With Dubai and 2014 Mishaps Behind Him Lelisa Desisa heads into Boston, by Sabrina Yohannes

Lelisa Desisa, Boston 2013 Marathon, photo by PhotoRun.net

Sabrina Yohannes wrote this piece on Lelisa Desisa, the 2013 Boston Marathon winner.  Desisa had a rough 2014, and told Sabrina that he is ready to race! 

With Dubai and 2014 Marathon Mishaps Behind Him, Lelisa Desisa Heads into Boston

By Sabrina Yohannes

Lelisa Desisa's last couple of marathons came down to a two-man battle, at the end of which the 2013 Boston marathon champion had to concede defeat. 

Desisa, who returns to race Boston on Monday, lost to newcomer and fellow Ethiopian Lemi Berhanu Hayle in the final kilometer of the 2015 Dubai marathon on January 23, taking second in 2:05:52 to the winner's 2:05:28.

"We had heard this year's race would be very fast, and I over-trained for it, and during the race I experienced a lack of strength," said Desisa in an interview from Addis Ababa on Saturday.

Desisa dueled with former world record holder and reigning London champion Wilson Kipsang at the cold and windy TCS New York City marathon last November.

"Winning was my big goal," said Desisa. "It was good at the start, but at 15K, I needed to urinate!" Desisa laughed, and continued. "What could I do? If I stopped to urinate, the guys would leave without me." 

"I was so uncomfortable!" he added. "My abdomen felt tight, and I couldn't relax."

"It's never happened before in a race," he said. "I don't know why it happened; maybe because it was cold." 

Nevertheless, Desisa hung on, including after former NYC champions Geoffrey Mutai of Kenya and Gebre Gebremariam of Ethiopia fell away, until Kipsang kicked to win in 2:10:59. 

Injured at Boston 2014

Desisa's 2:11.06 second place was his only 2014 marathon finish, after he dropped out of the Boston marathon earlier that year. The tactics that unfolded in the 2014 Boston race had left many puzzled, when a strong field of fast runners failed to follow Americans Meb Keflezighi and Josphat Boit.

The Eritrean-born 2004 Olympic silver medalist and 2009 New York champion Keflezighi ran away with the victory, with former Amsterdam champion Wilson Chebet and Franklin Chepkwony of Kenya making the podium.

Desisa was defending his 2013 Boston title, and his 2014 tune-up competition had gone well. "I won the RAK half marathon and that part of my Boston preparation was successful," said Desisa, who clocked 59:36 in the United Arab Emirates. 

"Then, unfortunately, I injured my ankle, not long before Boston," he said. "Because Boston is hilly, I found it hard to maintain my balance, and so I dropped out. I couldn't manage. After Boston, I was in treatment."

He was back in form when the BAA half marathon took place last October. "Boston has all those uphills and downhills," he said. "It has everything, and I was the defending champion of that race, so I went and ran it, and won." Desisa set the course record of 1:00:34 in 2013, the same year he ran 28:15 at the BAA 10K, placing second.

That year marked the marathon debut and major breakthrough of the 2009 African junior 10,000m and 2011 All-Africa Games half marathon champion Desisa, who has run a personal best of 27:11.98 for the track distance and 59:30 for the half. 

He won Dubai in January 2013 in what remains his personal best, 2:04:45, and then won Boston in 2:10:22 in a sprint in April, before going on to take silver at the world championships marathon in Moscow that August.

"That was my aim again this year, to win Dubai and then win Boston," said Desisa, who said that talk of record attempts ahead of Dubai, where the course record is 2:04:23, had unduly influenced preparations for the 2015 race. "Because I over-trained, I was a little lacking in strength. After that, my coach and I corrected everything, and I hope I'll get something good in Boston."

Desisa trains with a large group of marathoners in Addis Ababa, including the 2013 world bronze medalist Tadese Tola, who won the Beijing marathon in October 2013. 

The two men will line up together on the April 20 Patriots' Day race in Boston, where Desisa had donated his 2013 winner's medal to the city to honor victims of the marathon bombings that took place there that year.

The pair of Ethiopian training partners will face a tough field on Monday, including former world record-holder and Berlin champion Patrick Makau and two-time world champion Abel Kirui of Kenya; the 2014 Boston podium finishers; Gebremariam and fellow Ethiopian and former Rotterdam champion Yemane Adhane Tsegay; and Eritrean world half marathon record-holder Zersenay Tadese. 

Desisa did not single out or eliminate anyone from consideration. "Ahead of time, it's hard to guess," he said. "Since you don't know who is in shape, you can only really tell once you're in the race."

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