the world. African runners have dominated the Boston Marathon for more than two decades and they are the favorites again this year.
Here & Now’s Alex Ashlock joins host Robin Young with details.
ROBIN YOUNG, HOST:
It is going to be quite a powerful day this coming Monday, 36,000 people running the Boston Marathon. Patriots Day, by the way, here in Massachusetts. It's a holiday. There will be the 118 running the first, as we've been hearing, since the bombings. And many of the runners hoping to erase that memory. HERE AND NOW's Alex Ashlock has been speaking with top runners in this year's field. He's in the studio for a preview. Hi, Alex.
ALEX ASHLOCK, BYLINE: Hello, Robin.
YOUNG: So Kenyans won last year's - last Sunday's marathon in London.
YOUNG: I'm just guessing that maybe African runners are the favorites here on Monday.
ASHLOCK: Pretty good guesser you are, Robin.
ASHLOCK: Since 1990, African runners have won all but two of men's races in Boston. It's pretty much the same for the women. Women from either Kenya or Ethiopia have been the winners in all but two years since 2000. We had an Ethiopian man win the race last year, Lelisa Desisa. He's back to run again. Kenyan Dennis Kimetto, however, might give him a run for his money in Monday's race. Kimetto is running Boston for the first time, but he won the Chicago Marathon last year in course record time. And last year, Desisa, by the way, was also running Boston for the first time and he won. So that might be going against the argument that you really need to have experience on this course because it's so unusual.
YOUNG: Right. Well - and no Americans have won either the men's or women's marathon here in Boston since the mid-'80s. There's speculation, maybe wishful thinking, that that could change this year. Let's start with the men.
ASHLOCK: The American men who are here are really talented and experienced. But again, none of them have ever won the Boston Marathon. Ryan Hall has been here before. He has three top five finishes. He told me this morning he's fit and ready to go after a month of training in Ethiopia, which he described as like being in a running monastery.
RYAN HALL: Very tranquil, very peaceful and the hardest training I've ever done in my life. It's make you tough as nails.
ASHLOCK: The other guy I'd keep my eyes on Monday is from Arizona. His name is Abdi Abdirahman. He's been on several Olympic teams. He was on the Olympic marathon team in 2012. He's never been to Boston before, and he tells me that all of his friends say, hey, you're a professional marathoner and you've never been to Boston? You...
YOUNG: And what's up with that?
ASHLOCK: Yeah, you've never run Boston? So he had a big smile on his face and he's ready to go on Monday.
YOUNG: Well - and if you saw "60 Minutes" recently, you know a lot of people are thinking an American woman might win this year. Tell us your thoughts.
ASHLOCK: Yeah, that's interesting. Kenya - Kenya's Rita Jeptoo won the race last year, the women's race. She's back to try to do it again. But Shalane Flanagan, who, I think, was on that "60 Minutes" interview...
YOUNG: Yes, yes.
ASHLOCK: ...finished fourth in the race last year. She is a Massachusetts native. She used to come to watch her dad run the marathon. People say she's laser-focused on winning this race. And so much so that she didn't even come to the press conference this morning for the top runners because she's still training.
ASHLOCK: And that's pretty unusual. They're almost always here for this press conference so that was sort of a surprise this morning. There's also Desiree Linden. She ran a really great race here in Boston three years ago. She finished second.
DESIREE LINDEN: I mean, I think that was all about competing at a really high level. And, you know, when you do it, you know you can do it. And I've done work that shows that I can be there again, so that is still a nice confidence boost.
YOUNG: Well - so those are the elite runners. And then there's us...
ASHLOCK: The back of the packers.
YOUNG: The back of the packers. You know, vast majority of people running on Monday's marathon, they know they're not going to win. But so many of them are running for someone else this year.
ASHLOCK: That's really true this year. I met a man yesterday, Dave Fortier, who was just finishing the marathon last year on Boylston Street when the first bomb went off. He lost part of his hearing but he's one of more than two dozen survivors of the bombing who will be running on Monday. And there's also Team MR8, which is running in memory of Martin Richard. He's the little 8-year-old boy who was killed in the bombings last April. Rachel Moo is on that team, and she taught Martin her - in her second-grade class.
YOUNG: She says it was an honor and a privilege to be part of the team and foundation that has been started for him. And this is a little boy who held up the sign in - maybe in that class saying, no more hurting people.
YOUNG: He will be very much on people's minds. And Meghna and I will be at the finish line to cheer everyone on. Alex Ashlock, thanks so much.
ASHLOCK: You're welcome, Robin.
YOUNG: You'll be there as well, as always. HERE AND NOW is a production of NPR and WBUR Boston in association with the BBC World Service. I'm Robin Young.
MEGHNA CHAKRABARTI, HOST:
I'm Meghna Chakrabarti. This is HERE AND NOW. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.