Boston Defending Champion Lelisa Desisa Looking for Third Win, by Sabrina Yohannes


Desisa_LelisaFV-BostonMar15.jpgLelisa Desisa winning Boston 2015, photo by

The Boston Marathon will be held on April 18, 2016. The two-time champion, and defending champion, Lelisa Desisa wants to three peat in the city of Boston.

Here is how he spoke to Sabrina Yohannes on his focus for Boston in 2016 and the changes he has made into his program.

Boston Defending Champion Lelisa Desisa Looking for Third Win

By Sabrina Yohannes

Defending champion Lelisa Desisa has won the Boston Marathon twice already, beginning with his debut there in 2013, and he's looking for victory number three next Monday.

"Absolutely," he told RunBlogRun on Tuesday. "It's what I've been preparing for since New York."

Desisa was third at the TCS New York City Marathon in November. As part of his Boston preparation, the Ethiopian ran the Houston half-marathon on January 17, 2016, which he won in 1:00:37.


Lelisa Desisa wins Aramco Houston Half, January 2016, photo by

"The designated pacemaker didn't run at the requested pace, so the time was lacking," said Desisa, adding that he was in shape to run faster over the 13.1 miles. His personal best is 59:30, clocked in 2011, and he ran 59:36 in 2014.

Following his second Boston marathon win last April in 2:09:17, Desisa was seventh at the Beijing world championships marathon in August before running 2:12:10 in New York.

His personal best is 2:04:45 clocked in his debut over the distance in 2013 in Dubai, where he also ran 2:05:52 last year.


In both 2013 and 2015, Desisa ran a marathon in January in Dubai, one in the spring in Boston, and one in the summer at the world championships. He said that in 2015 he was aiming to replicate exactly his winning 2013 season, in which he won Dubai and Boston before taking silver at the Moscow world championships.

Last fall, his New York marathon was his fourth in the 2015 calendar year, but as he pointed out, his fifth in 365 days.

"New York, Dubai, Boston, Beijing and New York again," he said, starting the clock at the November 2, 2014 NYC event and ending it at the November 1, 2015 one. He said his fall 2015 marathon was motivated in large part by disappointment with his Beijing finish in warm conditions.

"As you can see, I ran a lot of marathons," he said, addressing his 2015 NYC finish behind Kenyans Stanley Biwott (2:10:34) and Geoffrey Kamworor. "If I had had more recovery time, I think I could have won."

As it was, Desisa said that he had been unable to respond to Biwott's injection of speed late in the race. "When the winner took over the pace, I just felt it in my muscles," said Desisa. "They went into the red. 'The red' as in: 'If you push above this level, danger will arise, or you will be unable to manage!' After that, I went at my own pace."

He learned his lesson, declaring at the time, "I've run too many races in a year. Two marathons a year is what is recommended. I want to make it two a year and be the champion." He added that if selected to the Rio Olympic team, he would make that a justifiable third marathon for the 2016 year.

Desisa said he often learns from defeats. "Even if you don't win, just the fact that you are contending against others is itself a good thing," he said. "You realize what kinds of competitors there are. You ask yourself: Where am I? How do I beat him? What must I do? What do I lack? ... You think about that, and you push forward."

Having examined his last marathon and acted on the lesson learned by avoiding a high racing volume, he enters his first marathon in 169 days on Monday, April 18 in a city that he is fond of, Boston.

"Very much so," said Desisa, who has good reason to have strong attachments to the Massachusetts city. In addition to his marathon wins, he is much appreciated for his gesture following the 2013 marathon bombings, when he gave his medal to the City of Boston to honor those affected. He is also the two-time winner and 1:00:34 course record-holder of the BAA Half Marathon, having won in 2013 and the following year.

He is looking to similarly defend his title in the city's marathon, in which he did not single out any 2016 competitor as a chief threat, and pointed out that the current fitness level -- rather than the resume -- of any athlete is a critical factor.

"It's hard to say this one or that one," he said. "It depends on the day."

This Patriots' Day, Desisa will be hoping it will be his day once again.

Leave a comment

Wake up to RunBlogRun's news in your inbox. Sign up for our newsletter and we'll keep you informed about the Sport you love.

Subscribe to RunBlogRun's Global News Feed

* indicates required