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Boston Marathon women’s preview

Shalane Flanagan

Women’s top finisher and first overall across the finish line Shalane Flanagan holds up the American flag, Saturday, March 15, 2014, in Jacksonville, Fla., as more than 20,000 runners took part in the Gate River Run and The Florida Times-Union 5K for Charity, the Junior River Run and the Brooks Rehabilitation Challenge Mile races. Flanagan, from Portland, Ore., a bronze medalist at the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing, was the first across the finish line with a time of 46:59, and setting a new women’s 15K record. First across the finish line for the men was defending Gate River Run champion Ben True, 28 finishing just after the 43-minute mark. It was the third time True has taken the title in the Gate River Run. (AP Photo/The Florida Times-Union, Bob Self)

AP

The most anticipated U.S. marathon in recent history has put more attention on one elite runner than any other.

That would be the woman with the 16th fastest personal best in the elite field of 21. Shalane Flanagan‘s story must be about more than hours, minutes and seconds, and it is, just as is this year’s Boston Marathon.

She was born in Boulder, Colo., but grew up in Marblehead, Mass., 16 miles northeast of Boston. Her personal connection to this race is well documented.

“I’ve never felt my running take on a more personal meaning than it will to prepare for this year’s race,” Flanagan said. “It’s hard to express what it means to return this particular year to the place where I grew up and compete. In one word, I guess it would be ‘pride.’”

Flanagan is one of the U.S.’ greatest all-time distance runners. She is the only American woman to win an Olympic medal on the track in a distance greater than 400m since 1992 (10,000m bronze in Beijing 2008).

Only 1984 Olympic marathon champion Joan Benoit Samuelson and 2004 Olympic marathon bronze medalist Deena Kastor are higher than Flanagan among Americans on the IAAF’s all-time list (which doesn’t count Boston times due to its point-to-point, downhill course).

Flanagan finished fourth in her Boston Marathon debut last year. Come Monday, she is not favored to be the first American victor since 1985, but her objective is clear.

“It’s my ultimate dream and goal to win the Boston Marathon,” Flanagan said on “60 Minutes.” “I am all in.”

The field includes three women who have Boston Marathon titles -- Kenyans Rita Jeptoo (2006, 2013), Sharon Cherop (2012) and Caroline Kilel (2011).

Jeptoo, 33, has a fantastic chance to win her third title. She went seven years between major marathon victories from 2006 to 2013 but claimed not only Boston but also Chicago (in a personal best time) last year. She was the fastest women’s marathoner in 2013.

She could be challenged hardest by top Ethiopian hope Mare Dibaba, whose only World Marathon Major experience was taking 23rd at the 2012 Olympics. But Dibaba, 24, has the fastest personal best in the field, 5 seconds better than Jeptoo. She was 8 seconds slower than Jeptoo at a half marathon on Valentine’s Day.

Several more Kenyans are in the hunt. Also, don’t forget about Desiree Linden, who set the American course record for Boston in 2011, when she finished two seconds behind the winner.

Men’s Preview: Two-man race? | TV, race schedules

Full women’s elite field:

NamePersonal Best TimeCountry
Mare Dibaba2:19:52 (Dubai, 2012)Ethiopia
Rita Jeptoo2:19:57 (Chicago, 2013)Kenya
Jemima Jelagat Sumgong2:20:48 (Chicago, 2013)Kenya
Meselech Melkamu2:21:01 (Frankfurt) CRKenya
Eunice Kirwa2:21:41 (Amsterdam, 2012)Kenya
Sharon Cherop2:22:28 (Berlin, 2013)Kenya
Caroline Kilel2:22:34 (Frankfurt, 2013)Kenya
Desiree Linden2:22:38 (Boston, 2011)U.S.
Flomena Chepchichir2:23:00 (Frankfurt, 2013)Kenya
Buzunesh Deba2:23:19 (New York, 2011)Ethiopia
Tatiana Petrova Arkhipova2:23:29 (London, 2012)Russia
Aleksandra Duliba2:23:44 (Chicago, 2013)Belarus
Yeshi Esayias2:24:06 (Frankfurt, 2013)Ethiopia
Philes Ongori2:24:20 (Rotterdam, 2011)Kenya
Belaynesh Oljira2:25:01 (Dubai, 2013)Ethiopia
Shalane Flanagan2:25:38 (Houston, 2012)U.S.
Lanni Marchant2:28:00 (Toronto, 2013)Canada
Serena Burla2:28:01 (Amsterdam, 2013)U.S.
Noriko Higuchi2:28:49 (Tokyo, 2011)Japan
Adriana Nelson2:28:52 (London, 2008)U.S.
Adriana Aparecida da Silva2:29:17 (Tokyo, 2012)Brazil

Four-time Olympic medalist returns to run Boston Marathon again

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