BOSTON – (February 9, 2012) – In its 27th year as principal sponsor of the Boston Marathon, John Hancock Financial has announced the professional field for the 116th running of the Boston Marathon on Monday, April 16.
Reigning champions Geoffrey Mutai and Caroline Kilel will defend their titles, but will be challenged by the fastest men’s and women’s fields ever assembled for the Boston Marathon. With 31 contenders setting their personal best time in the past two years, including eight men under 2:07 and ten women under 2:24, the race will prove highly competitive.
Last year, Mutai ran an unmatched 2 hour, 3 minute, 2 second World Best on Boston’s certified course, without the aid of pacesetters, and then followed that accomplishment with a course record win in New York City. Mutai is now the fastest marathoner in history, and the only man to ever set course records at Boston and New York in the same year.
Top contenders challenging Mutai include last year’s third place finisher and 2010 ING New York City champion Gebre Gebremariam, 2010 Boston champion Robert Kiprono Cheruiyot, 2011 Amsterdam and Rotterdam winner Wilson Chebet, and 2011 Chicago second and third place finishers Wesley Korir and Bernard Kipyego.
Young talent clipping their heels include 2011 Fukuoka champion Josphat Ndambiri, 2:05 marathoner Levy Matebo, 2011 Amsterdam runner-up Laban Korir, 2012 Xiamen winner Peter Kamais, 2011 Dubai champion David Barmasai, and half-marathon specialist Mathew Kisorio.
Americans Antonio Vega and Jason Hartmann, Kenyans Frankline Chepkwony and Dickson Chumba, and Netherlander Michel Butter are also in the pro field.
On the women’s side, the historic race in Boston has been decided over the past four years by three seconds or less. Last year Caroline Kilel turned in another close race as she traded the lead with American Desiree Davila several times down the finishing stretch of Boylston Street. Kilel ultimately triumphed by two seconds over Davila for the 2:22:36 win, before collapsing in exhaustion.
Chasing Kilel are fellow Kenyans Sharon Cherop and Caroline Rotich. Cherop and Rotich ran with Kilel through the final miles last year in Boston before finishing third and fourth respectively. They eagerly await the rematch.
A strong Ethiopian contingent will also seek the crown. Last year’s New York City winner Firehiwot Dado and runner-up Buzunesh Deba team up again and joining the pair is Aselefech Mergia, the Dubai winner and newly crowned 2:19:31 national record holder. Also in the mix will be the talented Mamitu Daska, who won Frankfurt last year, setting a new course record.
The Boston-New York and Kenyan-Ethiopian rivalries should prove exciting, but working to break up the leaders will be a top Russian team: Galina Bogomolova, Alevtina Biktimirova, Nadezdha Leonteva and 2010 Boston runner-up Tatyana Pushkareva will work together to return the coveted title to Russia.
Additional talent includes 2006 Boston Marathon champion Rita Jeptoo, Ashu Kasim, Agnes Kiprop, Georgina Rono, Diana Sigei and Genet Getaneh.
“For 27 years, John Hancock, as principal sponsor, has honored its commitment to bring the world’s top runners to the historic Boston Marathon to ensure that it remains among the world’s most premier sporting events,” said Rob Friedman, head of Sponsorship and Event Marketing at John Hancock. “In celebration of our 150th anniversary as a company, this year’s field is faster and more competitive than ever before. We know these talented runners will provide the millions of fans around the world with another spectacular race, and we are counting down the days to April 16th.”
“One of the cornerstones of any top marathon in the world is the elite field. Through the superb collaborative efforts with our long-standing partner, John Hancock, and its recruitment excellence over the past 27 years, the Boston Marathon has continued to thrive on fast times and a true competitive nature,” said Tom Grilk, B.A.A. Executive Director. “John Hancock’s sponsorship of our elite runners in this year’s event will no doubt once again inspire all those associated with the race. It is a model partnership that works extraordinarily well for everyone.”