Keflezighi, Flanagan To Lead USA Elites at Boston Marathon

(07-Jan) — Reigning Boston Marathon champion Meb Keflezighi and Olympic bronze medalist Shalane Flanagan will lead the home-country charge at the 119th Boston Marathon on Monday, April 20, race organizers announced this morning.

Keflezighi, 39, from San Diego, Calif., became the first American man to win Boston in 31 years last year when he broke away in the first half, ran most of the race alone, and was never caught.  He held off Kenya’s Wilson Chebet in the homestretch on Boylston Street to win in a career best 2:08:47.  He’ll try to become the first American since Bill Rodgers in 1980 to successfully defend a Boston Marathon title.

“I am so excited to run the 2015 Boston Marathon,” Keflezighi said through a statement provided by John Hancock Financial, the Canada-based financial services company which funds the elite athlete program at the Boston Marathon.  “My win at the 2014 Boston Marathon will always be the most significant victory of my career. But I still aspire to get the best out of myself, run personal bests, win races and inspire all people to get the best out of themselves in running and in life. There is no better platform for these goals than the Boston Marathon.”

Flanagan, 33, who grew up just outside of Boston in Marblehead, Mass., finished seventh at Boston last year after leading much of the race.  Her finish time of 2:22:02 makes her the fastest American ever at the Boston Marathon.  She backed up that performance with a 2:21:14 personal best at the BMW Berlin Marathon last September, and was recently ranked America’s #1 female marathoner by Track & Field News.  Flanagan has run Boston twice; she also finished fourth in 2013 in 2:27:08, an achievement which was overshadowed by the terrorist bombing which killed three people and wounded over 250 others.

“Boston brings out the best in you, because it demands the best of you,” Flanagan said through a statement. “I grew up on the sidelines of this race and from the intimidating course to the fierce competition, this marathon represents at its very core what it means to run with everything you have. Last year that’s what I did and this year will be no different, because this is Boston and that’s just what you do.”

John Hancock also announced that USA Olympians Desiree Linden (2:22:28 personal best), Amy Hastings (2:27:03), and Dathan Ritzenhein (2:07:47) would also be running Boston.  Linden, 31, from Washington, Mich., finished second at Boston in 2011.  Hastings, 30, from Providence, R.I., will be making her Boston debut after equaling her personal best at the Bank of America Chicago Marathon last October where she finished fifth.  Ritzenhein, 32, from Belmond, Mich., will also be running his first Boston Marathon.  Sidelined with injuries most of 2014, he last completed a marathon in 2013 when he finished fifth in Chicago in 2:09:45.

Jeffrey Eggleston, 30, from Boulder, Colo. (2:10:52 PB); Fernando Cabada, 32, also from Boulder, Colo. (2:11:36), and Nick Arciniaga, 31, from Flagstaff, Ariz. (2:11:30), are also entered, Hancock officials said.

“We are thrilled to have Meb back as our defending champion and equally thrilled to have him surrounded by another exceptionally strong American field, led on the women’s side by Shalane Flanagan,” said Rob Friedman, head of sponsorship and event marketing at John Hancock. “In John Hancock’s 30 years of sponsorship of the Boston Marathon, we’ve always had the strongest international fields of runners who have thrilled spectators along the route and viewers from around the globe. To have an increasingly strong American contingent year after year only adds to the excitement of this remarkable race, not just for the hometown fans, but the entire international running community.”

The Boston Marathon is the world’s oldest marathon; the inaugural year was 1897.  It is also America’s third largest marathon, behind New York and Chicago, with 31,805 finishers in 2014.  The race is also part of the Abbott World Marathon Majors, the world’s top league of marathon races.  It has the largest first prize of any marathon in the United States, awarding $150,000 to the race winners.