By Chris Lotsbom, @ChrisLotsbom
(c) 2013 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
December 11, 2013
BOSTON — Moments ago, John Hancock Financial and the Boston Athletic Association announced that reigning champions Lelisa Desisa and Rita Jeptoo will both return for the race’s 118th edition, seeking to defend their titles on April 21, 2014. This year, Desisa and Jeptoo claimed the laurel wreaths in 2:10:22 and 2:26:25, respectively.
“We are delighted to have both Rita and Lelisa join us again in 2014 for the 118th Boston Marathon,” said Boston Athletic Association executive director Tom Grilk in a statement. “Both of these champions posted outstanding performances at the 2013 Marathon, winning over world-class competition.”
Desisa, 23, will look to build on what had been an extremely successful 2013 marathon year for the Ethiopian native. In addition to winning the Boston Marathon, Desisa took the top spot at the Dubai Marathon in 2:04:45, and also earned a silver medal at the 2013 IAAF World Championships Marathon in Moscow.
“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. “Boston is the most historic race in our world of athletics and to win Boston means so much; it is such an honor.”
Since his April win in the Massachusetts capital city, Desisa has come to call Boston his “second home,” as he told Race Results Weekly after winning October’s B.A.A. Half-Marathon in a course record of 1:00:34. He also placed second at the B.A.A. 10-K in June.
With that, Desisa also knows how much the city of 636,000 was impacted by the bombings that occurred close to the finish on Boylston Street at the 2013 race, killing three and wounding over 200.
“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,” he said.
If Desisa does successfully retain his title, he will become the first back-to-back champion since Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot won three in a row from 2006 to 2008. Fifteen times in race history has an athlete earned Boston Marathon men’s victories in consecutive years.
Women’s champion Jeptoo, a native of Kapsabet, Kenya, will return to the start in Hopkinton seeking her third Boston Marathon victory. In addition to this year’s win, the 32-year-old claimed the 2006 title running in 2:23:38.
“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. “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.”
Jeptoo was the fastest women’s marathoner in the world in 2013, clocking a 2:19:57 mark when winning the Bank of America Chicago Marathon on October 13. One of the most consistent runners in Boston Marathon history, Jeptoo has placed in the top-4 four times (1st in 2006 and 2013; 3rd in 2008; 4th in 2007).
Currently, Jeptoo is tied in first atop the 2013-2014 World Marathon Majors standings with Kenya’s Priscah Jeptoo (no relation, but they have the same coach, Claudio Berardelli). If she wins on April 21, then Rita Jeptoo would become the seventh woman in race history to win three titles, and the first to win successive crowns since compatriot Catherine Ndereba did so in 2004 and 2005.
The 2014 Boston Marathon is set to be the second largest in race history, with 36,000 race entries being granted by the Boston Athletic Association. The Boston Marathon is America’s oldest marathon, dating back to 1897.
Executive director Grilk believes that the return of both Desisa and Jeptoo will be extra special for the city of Boston, which came together and bounced back stronger than ever following the bombings.
“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,” he said.