BOSTON (CBS) –  2013 Boston Marathon champions Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia and Rita Jeptoo of Kenya will be defending their crowns in the 118th running of the race on April 21, sponsor John Hancock announced on Wednesday.

Both plan to honor the victims of last year’s tragic events.

“I am very excited to return to Boston this spring to show that we are united in our athletic community and are ready to stand up and show the world we are not afraid,” said Desisa, who won the Men’s race in 2:10:22.

“Boston is the most historic race in our world of athletics and to win Boston means so much; it is such an honor. I expect to give my best effort to defend my Boston Marathon title. I know it will not be easy and the day will be much more than a race to most people, but right now my goal is to honor the day and repeat as champion.”

Desisa gifted his winner’s medal to the City of Boston in June at the B.A.A. 10K to honor the victims and families affected by the bombings at the finish line on Marathon Monday.

Jeptoo, who also won Boston in 2006, broke away at mile 23 last year and won the women’s race in commanding fashion in 2:26:25.

“Winning the Boston Marathon for me in 2013 was fantastic, especially to come back and win again after 2006, has shown my potential,” said Jeptoo, who has finished in the top six in Boston five times.

“But of course my victory last year was not as important as helping the victims of the bombs and the families who were affected by the terrible tragedy. Coming back is so nice for me to try to win again and hopefully to bring some hope and joy to families and to the injured. It also will be an honor to run Boston again to show the world that we don’t give in to fear.”

“We are delighted to have both Rita and Lelisa join us again in 2014 for the 118th Boston Marathon,” Tom Grilk, B.A.A. Executive Director said in a statement Wednesday.

“Both of these champions posted outstanding performances at the 2013 Marathon, winning over world-class competition. The B.A.A. and many others who will recognize the significance of their return in 2014 after the attack on the City of Boston in 2013 will celebrate their participation.”

The 2014 Boston Marathon marks the 29th year of John Hancock’s landmark sponsorship of the legendary race.



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