Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Past Race Champions Returning to Boston Marathon

Inaugural Class of 1972 women among those to be honored; Joan Benoit Samuelson joins Boston Marathon field; Meb Keflezighi to serve as grand marshal

BOSTON - (April 10, 2012) - The Boston Athletic Association (B.A.A.) has announced that several former champions of the Boston Marathon will be returning to Boston and participating in the events surrounding the 116th running of the world's oldest annual marathon on Monday, April 16, 2012.

Notably, inaugural Olympic Marathon gold medalist Joan Samuelson has entered this year's Boston Marathon and will run on Monday. Samuelson won the 1979 and 1983 Boston Marathons (as Joan Benoit) before winning Olympic Games Marathon in Los Angeles in 1984. Samuelson also ran the 2011 Boston Marathon, finishing in 2:51:29. Samuelson has been a member of principal sponsor John Hancock Financial Service's Elite Team and is one of the sport's most recognized and popular personalities. She has remained a competitive athlete for more than three decades.

The B.A.A. will honor the 40th anniversary of the 76th Boston Marathon in 1972, the first year women were officially allowed to compete in the historic race. Nina Kuscsik, who won in 1972, will be joined by fellow pioneers and members of the 1972 women's field Kathrine Switzer, Pat Barrett, Sara Mae Berman and Valerie Rogosheske. The group of pioneering women, along with the Boston Marathon's first female participant Bobbi Gibb, will be recognized at the annual Champions' Breakfast on Saturday, April 14. The "Class of 1972" will also make public appearances in Hopkinton on Friday evening and at the John Hancock Sports & Fitness Expo on Saturday afternoon.

"We are especially proud to be welcoming back most of the female participants from the first year in which women were officially able to compete and be recognized in the Boston Marathon," said Joann Flaminio, B.A.A. President. "These women blazed a trail for all women distance runners and forever and positively changed our race."

Former winners Olavi Suomalainen of Finland (1972) and Allison Roe of New Zealand (1981) will also receive honors at this year's B.A.A. Champions' Breakfast. Suomalainen, who took the olive wreath in 1972, broke away from Colombia's Victor Manuel Mora near Boston College to finish first in 2 hours, 15 minutes. 29 seconds. He became the first Finnish winner at Boston in a decade. Roe triumphed over local favorite Patti Catalano with a course record time of 2:26:46 in 1981. Because of the devastation caused by an earthquake in her native country of New Zealand, she was unable to receive her honors at the 2011 Champions' Breakfast.

This year also marks the 100th anniversary of Michael J. Ryan's victory over a mud and slush-soaked Boston Marathon course in 1912. Ryan will be represented at the Champions' Breakfast by four of his great-grandchildren: Amy Ryan Kadner, Laura Ryan Chimento, Mike Ryan and Katie Ryan Mishkin. They will all run this year's Boston Marathon in his memory. The first-place trophy won by Michael Ryan in 1912 was flown by the B.A.A. to Boston for the weekend, and will be on display at various functions.

"Our champions honor us by their presence," said Tom Grilk, Executive Director of the B.A.A. "We look forward to celebrating and remembering their accomplishments this weekend and showcasing them at our events and on race day."

Defending champions Geoffrey Mutai of Kenya (men's Open race), Caroline Kilel of Kenya (women's Open race), Masuzumi Soejima of Japan (men's wheelchair division race) and Wakako Tsuchida of Japan (women's wheelchair division race) also will be in attendance at the B.A.A.'s Champions' Breakfast on race day to officially and ceremonially receive their top-seeded bibs for Monday's race.

In addition to these honorees at the Champions' Breakfast, the B.A.A. will pay tribute to the late John J. Kelley, the only B.A.A. Club Member to win the Boston Marathon. Kelley established a new course record of 2:20:05 with his win in 1957. He was the runner-up at the Boston Marathon on five occasions. Kelley also competed in the 1956 and 1960 Olympic Games, won the 1959 Pan American Games, and garnered eight consecutive USA Marathon titles. Known as John "The Younger," Kelley was not related to fellow Boston Marathon legend, John A. Kelley. John J. Kelley passed away at the age of 80 on August 21, 2011. The 1968 Boston Marathon champion, Amby Burfoot, will provide remarks on Kelley's passing at the Champions' Breakfast. Kelley was Burfoot's mentor and friend and both were from Connecticut.

Additionally, American Meb Keflezighi (left, PhotoRun) will serve as the grand marshal for the 2012 Boston Marathon. The B.A.A. has reserved the grand marshal role as a position of recognition and honor. Keflezighi will ride in a Nissan pace car ahead of the lead runners, heralding to spectators along the course that thousands of runners will soon be coming. Following his recent victory at the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in Houston, Keflezighi will represent the United States at the Olympic Games in London this summer. He is a three-time Olympian and the silver medalist at the 2004 Olympic Marathon. He was the 2009 ING New York City Marathon champion and has competed in the Boston Marathon twice, placing third in 2006 and fifth in 2010.

Many other Boston Marathon champions, legends, pioneers and significant figures in race history will also be in town during race week, participating in a number of ways at various events, including running in the B.A.A. 5K on Sunday morning.

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