The Boston Marathon is set for its 117th running Monday morning in Massachusetts, and the elite field of runners -- and a few withdrawals -- has set up for what should be a wide-open race. The American men's contingent has been decimated by injury and illness, meaning Greg Meyer's 1983 win will likely remain the last victory in the race by a U.S. male. But on the women's side, Shalane Flanagan is considered a heavy favorite, and could become the first American women's winner since 1985.
Elite Men To Watch:
The Boston Marathon has been won by a runner from Kenya or Ethiopia for 11 straight years now -- a Kenyan has crossed the finish line first in 19 of the past 22 Boston Marathons -- so let's start there.
Wesley Korir, Kenya - The 2012 champion is back to defend is title, but can he do it when the weather isn't dangerously hot (and sapping the energy of the other elite men?) Korir finish 5th in his most recent race, the 2012 Chicago Marathon, and last month was elected to a seat in the Kenyan National Assembly.
Lelisa Desisa, Ethiopia - Just 23 years old, Desisa is quickly becoming a name to watch at the marathon distance after producing a series of sub-60 minute half marathons. Desisa only made his marathon debut last year, in Dubai, but won the race in a blistering 2:04:45.
Levy Matebo Omari, Kenya - Also just 23, Matebo finished second at last year's Boston Marathon, faltering in the heat in the Newton Hills. A winner of the Barcelona and Brussels, Matebo was the runner-up in Frankfurt in 2011, but struggled to a 12th-place finish in the 2012 Chicago Marathon.
Markos Geneti, Ethiopia - The winner of the 2011 L.A. Marathon -- his debut at the distance -- comes into Boston having finished third at the 2012 Dubai Marathon (despite running 2:04:54) and second in December's Honolulu Marathon.
Gebre Gebremariam, Ethiopia - Gebremariam has gone sub-2:05 at Boston, and won the 2011 New York City Marathon in 2011. He finished 14th in Boston's heat last year, but more recently was runner-up to Mo Farah in February's Rock ‘n' Roll Mardi Gras Marathon.
Ryan Hall, Meb Keflezighi and Abdi Abdirahman -- the three members of the U.S. Olympic marathon team -- have all been forced out of this year's Boston Marathon with injury and illness, leaving just two Americans remaining. Jason Hartmann is the U.S. favorite, having finished fourth a year ago, while Fernando Cabada, the American 25k record holder, is hoping to improve on an inconsistent marathon career.
Elite Women To Watch:
Sharon Cherop, Kenya - Last year's winner is back, looking to accomplish the rare back-to-back wins (it hasn't been done since 2004-05). Cherop comes to Boston having recently won the Philadelphia Half Marathon and Turin Marathon.
Shalane Flanagan, United States - Flanagan has a very legit chance to become the first American women's winner of the Boston Marathon since 1985, when Lisa Larsen Weidenbach accomplished the feat. This will be Flanagan's Boston debut, but finished second in her first attempt at the distance, the 2010 New York City Marathon, and placed 10th in the Olympic marathon in London.
Tirfi Tsegaye, Ethiopia - Tsegaye enters Boston having won the Dubai Marathon in January. She was runner-up in Berlin in 2012, and she be on the podium on Monday.
Kara Goucher, United States - Goucher finished 11th at the 2012 Olympic Marathon -- just a spot behind Flanagan -- but has been looking fit through the fall and winter. She won the USA Half Marathon Championships in 2012, and finished fifth in the 2011 Boston Marathon.