Lelisa Desisa is “Grown Up” and Ready to Go Even Faster

Desisa, the two-time Boston champion, says on Monday he can beat the 2:05:59 he posted in November to win New York City.

It feels like Lelisa Desisa should be older than 29. After all, he has won  the Boston Marathon twice and New York City once, and has finished in the top three at those marathons seven times. But the 2013 and 2015 champion is still improving.

“Now it was six years since I won,” Desisa said, during an interview at the Boston Marathon press conference on Friday. “Now I’m 29. I grow up; I have more talent.”

Since winning the 2018 New York City Marathon, Desisa said he has increased his mileage volume and improved his training in other ways, too. “This year has been very good training,” he said. “I do more [than I did before].”

Desisas has also spent three months running at altitude, approximately 1,000 feet higher than the 7,700 feet above sea level of the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. There, he devised routes to specifically echo Boston’s rolling hills.

“For this course, I do more training, up and down,” he said. “I train in a specific place in our country. It is good for this.”

For speed work, he and his training partners drive to the lower altitude in Addis, 25 kilometers away.

Desisa had the hardest day of the three runners in the Breaking2 time trial, an experiment by Nike held on May6, 2017, to see if one of three men could break the two-hour barrier for 26.2 miles. He finished in 2:14:10, well off his 2:04:45 PR and nearly 14 minutes behind Eliud Kipchoge, who ran 2:00:25. Desisa said he had a hip injury at the time, but it healed before New York that year, where he placed third, and hasn’t bothered him since.

He blames his DNF at last year’s Boston entirely on the historically adverse weather conditions—a deluge. “Last year, I come here—bad weather. So I don’t finish,” he said. “After that, I win New York. Now I come better and better when I run.”

He’s had no training interruptions or injury for two years of steadily improving training. “I’m very OK,” Desisa said.

Asked his race plan for Monday, he said simply, “I think I will run better than New York pace. I won that last year in 2:05. This year, better, I think.”

Desisa is not committing to take it out at that pace, however.

“I will see, what pace the athletes run,” he said. “I will see.”