Thursday, February 22, 2007

Defending Champs to run Boston

2006 Boston Marathon champions Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot and Rita Jeptoo have announced they will defend their titles at the 111th running of the race on April 16,2007.

The top contenders in the men's group include Hailu Negussie of Ethiopia, the men's 2005 champion. Negussie will lead the charge having won the race in 2005, when he brought the title back to Ethiopia after a 16-year hiatus dominated by Kenyan wins. Accepting the opportunity to challenge Cheruiyot's course record of 2:07:14, Negussie said, "Once again I am eager and happy to run in the Boston Marathon, among the greatest marathons in the world and my favorite place." One of his country's most promising marathoners, Negussie has also won the Hofu Marathon in Japan twice and the Xiamen International Marathon in China.

Joining Negussie are 2006 runner-up Benjamin Maiyo and 2004 runner-up Robert Cheboror, both of Kenya. Maiyo is highly motivated to notch his first career win at Boston this year having also finished second at the Chicago Marathon and second in Los Angeles in 2005. Cheboror will pose a threat returning to the race as one of the fastest marathoners of all time with a 2:06:23 win in Amsterdam in 2004. Last year he finished second in Hamburg and fifth in Chicago.

Another top contender with Boston experience is Stephen Kiogora who will challenge the runners-up as will 2005 Berlin Marathon Champion Philip Manyim. Kiogora recently finished second at the 2006 New York City Marathon and Manyim brings 2:07 speed to the line.

In the women's race, defending champion Rita Jeptoo of Kenya will face 2006 Boston runner-up Jelena Prokopcuka of Latvia who already announced her commitment to run and 2003 runner-up Lyubov Denisova of Russia.

Last year Prokopcuka missed the top spot by 10 seconds, the narrowest margin in race history. She has won the New York City Marathon the past two years and is the current leader of the World Marathon Majors Series. Denisova comes into the race fresh from a course record win at the difficult Honolulu Marathon this past December. She is also a two-time champion of the Los Angeles Marathon.

Top contenders expected to challenge these women are American record holder Deena Kastor who was announced earlier, and Madai Perez of Mexico. Kastor ran the fastest time in the world last year with her 2:19:36 London Marathon win, and Perez established her country's mark of 2:22:59 at the 2006 Chicago Marathon.

Source: John Hancock Financial Services