“There are so many more eyes on the race this year,” said Desiree Linden, who finished second by 2 seconds in 2011 and was the last American runner to reach the Boston podium. “I think it would be really special to the people of Boston.”
Linden, of Chula Vista, Calif., finished second when Flanagan won the 2012 Olympic trials on a different course here, but she dropped out of the race at the London Games with a stress fracture in her right leg that also prevented her from running Boston in 2013.
Now she is back as part of one of the best U.S. women’s fields in decades. The men’s contenders include Ryan Hall, who finished fourth in 2011 in 2 hours, 4 minutes, 58 seconds — the fastest time ever run by an American marathoner — along with three-time Olympian and 2009 New York winner Meb Keflezighi.
Although a victory would be great, of course, Hall thinks the added attention itself will give the sport a boost.
“I’m happy to be a part of all the runners coming together — however that looks,” he said. “I don’t want to say it has to mean winning Boston or having a super-fast time. I want to be a part of such a historic race. I’m going to milk the excitement, the atmosphere. It’s going to come out of me on the race course. I know I’m going to get to the finish line faster than I otherwise would have.”
East Africans have won the men’s race at the Boston Marathon every year since 1991, with Kenyans taking 14 straight titles and 20 of the last 23. On the women’s side, a pair of Russian wins is the only thing that interrupts a 17-year streak of Kenyan and Ethiopian dominance.
But after a string of years in which no Americans even cracked the top 10, the hometown runners have had a resurgence. Last year, Flanagan and Colorado’s Jason Hartmann each finished fourth, Kara Goucher took sixth in the women’s race and there were as many U.S. men in the top 10 as Kenyans or Ethiopians.