BOSTON (CBS) – On Tuesday, John Hancock Financial announced the elite field for the 117th running of the Boston Marathon.
Reigning champions Wesley Korir and Sharon Cherop, both of Kenya, return to defend their titles on April 15, but will be fiercely challenged by a talented international field of Olympians, World Marathon Majors champions of Chicago, New York City and Boston, and multiple global marathon winners of Amsterdam, Barcelona, Brussels, Cologne, Daegu, Dubai, Eindhoven, Frankfurt, Johannesburg, Hamburg, Houston, Istanbul, Krakow, Los Angeles, Milan, Rome, St. Paul, Soweto, Toronto, Turin and the U.S. Olympic Trials.
Photo Gallery: 116th Boston Marathon Elite Race
Challenging Korir for the coveted laurel wreath this year is a fast group of men including 2011 Boston runner-up and 2011 Chicago champion Moses Mosop of Kenya, whose 2:03:06 Boston performance was the second fastest time ever run over the marathon distance. Kenya’s Levy Matebo has also committed to return to Boston, hoping to improve on his second place finish last year.
Two-time Olympian and 2010 New York City winner Gebre Gebremariam, who finished third in 2011 with a 2:04:53 finished, of Ethiopia has also signed on for April’s race.
American Ryan Hall, who owns the 2:04:58 U.S. course record in Boston, and countryman Meb Keflezighi, a past New York City winner and Olympic silver medalist, will work together to bring back a title for the U.S. Both Hall and Keflezighi have finished as high as third in Boston.
Former Boston champion and former course-record-holder Robert Kiprono Cheruiyot of Kenya also returns to the John Hancock Elite Athlete Team and will be joined by the 2012 Eindhoven course-record-holder Dickson Chumba, also of Kenya. Additional talent from Ethiopia includes 2011 Los Angeles champion and courserecord-holder Markos Geneti, 2012 Paris and Mumbai runner-up Raji Assefa and the 2012 Hamburg and 2011 Toronto winner Shami Abdullah Dawit.
Guor Marial from South Sudan is also in the field. Marial was granted refugee status in the U.S. after fleeing Sudan during the Civil War. Eight of his brothers and sisters were killed in the conflict. Marial, now a U.S. resident, went to high school in Concord, New Hampshire, and college at Iowa State. After qualifying for the 2012 Olympics, but not yet having a country to run for, the International Olympic Committee honored him with entry to participate under the Olympic Flag.
Headlining the women’s field are defending Boston Marathon champion Cherop of Kenya, Dubai’s two time winner and 2:19:31 course-record-holder Aselefech Medessa Mergia of Ethiopia and 2012 World Half- Marathon champion and Amsterdam’s 2:21:09 course-record-holder Meseret Hailu Debele of Ethiopia. Past Boston champion and 2012 Chicago runner-up Rita Jeptoo of Kenya returns, as does Mexican national-recordholder Madai Pérez.
Top Olympians Tetiana Gamera-Shmyrko of the Ukraine and Americans Shalane Flanagan and Kara Goucher will present a strong challenge. Gamera-Shmyrko placed fifth at the London Olympic Marathon and Flanagan and Goucher finished tenth and eleventh respectively. Flanagan is a three-time Olympian, winning the bronze medal in the 10,000m in Beijing, and finished runner-up in her marathon debut in New York City before winning the U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon. Goucher has experience on the Boston course finishing as high as third in 2009 and fifth in 2011.