(07-Jan) — The Boston Marathon hasn’t had an American champion since Lisa Rainsberger in 1985, but that could change nextwhen a top-notch group of USA athletes take to the starting line of the world’s oldest marathon in Hopkinton, Mass.
John Hancock Financial, the financial services company which supports the marathon’s elite field, announced today a group of 11 American athletes, including five Olympians, who have committed to the race. The group includes Desiree Davila Linden (Washington, Mich.), Shalane Flanagan (Portland, Ore.), Amy Hastings (Providence, R.I.), Serena Burla (Falls Church, Va.), Adriana Nelson (Fort Collins, Colo.), Dathan Ritzenhein (Beaverton, Ore.), Meb Keflezighi (San Diego, Calif.), Brett Gotcher (La Selva Beach, Calif.), Jason Hartmann (Boulder, Colo.), Nick Arciniaga (Flagstaff, Ariz.) and Jeffrey Eggleston (Boulder, Colo.).
“It is fitting that we present the strongest American field in our nearly 30 years of sponsorship of the Boston Marathon,” said Rob Friedman, Hancock’s head of sponsorships and event marketing, through a statement. “These exceptional athletes personify the meaning of strength, commitment and support. These are the same attributes that so many in our community displayed lastand have continued to demonstrate in the weeks and months since.”
Within this group Linden, 30, has come the closest to Boston victory. In the 2011 edition of the race, the Hansons-Brooks Original Distance Project athlete finished second in a thrilling sprint finish down Boylston Street, clocking 2:22:38, the fastest time ever by an American woman in Boston and a time which remains her career best.
“It is an honor to be included in the 2014 John Hancock elite field,” said Linden through a statement provided by John Hancock. “The Boston Marathon was home for both my debut and my breakthrough marathon. It seems to be an atmosphere that brings out the best in me, and I’m looking forward to being back out there in 2014.”
Flanagan, 32, the 2008 Olympic 10,000m bronze medalist, has also run well at Boston. The three-time Olympian, who represents Nike, finished fourth in 2013 in 2:27:08 and said she was particularly motivated to come back to Boston after last year’s lethal terrorist bombing at the finish line which left three people dead and more than 250 injured, many seriously. Flanagan, who has a personal best time of 2:25:38, grew up in Marblehead, about 20 kilometers north of Boston.
“In my career, I’ve never felt my running take on a more personal meaning than it will to prepare for this year’s race,” said Flanagan through a statement. “The 2014 Boston Marathon will be run with overwhelming honor, passion and joy. Each step we take closer to the finish line is a victory in and of itself. It’s hard to express what it means to return this particular year to the place where I grew up and compete. In one word, I guess it would be ‘pride.’ I, and many in the field, will be fueled by those who were affected by the tragedy and will be running for those who can not.”
Hastings (who is sponsored by Brooks), 29; Burla (Mizuno), 31; and Nelson (Asics), 33, have all run sub-2:30 during their careers, and all three will be making their Boston Marathon debuts. Hastings, who finished 11th in the 2012 Olympic 10,000m, is coming off of a disappointing performance at last November’s TCS New York City Marathon where she clocked 2:42:50. Burla finished second at last October’s Amsterdam Marathon in a personal best 2:28:01, and Nelson was the top American at New York 2:35:05 (she has a PB of 2:28:52).
On the men’s side, Ritzenhein (Nike), 31, has the fastest career time of 2:07:47 (Chicago, 2012), but Olympic silver medalist and former NYC Marathon champion Keflezighi (Skechers/NYAC), 38, is the most accomplished marathoner (2:09:08 PB). For Ritzenhein this will be his first Boston Marathon; Keflezighi placed third in 2006 and fifth in 2010.
“I am very excited to be running the 2014 Boston Marathon,” said Ritzenhein, also through a statement. “Like all serious marathoners, Boston to me is ‘the race,’ and I can’t wait to toe the line on. Growing up with idols such as Greg Meyer (the last USA men’s champion at Boston) and Alberto Salazar (his current coach) makes me want to add my name to this historic race.”
Keflezighi, who short on training finished 23rd at last November’s TCS New York City Marathon in 2:23:47, was equally enthusiastic.
“It is always a great honor to compete in the prestigious Boston Marathon,” said the former UCLA Bruin. “This year’s race will have special significance for all of us because of the tragedy that occurred last year. I am honored to be amongst the 36,000 runners that are running the 2014 Boston Marathon to demonstrate the spirit of the marathon. I am training hard and smart to be healthy and fit enough to compete for a victory. Let’s visualize our goals in our months of training and race with a united purpose on.”
Hartmann (unattached), 32, has competed very well at Boston despite a modest personal best of 2:11:06. Using a patient approach, he finished fourth in both 2012 and 2013.
“I had the opportunity to become part of the historic legacy the past two years,” Hartmann said through a statement. “And now I look forward to running the Boston Marathon to improve upon my past performances. My expectations are for me to leave it all out on the course, no matter the elements.”
Gotcher (adidas), 29, who has a personal best of 2:10:36, will be making his Boston debut.