Ryan Hall and Meb Keflezighi will face off at the marathon distance for just the fourth time in their careers at next year's Boston Marathon, race patron John Hancock Financial Services announced this morning.
Hall, 27, and Keflezighi, 34, both Olympians, are America's best marathon men and members of the Mammoth Track Club in Mammoth Lakes, Calif., where they train. Hall (Stanford University) is the second-fastest American ever over the marathon distance with a 2:06:17 personal best, while Keflezighi (UCLA) was the 2004 Olympic silver medallist and the 2009 ING New York City Marathon champion. Keflezighi's career best time is 2:09:15.
In their three previous meetings over the marathon distance, Hall has finished ahead of Keflezighi twice. Hall was the winner of the 2008 USA Olympic Team Trials, held in New York City in November, 2007, where Keflezighi finished 8th despite suffering a stress fracture of his pelvis. Earlier in 2007, Hall was 7th in London, a race Keflezighi failed to finish due to suffering a massive blister on his foot and an Achilles injury. Last November, Hall finished fourth in his first ING New York City Marathon, while Keflezighi got an epic victory, the first by an American in New York in 27 years.
Signing both Hall and Keflezighi is a coup for John Hancock's Pat Lynch, the Boston Marathon's longtime elite athlete coordinator. Clearly his boss, John Hancock Financial Services' president, Jim Boyle, was pleased.
"John Hancock is committed to securing the strongest fields of runners from around the world for the Boston Marathon each year," Boyle said through a statement. "It is an added bonus to have Meb and Ryan, two outstanding U.S. runners, as top contenders in the field for the 2010 race. We know they will only add excitement to what is always a thrilling race."
Both Hall and Keflezighi have covered Boston's hilly, point-to-point course from Hopkinton to Boston's Back Bay, once before. Hall finished third last April, battling back from as far down as 9th place. He clocked 2:09:40. Keflezighi ran Boston in 2006, also finishing third in 2:09:56. Those races left a strong impression on both athletes.
"As soon as I finished the 2009 Boston Marathon, I knew I wanted to be back for the 2010 race," Hall said through a media release. "The energy of the crowds far exceeded my expectations, the course was even more challenging than I anticipated, I hurt more than I have hurt in any other race, yet participating in the Boston Marathon was thrilling beyond my greatest expectations."
Keflezighi's take was similar: "Boston has a great tradition not only to the running community but also to the rest of the world. It has always been my ultimate goal to win the Boston Marathon."
Only three men have won the ING New York City Marathon in the fall, then Boston the following spring. Bill Rodgers did it three times (1977/'78, '78/'79, and '79/'80), and Alberto Salazar (1981/'82) and Kenyan Ibrahim Hussein (1987/'88), each did it once.
Greg Meyer was the last American man to win Boston, back in 1983. By signing both Hall and Keflezighi, Hancock has given the Boston Athletic Association (B.A.A.), the race's owner, organizer and founding organization, the best chance in years of having a home country champion.
"Meb and Ryan are among the very best and brightest stars in U.S. distance running," said Guy Morse, executive director of the B.A.A. "Meb has led the resurging American men since he won the silver medal at the Athens Olympics in 2004, and Ryan's full potential at the marathon distance is yet to be realized. We look forward to providing the stage for both of them to continue their success and development."
The 114th edition of the Boston Marathon, part of the World Marathon Majors series, will take place on Monday, April 19, 2010. The 2009 edition had 26,331 entrants, and 22,849 finishers, making it the third-largest marathon in the United States behind ING New York City (43,660 finishers), and Bank of America Chicago (33,475). In 2009, Boston offered the largest first place prize amongst American marathon: $150,000 (vs. $130,000 for New York and $75,000 for Chicago).
Separately, the B.A.A. announced that they had renewed their television partnership with WBZ-TV for three years. The local Boston station, a CBS affiliate, has covered the Boston Marathon in its entirety for 27 years, and will continue to provide exclusive, gun-to-tape coverage for the next three years, the only local Boston broadcast outlet with that right.
PHOTOS: Ryan Hall talks to the media before the 2009 Boston Marathon; Meb Keflezighi celebrates after winning the 2009 ING New York City Marathon (photos by Jane Monti/Race Results Weekly)