John Hancock announces return of defending champions to 2014 Boston Marathon

John Hancock Financial today announced the return of 2013 Boston Marathon champions Rita Jeptoo of Kenya and Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia for the 118th running of the race on April 21.

With a world-class field contending for the men's champion's title this past April, the early miles of the race were typically strategic over the historic Hopkinton to Boston course. In the closing miles, three runners broke away from the pack to vie for the olive wreath.

Running shoulder-to-shoulder, Lelisa Desisa and Gebre Gebremariam of Ethiopia and Micah Kogo of Kenya sought to dig deep into their reserves as they turned right on Hereford and left on Boylston Street down the home stretch. The day, however, belonged to Desisa.

Shifting to a higher gear on Boylston, he left his challengers behind, breaking the tape in 2:10:22, seven seconds ahead of Kogo and eight seconds ahead of Gebremariam.

Desisa is a 23 year-old-talent who has won the Dubai Marathon in 2:04:45 and recently won the silver medal at the 2013 IAAF World Championships Marathon. Two months after the Boston Marathon, Desisa returned to participate in the B.A.A. 10K and at that time gifted his Boston Marathon winner's medal to the City of Boston to honor the victims and families affected by the tragic events of April 15, 2013.

He returned to Boston again in October to set a new course record at the B.A.A. Half Marathon.

�"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. 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."

In the women's race, another deep and talented field toed the line, but experience proved the key as Rita Jeptoo of Kenya, the 2006 Boston champion, returned to win in commanding fashion and add another Boston victory to her impressive resume.

In a race that saw many different leaders, Jeptoo waited until mile 23 to break away, challenging others to follow. Three competitors, Meseret Hailu of Ethiopia, 2012 Boston champion Sharon Cherop of Kenya, and American Shalane Flanagan (who grew up in nearby Marblehead, MA), took up the challenge, Jeptoo, however, was too strong. She never looked back and stretched her lead to 33 seconds to win in 2:26:25. Hailu, Cherop and Flanagan finished second, third and fourth respectively.

In October Jeptoo won the Chicago Marathon in 2:19:57, setting the fastest time of the year in the world for all women racing the marathon distance. Jeptoo is also past champion of marathons in Stockholm, Milan and Eldoret. She has finished in the top six at Boston five times.

�"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."

�"Every year John Hancock is thrilled to celebrate the return of our defending Boston Marathon champions and we do so again this year with the return of Rita Jeptoo and Lelisa Desisa," said Rob Friedman, head of Sponsorship and Event Marketing at John Hancock. �"Our celebration is tempered by the memories of those we lost and those who were injured in last year's tragedy. We know, however, that they all will be honored by Rita and Lelisa, the rest of the elite athlete field from around the world and the tens of thousands of runners who will line up at the start line in Hopkinton on April 21st to take part once again in this extraordinary race."

�"We are delighted to have both Rita and Lelisa join us again in 2014 for the 118th Boston Marathon," said Tom Grilk, B.A.A. Executive Director. �"Both of these champions posted outstanding performances at the 2013 Marathon, winning over world-class competition. 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."

The 2014 Boston Marathon marks the 29th year of John Hancock's landmark sponsorship of the legendary race. For additional information about the elite athlete program and sponsorship, please visit or follow us @jhboston26 on Twitter.