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 in Boston in recent years for various reasons, all wanted to run.
And so Monday'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 in Boston, is back, as is Desiree (Davila) Linden, who finished a heartbreaking second by two seconds in 2011. Both were London Olympians.
"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 last two years who twice finished fourth, is glad to have 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.
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 Monday, since 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 that 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 in Boston, at least time-wise. He ran 2 hours, 9 minutes, 40 seconds 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.