BOSTON -- After the tragic events at the finish line of the Boston Marathon last year, many marathoners wanted to be in Boston this year, to show solidarity and to run the 26.2-mile race.
The top Americans, who did not come or had not been able to run Boston in recent years for various reasons, all wanted to run.
And so today's 118th Boston Marathon will showcase one of the best American fields in a while. Olympians Ryan Hall, Meb Keflezighi and Abdi Abdirahman will run on the men's side. Shalane Flanagan, who finished what was for her a disappointing fourth last year at Boston, is back, as is Desiree (Davila) Linden, who finished a heartbreaking second by two seconds in 2011 at Boston. Both were London Olympians.
'Right after the bombings happened, we knew that Boston was going to get back up from this'
"Right after the bombings happened, we knew that Boston was going to get back up from this," said Hall, who has finished third once and fourth twice in Boston. "We knew this would be a super special race. So we knew we had to be here, try to give it a good run for the U.S."
Jason Hartmann, the lone top American in the field the past two years who finished fourth twice, is glad to have some American company.
"It's good," said Hartmann, who lives in Boulder, Colo. "It's a good opportunity for us to showcase our abilities. Hopefully, one of us will carry the torch on Monday.
"I've had two positive experiences here. After the events of last year, I just really wanted to be part of the whole experience again. The crowd here is going to be really electrifying. They're expecting close to one million people. That's going to be pretty exciting."
An American man hasn't won the race since Greg Meyer in 1983 and Lisa Weidenbach was the last American woman to win in 1985. Since then, the race has been dominated by Kenyans and Ethiopians. Both countries will be well represented today as defending champions Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia and Rita Jeptoo of Kenya are returning, as is men's runner-up Micah Kogo of Kenya.
There was no question he would be back, Kogo said.
"When we went back to Kenya, people were so scared," Kogo said. "They were talking more and more about the Boston Marathon and what happened last year. But for us, we were not afraid. We know here there's tough security, not even like in Kenya. It's quite different between here and Africa. For us being here, we knew we are in safe hands and everything will be all right."
Of the American men, Hall -- who missed the race last year because of injuries -- has had the most success at Boston, at least time-wise. He ran 2:09:40 in 2009 and 2:08:41 in 2010, finishing fourth and third, respectively. In 2011, he ran a scorching 2:04:58 for the American course record. But Kenyan Geoffrey Mutai chose that day to run a world-best 2:03:02, Moses Mosop, also of Kenya, was right behind him (2:03:06) and Hall finished third.
"Not everyone wins," said Hall, 31, of Redding, Calif. "It would make it that much more special when I do win. I'm going to give it everything I have out there. It's going to be an electric atmosphere to be a part of. My day winning Boston may or may not come, I don't know. But I'm at peace with where I'm at."
He was happy to have a group of Americans to run with today.
"It's always really nice to have other Americans in the pack," Hall said. "Sometimes, the Kenyan guys are talking to each other, and the Ethiopian guys are talking to each other and I'm just like the fringe guy running with no one."
Hall said he's in good shape. So is Keflezighi, the Olympic silver medalist in 2004 and the 2009 New York City marathon champion who will be 39 in three weeks.
"It's great to have that big of an American field here," said Keflezighi, who lives in San Diego. "The one closest to it was in 2006 -- I was third, Brian Sell was fourth and Alan Culpepper was fifth. After what happened last year, (race sponsor) John Hancock went another step and said, 'We need the Americans. It can't be just one person.'"
Adirahman, who won the Stratton Faxon New Haven 20K Road Race in 2005 and 2011 and finished third last year, is running Boston for the first time.
"I wanted to be a part of it," he said. "There is no way I would miss it."
-- The Hartford Courant