Helen Obiri’s Boston marathon win is a big indicator of her prospects ahead of the Paris Olympics.

 

We’ve seen this script many times. A track star in distance running converts to running on the road, and they reignite a new level of dominance that has never been seen before. Typically, runners who are past 30 years of age are the ones that follow these patterns. However, the last few years have even seen athletes in their prime on track combined, running on the road and still being very active on the track.

Hellen Obiri takes WA Cross Country, 2018, photo by World Athletics.

On the surface, one can chalk it down to making more money for the runners because, let’s face it, state governments and race organizers pump huge money into these road races. With a small percentage of B-athletes winning at a world championship or Olympic games, they usually fancy their chances on the road. This brings us to the woman of the moment, Helen Obiri.

LONDON, ENGLAND – AUGUST 13: Hellen Onsando Obiri of Kenya crosses the finish line to win gold in the Women’s 5000 meters final during day ten of the 16th IAAF World Athletics Championships London 2017, at The London Stadium on August 13, 2017, in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images for IAAF)

Well, she isn’t an outlier, but one of the few runners who have converted to running on the road and have been churning out big performances. Her latest win in Boston is an indicator of that. Although the timing of the win (which we all fixate on) isn’t impeccable, she closed out the race in 2:22.3. The first woman to win back-to-back Boston Marathons since 2005, and the sixth overall. Obiri ran with an unusually large lead pack of 15 through Brookline before breaking away in the final few miles. But the story is more than this.

World Athletics Championships
Eugene, Oregon, USA
July15-26, 2022

The question arises: Is Hellen Obiri now a better marathoner than she was on track? While her track career boasts impressive accolades, including two world outdoor titles and two Olympic silver medals, her marathon career is gaining momentum. Obiri has won three out of four career marathons, securing victories in Boston twice and New York once. Looking ahead, she is poised to represent Kenya at the Paris Olympics, allowing her to pursue the one title that has eluded her on the track: an Olympic gold. The Kenyan team is stacked, and Obiri will be looking to replicate the feats of the great Eliud Kipchoge.

At 34, she can still make it to Los Angeles in 2028 and add another gold if she wins in Paris. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, though. The numbers, they say, don’t lie, and there is a reason they are essential to talk about in a sport like athletics. Her personal best still stands at 2:21.38—not a time that should send shivers down the spine of her rivals. However, what she has been able to master is knowing when to close.

Hellen Obiri takes it, 127th Boston Marathon
April 17, 2023, photo by Kevin Morris

Obiri’s success in the marathon can be attributed to her well-suited racing style and ability to close fast, even on challenging courses. Her victories in New York and Boston demonstrate her capacity to maintain a strong finish, essential skills given the demanding nature of championship marathons. While her debut in the 2022 NYC Marathon saw her attempting to push the pace early on, she has since adopted a more patient approach, capitalizing on her ability to kick in the race’s later stages.

Letensebet Gidey, Hellen Obiri, TCS New York Marathon
New York, New York, USA
November 5, 2023, photo by Kevin Morris

Despite her impressive achievements so far, Obiri faces formidable competition from world record holders such as Tigst Assefa and Sifan Hassan (it remains to be seen which race she opts for), who have demonstrated their prowess in recent marathons. However, Obiri’s current hot streak and consistent success in major marathons position her as a formidable force in long-distance running.

Hellen Obiri defends her title from 2023 with back to back wins, taking the 2024 Boston Marathon, photo by Kevin Morris

Her feat of winning three consecutive World Marathon Majors titles places her among the sport’s elite athletes. Although she was named in Kenya’s six-woman provisional Olympic team, which Athletics Kenya announced earlier this month, Obiri is a lock to be selected now. How she approaches Paris will be key to determining whether she’s in line to emulate Kipchoge’s great marathon career.

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