Ryan Hall, other U.S. runners wouldn’t help East Africans catch Meb Keflezighi

Ryan Hall, Meb Keflezighi
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Meb Keflezighi was an undoubted underdog going into the Boston Marathon. He needed plenty of things to go right to win. Taking nothing away from Keflezighi’s victory, his fellow top U.S. marathon runners played a small role.

LetsRun.com caught up with other top American finishers, who revealed how Keflezighi’s 2012 Olympic teammate, Ryan Hall, led the way in not taking charge in a chase group.

“Ryan Hall and I were running side by side, in front of the lead pack but not really pushing it, and Ryan just kept turning over to me, talking [to me and saying], ‘Hey don’t push the pace,'” said Nick Arciniaga, who finished seventh. “‘If they [non-American runners] want to let those guys go, they are going to have work to catch back up to them. We are not going to help them out with that at all.  If we want an American to win, this is how it’s going to be done.’”

Hall confirmed the story, according to LetsRun, and added a text message to Sports Illustrated.

“It’s true. First it was Nick Arciniaga, then different American guys would go to the front [of the chase pack, after Meb and Josephat Boit had pulled away] and start pushing. I kept telling them not to, that we needed to give Meb as much space as possible. If the African guys were going to try to catch him, we weren’t going to do the work to help them. It wasn’t my day to win, as much as I wanted to. Meb winning was the next best thing and what the US needed.” Hall said he hadn’t talked to Meb about the tactic after the race. “I haven’t seen him since the race. I flew home right after the race. I don’t want to take anything away from his victory.”

The favorites going into Monday’s race were from Ethiopia and Kenya, the two dominant nations in men’s marathon running. Kenyan Wilson Chebet was the closest pursuer of Keflezighi, closing the gap to single-digit seconds over the final few miles, but Keflezighi held him off to win by 11 seconds.

Hall and the other Americans’ tactic, to not take the lead of the chase group, is similar to what is often seen in cycling stage rages such as the Tour de France. If a rider is leading on a breakaway, his teammates will not take turns doing the work at the front of a chase group.

Cycling is a bit different than major marathon running, where there are no “teams,” but, as Hall said, having another American win was the next best thing for any U.S. runner if he was not able to cross the finish line first.

Hall is the fastest U.S. marathon runner of all time, though his time, 2:04:58 from the 2011 Boston Marathon, does not count as an American record due to the point-to-point, net downhill course.

He finished 20th in 2:17:50 on Monday, his first completed marathon in more than two years after withdrawing before the 2013 Boston Marathon and 2012 and 2013 New York City Marathons due to injuries.

Video: Keflezighi’s stunning Boston victory

Chicago Marathon features Emily Sisson’s return, Conner Mantz’s debut, live on Peacock

Emily Sisson
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At Sunday’s Chicago Marathon, Emily Sisson makes her return, nearly three years after Olympic Trials disappointment. Conner Mantz makes one of the most anticipated U.S. men’s debuts in 26.2-mile racing.

It is not the norm, but an American will be one of the spotlight runners in both the men’s and women’s elite races at a major marathon. Peacock airs live coverage at 8 a.m. ET.

Sisson, 30, starts her first mass marathon since dropping out of the Olympic Trials on Feb. 29, 2020, her legs “destroyed” on the hilly Atlanta course where she started as arguably the favorite. She ran the virtual New York City Marathon later in 2020, but that was solo (and not in New York City). Her 2:38:00 isn’t recorded in her official results on her World Athletics bio.

Since, Sisson won the Olympic Trials 10,000m on the track and was the top American in Tokyo in 10th place. She moved back to the roads, winning national titles at 15km and the half marathon and breaking the American record in the latter.

Sisson vaulted into the elite group of U.S. female marathoners in 2019, when she clocked the second-fastest debut marathon in American history, a 2:23:08 on a windy day in London, where the early pace was slow.

At the time, it was the 12th-best U.S. performance all-time. In the last two years, Keira D’Amato, 37, and Sara Hall, 39, combined to run seven faster marathons. At Chicago, a flat course that produced a world record three years ago, Sisson can answer them and perhaps get close to D’Amato’s American record 2:19:12.

“I’m hoping sub-2:20,” coach Ray Treacy said, according to LetsRun.com. “With the [super] shoes and the training behind her, I would think that’s [worth] at least three minutes.”

It is less likely that Sisson can challenge for the win on Sunday given the presence of Kenyan Ruth Chepngetich, the 2019 World champion and defending champion in the Windy City. The 28-year-old mom is the fifth-fastest woman in history with a personal best of 2:17:08. And Ethiopian Ruti Aga, a podium finisher in Berlin, New York City and Tokyo with a best time of 2:18:34, though she has one marathon finish since the pandemic (a seventh place).

Like Sisson, Mantz has shown strong recent road racing form. The American men’s debut marathon record of 2:07:56 (Leonard Korir) is in play. If he can break that, Mantz will be among the five fastest U.S. marathoners in history.

Rarely has a U.S. male distance runner as accomplished as Mantz moved up to the marathon at such a young age (25). At BYU, he won NCAA cross-country titles in 2020 and 2021 and placed fifth in the Olympic Trials 10,000m, then turned pro and won the U.S. Half Marathon Championships last December.

“If everything goes as planned, I think sub-2:08 is realistic,” Mantz said in a Citius Mag video interview last month. “If everything goes perfect on the day, I think a sub-2:07, that’s a big stretch goal.”

The men’s field doesn’t have the singular star power of Chepngetich, but a large group of East Africans with personal bests around 2:05. The most notable: defending champion Seifu Tura of Ethiopia and 2021 Boston Marathon winner Benson Kipruto of Kenya.

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Alpine skiing to test new format for combined race

Alpine Skiing Combined
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Alpine skiing officials will test a new format for the combined event, a race that is under review to remain on the Olympic program.

French newspaper L’Equipe reported that the International Ski Federation (FIS) will test a new team format for the combined, which has been an individual event on the Olympic program since 1988. L’Equipe reported that a nation can use a different skier for the downhill and slalom in the new setup, quoting FIS secretary general Michel Vion.

For example, the U.S. could use Breezy Johnson in the downhill run and sub her out for Mikaela Shiffrin in the slalom run, should the format be adopted into senior competition.

The format will be tested at the world junior championships in January in St. Anton, Austria, according to the report.

In response to the report, a FIS spokesperson said, “Regarding the new format of the combined is correct, and our directors are working on the rules so for the moment the only thing we can confirm is that there will be this new format for the Alpine combined that has been proposed by the athletes’ commission.”

Some version of the combined event has been provisionally included on the 2026 Olympic program, with a final IOC decision on its place coming by April.

This will be the third consecutive World Cup season with no combined events. Instead, FIS has included more parallel races in recent years. The individual combined remains on the biennial world championships program.

L’Equipe also reported that the mixed team parallel event, which is being dropped from the Olympics, will also be dropped from the biennial world championships after this season.

“There is nothing definitive about that yet, but it is a project in the making,” a FIS spokesperson said in commenting on the report.

Vion said the mixed team event, which debuted at the Olympics in 2018, was not a hit at the Beijing Games and did not draw a strong audience, according to L’Equipe.

The World Cup season starts in two weeks with the traditional opening giant slaloms in Soelden, Austria.

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