Oct 11, 2021; Boston, MA, USA; General view of the elite runners at the start of the 2021 Boston Marathon. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports/
Oct 11, 2021; Boston, MA, USA; General view of the elite runners at the start of the 2021 Boston Marathon. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports/ Reuters / Brian Fluharty

The Boston Marathon returns to its traditional April date for the first time in three years on Monday with the fastest field in the race's history, boasting a star-studded slate of previous champions and Olympic medalists.

Kenya's Peres Jepchirchir leads the women's field hot off her Tokyo Olympic gold medal and New York City Marathon victory last year, while local hero Molly Seidel is looking to build off her bronze medal at that Olympics and triumph in her first Boston Marathon.

In the men's division, Kenya's Benson Kipruto is looking to repeat just six months after he won at last year's delayed race, but will face tough competition from last year's New York winner, compatriot Albert Korir, and 2021 London winner Sisay Lemma of Ethiopia.

"It's exciting. It's always cool to feel like you're coming to your hometown race. I'm really pumped to actually go at it on this course rather than just training on it," Seidel, an American and a former Boston resident, told Reuters on Friday.

Seidel stunned the marathon world by surging to Olympic bronze last August in just her third marathon, and followed that up in November with a fourth-place New York finish -- but success hasn't changed her approach.

"I think it's given me a little bit more confidence to know that I do belong here, I do belong up in that front pack. But honestly I approach races exactly the same," she said.

"I'm going to race just as hard-headedly as I always do. Even if other people didn't believe that I could do it in Tokyo, I kind of always knew deep down that I could."

Jepchirchir will also make her Boston debut and has altered her training to fit the demands of the course and get an edge in a division that has 10 runners with personal bests under 2:23.

"I used to watch it, and I heard that the course itself is tough," Jepchirchir said. "So I changed a little bit my training to climb hills, run up and down, like the way the course of the Boston Marathon is."

The men's field will be without the world's second-fastest marathoner, Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia, who withdrew due to injury, but will still see 11 runners with personal bests under 2:06.

"I'm so happy to be back, and this year also I'm ready to fight again," Kenya's Kipruto said.

The Boston Marathon is returning to its traditional Patriots Day date for the first time since 2019, after cancellation and delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic, giving fans and athletes alike a reason to celebrate.

"I think the atmosphere this year for Boston I can already tell is different being back on Patriots Day and just all the normal (Boston Marathon) Fan Fest, everything," said American runner CJ Albertson.

"Last year was awesome and then this year, I mean, already I've only been here like 12 hours, but it seems like it's kind of at that next level. So, it's just fun to be back."

In the men's wheelchair division, course record holder Marcel Hug of Switzerland is back seeking his sixth Boston Marathon title.

Manuela Schar, also from Switzerland, will seek to defend her women's wheelchair title with a fourth Boston victory.

This year marks the ninth anniversary of the deadly 2013 marathon bombings. Boston Mayor Michelle Wu and Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker on Friday led the public in a moment of silence at a wreath-laying ceremony to honor the victims.