Elite Athletes to Watch in the 2018 Boston Marathon

This year's elite team is the most accomplished group of marathoners to ever compete in the race.

Shalane Flanagan

Image via AP Photo/Seth Wenig

Anything can happen on race day. This year will be no exception, as the 41 athletes invited to be on the 2018 John Hancock Elite Team are some of the most accomplished marathoners to ever compete in the race. Those hoping for a photo finish—this might be your year. The team includes 24 men and 17 women and together, the athletes have won more than 100 global marathons, six World Champion medals, 17 Abbott World Marathon Majors, five Olympic medals, and five National Records.

Below is our roundup of the marathoners most likely to break the tape on Boylston. Keep an eye out for their bib numbers on Marathon Monday!


Geoffrey Kirui: Defending 2017 Boston and World Marathon Champion, Kirui of Kenya leads the field. Finishing in a time of 2:09:37 last year, about three minutes off his personal best time, he will be wearing bib #1 for this year’s race, which marks just his fifth marathon ever.

Galen Rupp: After coming in second last year in Boston and winning the 2017 Chicago Marathon with a personal best time of 2:09:20, American Rupp will be wearing bib #18. Rupp is a three-time Olympian, winning bronze in the Marathon in Rio and silver in the 10,000m in London.

Wilson Chebet: After coming in the top five in four out of the five Boston Marathon’s he’s run, Chebet, from Kenya, is a contender for a top spot with a personal best time of 2:05:27Rotterdam Marathon in 2011. He has had eleven global podium showings and has won the Amsterdam Marathon three years in a row. He ranks as one of the most consistent marathoners and will be wearing bib #6.

Lelisa Desisa: His first Boston Marathon win came in 2013, the year of the bombings, and as a gesture of honor to the victims and families affected, he gifted his medal back to the City of Boston. He hopes to return to Boston this year and make history as a three-time champion, wearing bib #4. Desisa, born in Ethiopia, came in second at the Boston Marathon in 2016 and third at the New York City Marathon in 2015. His best time is 2:04:24 at the Dubai Marathon in 2013.

Tamirat Tola: With a personal best and winning time of 2:04:06 in Dubai, Tola won a bronze medal in Rio in the 10,000m and in 2017 came in second at the World Championships Marathon. He is from Ethiopia and will be wearing bib #2.

Lemi Berhanu: Also from Ethiopia, Berhanu has raced in five Abbott World Marathon Majors, placing first at the Boston Marathon in 2016. Last year he did not finish Boston, but with a personal best time of 2:04:33 in Dubai, he’s looking to contend. He came in fourth at the New York City Marathon this year and will be wearing bib #3.


Edna Kiplagat: A powerhouse from Kenya, Kiplagat is the 2017 defending Boston champion, a silver medalist at the World Championships, and came in fourth in the New York City Marathon. She has won marathons in Boston, London, New York City, and Los Angeles and is a three-time Abbott World Marathon Majors series winner. She will be wearing bib #F1.

Deena Kastor: Three-time Olympian and U.S. record holder in the marathon with a time of 2:19:36, Kastor is a London and Chicago champion and earned the bronze medal at the 2004 Olympic Marathon. She will be wearing bib #F15.

Shalane Flanagan: Retirement was knocking on the Marblehead native’s door, but she had some unfinished business to attend to in Boston. After becoming the first American woman to win the New York City Marathon since 1977 this past year, Flanagan’s ninth place finish at the 2015 Boston Marathon didn’t seem like the last memory she wanted to have of her hometown race. She is a four-time Olympian and ran the fastest time ever by an American woman on the Boston Marathon course in 2014 at 2:22:02. She will be wearing bib #F5.

Desiree Linden: Finishing fourth in Boston last year, Linden is a two-time Olympian and the sixth fastest American marathoner of all time. She returns to Boston for the sixth time, where in 2011 she missed winning by just two seconds, running in 2:22:38, which remains her best time. She will be wearing bib #F8.

Buzunesh Deba: Last year, the Ethiopian native came in seventh at the Boston Marathon, but she holds the Boston course record of 2:19:59, setting the record when she won the race in 2014. She is a nine-time marathon champion on U.S. soil and will be wearing bib #F3.

Aselefech Mergia: One of Ethiopia’s most talented marathon runners, Mergia is a former national record holder and has won the Dubai Marathon three times and won the London Marathon in 2010. She is coming off a third place finish in the London Marathon this past year and will be wearing bib #F2.

To see the full list of Elite runners: johnhancockmarathonhub.com

Update, April 16: Jordan Hasay was forced to withdraw late Sunday because of a heel injury. She issued the following statement: “It is with deep regret that I have to withdraw from tomorrow’s Boston Marathon. Despite my team working around the clock to give me every chance to make the starting line, on this occasion it will not be possible. I wish my fellow competitors and everyone taking part the very best of luck and I look forward to toeing the line with them next year and for many years after that.”