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Des Linden, Yuki Kawauchi Among 13 Champions Returning For Historic 125th Boston Marathon

BOSTON (CBS) -- A baker's dozen of Boston Marathon champions will headline the John Hancock Professional Athlete Team for the 125th Boston Marathon on October 11, the Boston Athletic Association (B.A.A.) announced Wednesday.

Those 13 former champs have a combined 30 first-place Boston finishes, including World Athletics Marathon champions, Paralympic
medalists, Abbott World Marathon Majors winners, and Olympians.

Four of the last five women's champs will be lining up in Hopkinton and going for another victory: American Desiree Linden (2018), a five-time, top-five finisher and two-time Olympian; Kenyan Edna Kiplagat (2017), a two-time World Athletics Marathon Championships gold medalist and three-time Abbott World Marathon Majors series champion; Kenyan Caroline Rotich (2015), who also won the 2010 B.A.A. Half Marathon; and Atsede Baysa (2016), the 2010 Bank of America Chicago Marathon champion and two-time Paris champion.

"I can't wait to line up in this year's historic fall edition of the Boston Marathon," Linden said in the B.A.A.'s release. "Experience goes a long way in Boston and lining up with so many great champions, who have proven they know how to win on this course, will be an extra challenge on race day. I'm training hard and more motivated than ever to be ready to put together a memorable performance this October."

A trio of men's champions with lifetime bests under 2:07:30 return looking for a second Boston title: Kenya's Geoffrey Kirui, the 2017 Boston winner and 2017 World Athletics Marathon champion; Lemi Berhanu from Ethiopia, who is best known for skipping across the Boylston Street finish en route to winning in 2016; and Yuki Kawauchi, the 2018 champ who looks to become the first man from Japan since Toshihiko Seiko in 1987 to earn two Boston Marathon titles.

"Last year was a tough one for everyone. Boston is, for me, the exact right motivation and light at the end of the tunnel, as it will be for all returning champions and participants," said Kirui. "This is the marathon where I feel at home, and I have big dreams for October."

In the women's wheelchair race, two-time champion and course record holder Manuela Schär will be back to defend her title. Schär, a three-time Paralympic medalist for Switzerland, won Boston in 2017 and 2019 and is the only woman ever to have clocked a sub-1:30 marathon.

Also among the wheelchair contenders is five-time Boston champion and 17-time Paralympic medalist Tatyana McFadden, who will race the 400m, 800m, 1500m, 5000m, and marathon at the Tokyo Paralympic Games for Team USA.

Four men's wheelchair champions with a combined 16 titles will also return on October 11, with defending champion Daniel Romanchuk of Illinois leading the charge. Romanchuk made history by winning the 2019 race and Abbott World Marathon Majors Series XII at just 20
years old.

Course record holder Marcel Hug of Switzerland returns looking for his fifth victory, having won four straight Boston Marathons from 2015 through 2018. Ernst van Dyk of South Africa, the most decorated champion in race history with ten titles, is also returning, alongside 2012 winner and former course record holder Josh Cassidy of Canada.

The 125th Boston Marathon will also feature restructured prize money awards that will recognize and celebrate world class performances in Boston, while maintaining the largest prize purse of the Abbott World Marathon Majors. Among the incentives that will debut in October are equal course record bonuses for the Open and Wheelchair Divisions and the introduction of prize money for the inaugural Para Athletics Divisions.

The Boston Marathon will make history as the first Abbott World Marathon Major event to offer equal $50,000 course record bonuses across open and wheelchair divisions, and the first event to provide a designated prize purse for athletes with upper limb, lower limb, and visual impairments. For the 36th year, the prize money awards will be provided by principal sponsor John Hancock.

"We are delighted to welcome so many champions from such a diverse range of competition back to Boston for the 125th running of the Boston Marathon," said Tom Grilk, B.A.A. President and Chief Executive Officer. "While October's race marks a long-awaited return to racing, it will also recognize and celebrate the many world-class athletes competing for an historic prize purse across multiple divisions."

"I feel very blessed to be able to witness such a huge step towards equality and recognition of our sport," said Schär of the equal course record bonuses. "The Boston Marathon has always played a big role when it comes to 'first times in history.' After such a long time of not being able to race marathons, this will make it extra special to return to the streets of Boston and I can't wait."

"As a young wheelchair racer, if someone said 'marathon,' I thought 'Boston.' It has always been on the leading edge of inclusion as the first major marathon to have a wheelchair division, and it's so incredible to see it setting the example again as the first major marathon to have pay equity between the runners and wheelchair division for the course record," said Romanchuk. "I can't wait to join everyone else racing from Hopkinton toward that finish line on Boylston Street again!"

WBZ-TV is once again the television home of the Boston Marathon, with full coverage on October 11 from start to finish.

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