John Hancock announces return of defending and past champions to 2010 Boston Marathon

BOSTON, MA, February 10, 2010�John Hancock Financial today announced the return of 2009 Boston Marathon champions Deriba Merga of Ethiopia and Salina Kosgei of Kenya for the 114th running of the race on April 19.

John Hancock has also signed past champions Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot and Catherine Ndereba of Kenya, Dire Tune of Ethiopia, and Lidiya Grigoryeva of Russia.

In the 2009 men's race, Deriba Merga of Ethiopia clipped Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot's three-in-a-row streak and ran away from the lead pack in the Newton hills, unchallenged to the finish. Merga is just one of three Ethiopians to interrupt Kenyan dominance of the event over the past two decades.

Cheruiyot, a four-time Boston winner and the 2:07:14 course record holder, is back again, fresh from a runner-up spot in New York City. The formidable Kenyan shares the honor of at least four Boston wins with Gerard Cote and Bill Rodgers (4 wins each) and Clarence DeMar (7 wins).

In the 2009 women's race, Salina Kosgei was challenged every step of the way by a determined Dire Tune who sought to defend her 2008 title. In the closest finish ever recorded, Kosgei edged an exhausted Tune at the tape to win by one second. The year before, Tune was on the winning end of the finish sprint as she dueled to the wire with Russian Alevtina Biktimirova, prevailing by two seconds.

Challenging Kosgei and Tune are former winners Lidiya Grigoryeva and Catherine Ndereba. A year after winning the 2007 �"Nor'easter" Boston Marathon, Grigoryeva brilliantly won over a highly competitive field in Chicago. And �"Catherine the Great" needs no reintroduction to Boston as she has written the history books here as the only woman to ever win four times. Ndereba is the second fastest woman marathoner of all time (2:18:47) and has earned two Olympic silver medals and two World Marathon Championship titles.

�"As we celebrate the 25th anniversary of our sponsorship, John Hancock Financial could not be more excited with the outstanding global field of runners we will have in Boston this year. We are thrilled to have Deriba and Salina back to defend their titles and wish them all the best. They are certain to be part of another great race as they will be challenged by Robert, Catherine, Dire and Lidiya, all past champions and among the world's best," said Jim Boyle, President of John Hancock Financial. �"In the next few months, we will round out the field, announcing the participation of other elite runners, but this list today gives a sense of why the world's top runners return to Boston every spring on Patriot's Day. They want the challenge of beating the best on one of the world's great courses to win the Boston Marathon, inarguably one of the world's premier road races."

Mr. Boyle added that John Hancock is pleased to again fulfill its promise to the city of Boston and surrounding communities with its continued, steadfast support of the race.

�"Not only will the Boston Marathon once again be a great event for spectators, it also continues to be a tremendous economic benefit for Boston and the region, generating a direct and indirect economic impact estimated at $110 million," he said.

�"John Hancock Financial's effort to bring back our defending champions whenever possible has been a priority, leading to compelling stories and interesting match-ups," said Guy Morse, Executive Director of the Boston Athletic Association. �"By its commitment over the last quarter century, John Hancock has helped maintain Boston's position among the world's most elite marathons."