In its 22nd year as principal sponsor of the Boston Marathon, John Hancock announced its elite team of 25 marathon runners from eight countries, including American Olympic bronze medalist Deena Kastor, defending champions Rita Jeptoo and Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot of Kenya and past champion Hailu Negussie of Ethiopia. Also in the field are the leaders of the World Marathon Majors Series. The race is set for Monday, April 16, 2007.
Defending champion Cheruiyot broke the course record last year and is ready for a rematch with 2006 runner-up Benjamin Maiyo and 2005 champion Negussie. Cheruiyot is also the points leader in the World Marathon Majors Series and won the Chicago Marathon this past fall, earning the distinction as the only man to have ever won both marathons in the same year. Negussie returns as only the second Ethiopian man to win in Boston, and he is highly motivated to gain back the title. Maiyo has finished runner-up in three big races: Boston, Chicago and Los Angeles, and is ready to stand atop the podium.
Chasing the trio is a talented pack led by 2:06 marathoner Robert Cheboror, the 2004 Boston runner-up; Philip Manyim, the 2005 Berlin Marathon champion and Stephen Kiogora, the 2006 New York City runner-up. Also challenging for the title are four men with key marathon wins in 2006: James Kwambai, the Beijing and Brescia champion; Ruggero Pertile, the Padova winner; Teferi Wodajo, the Cologne champion and Hosea Rotich, the Nairobi winner and course record holder.
Added to the mix are 2005 Zurich winner Stanley Leleito, the 2005 Marathon of Italy champion Stephen Biwott, Moroccan stand-out Mohammed El Hattab, and rising talent Tekeste Kebede of Ethiopia. Making his debut is Samuel Ndereba, the 2006 BAA Boston Half Marathon champion and brother of four-time women’s winner Catherine Ndereba.
On the women’s side, the top three ranked women in the world are part of the John Hancock Elite Team and will compete for the win. Olympian and American Record Holder Deena Kastor will face defending champion Rita Jeptoo and last year’s runner-up Jelena Prokopcuka.
The talent of the women’s field is undisputed as seven of the top ten women set their personal best times in 2006 and are in peak form. Kastor leads the charge and comes into the race having run the fastest marathon in the world last year. She earned the #1 ranking by Track & Field News for her unstoppable 2:19:36 win in London, where she also improved her existing American record. Best known for her inspirational bronze medal performance in the 2004 Athens Olympic Marathon, Kastor is also a multiple American record holder on the roads and track. With roots in the Boston area, Kastor should prove to be a crowd favorite.
The #2 ranked woman in the world, Olympian Jelena Prokopcuka of Latvia, brings strong credentials as the points leader in the World Marathon Majors Series and as the winner of the New York City Marathon the past two years. Rita Jeptoo, ranked #3, is the defending Boston Marathon champion and will not give up her title easily. After her win last year, Jeptoo ran the fourth fastest 20K of all time and then went on to finish a strong fourth in New York City.
The match-up between the three top women in the world should prove exciting, but close on their heels will be Mexican national record holder Madai Perez, 2006 Honolulu winner Lyubov Denisova, 2006 Los Angeles winner Lidiya Grigoryeva, Olympian and 2006 Rock ‘n’ Roll champion Alice Chelangat, and 2006 Hamburg Marathon winner Robe Tola Guta. Giovanna Volpato of Italy comes to the race from a solid performance at the 2006 European Championships and Adanech Zekiros is fresh from a win at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Marathon.
“For more than two decades, John Hancock has kept its promise to provide an elite athlete field for the Boston Marathon and secure the race’s status as one of the most prestigious marathons in the world,” said John D. DesPrez, John Hancock’s President and Chief Executive Officer. “We have another outstanding field set for this year’s race and are expecting another outstanding day for the runners, the Boston community and running fans around the world.”
“For 22 years, John Hancock has been assembling the elite athlete field for the Boston Marathon, and each year these athletes provide us with a thrilling race,” said Guy Morse, Executive Director of the Boston Marathon. “With our two defending champions returning, as well as the two World Marathon Majors Series leaders, and the American women’s record-holder, we have no doubt that the 111th Boston Marathon will be as exciting as ever.”