BOSTON, MA, January 27, 2009�John Hancock Financial, in its 24th year as principal sponsor of the Boston Marathon, today announced the return of four-time champion Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot of Kenya and women's winner Dire Tune of Ethiopia for the 113th running of the race on April 20.
�"I'd like to thank John Hancock for inviting me back to race in Boston again," said Cheruiyot. �"Boston is one of my favorite races, and I am training as hard as I can to try to win for the fifth time if possible and run my best time."
The winner in 2003 and 2006-08, Cheruiyot is the youngest man and first Kenyan to win four Boston Marathons. Last year, he won the race after surging off the Newton hills and away from his competitors. He crossed the finish line in a commanding lead, just 32 seconds off his 2006 course record of 2:07:14.
In a memorable 2007 race, Cheruiyot battled the remnants of a stormy Nor'easter to claim his third win and secure the inaugural World Marathon Majors Series title. The series, now entering its third two-year cycle, brings together the best athletes in the world to compete in Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago and New York.
Cheruiyot shares the honor of at least four Boston wins with Gerard Cote and Bill Rodgers (4 wins each) and Clarence DeMar (7 wins). He is also the only man to win marathons in Boston and Chicago in the same year (2006) and was the 2002 Milan City Marathon champion.
Boston's 2008 women's champion, 22-year old Dire Tune of Ethiopia, prevailed in the tightest race in Boston Marathon history last year as she found herself ahead of former champions Lidiya Grigoryeva and Rita Jeptoo. With great resolve, Tune triumphed in a back and forth duel over the closing miles with Russian Alevtina Biktimirova to win by two seconds in 2:25:25.
�"Since I was a young girl, I always dreamed to come and compete in the Boston Marathon," said Tune. �"My dream came true not only to come to Boston, but to win. Now I have an unbelievable determination to defend my title. Boston has become a special place for me, and I thank the sponsor John Hancock for the opportunity."
In 2008, Tune also won the Houston Marathon, established the world record for the One Hour Run (18.517km), finished 15th at the Beijing Olympic Marathon, and placed seventh in New York City. She is also the 2007 Houston Marathon winner and the 2006 Hong Kong Marathon winner.
�"We are proud that both of our defending champions have chosen to return for the 113th Boston Marathon," said Guy Morse, Executive Director of the Boston Athletic Association. �"No one can forget Dire's sprint to victory in 2008, and of course Robert will be looking to make history, so fans can expect an exciting race from both of these champions."
�"Throughout our 24 year sponsorship, John Hancock Financial has had the honor and pleasure of bringing to the Boston Marathon each year many of the world's top runners like Robert and Dire. Having the world's best here year after year ensures that the Boston Marathon remains one of the world's premier road races," said John D. DesPrez III, President and Chief Executive Officer of John Hancock Financial. �"We are very excited for Robert as he goes for his fifth Boston victory and his fourth in a row. We are equally pleased to have Dire back after providing us with the most exciting finish to the women's division in the history of the race.
�"As we once again fulfill our promise to the city of Boston and surrounding communities to support this great race, we are very pleased that the Boston Marathon can provide such a tremendous positive economic effect on the region, particularly during the challenging economic times that we all face now. This race will generate a direct and indirect economic impact estimated at $95 million for Boston and the region."
About John Hancock Financial and Manulife Financial Corporation
John Hancock Financial is a unit of Manulife Financial Corporation (the Company), a leading Canadian-based financial services group serving millions of customers in 19 countries and territories worldwide. Operating as Manulife Financial in Canada and in most of Asia, and primarily as John Hancock in the United States, the Company offers clients a diverse range of financial protection products and wealth management services through its extensive network of employees, agents and distribution partners. Funds under management by Manulife Financial and its subsidiaries were Cdn$385 billion (US$364 billion) as at September 30, 2008.
Manulife Financial Corporation trades as �MFC' on the TSX, NYSE and PSE, and under �0945' on the SEHK. Manulife Financial can be found on the Internet at www.manulife.com.
The John Hancock unit, through its insurance companies, comprises one of the largest life insurers in the United States. John Hancock offers a broad range of financial products and services, including life insurance, fixed and variable annuities, fixed products, mutual funds, 401(k) plans, long-term care insurance, college savings, and other forms of business insurance. Additional information about John Hancock may be found at www.johnhancock.com.