U.S. sets pro squad for Boston Marathon

Track standout Amy Hastings will take to the roads in the 2014 Boston Marathon. Adrian Dennis/Getty Images

Shalane Flanagan will return to the Boston Marathon, and Dathan Ritzenhein will make his debut at the race this year, John Hancock, which organizes the pro fields for the race, has announced.

The strong U.S. squad for the April 21 marathon also includes Olympic marathoners Desiree Davila Linden and Meb Keflezighi, Olympic 10K runner Amy Hastings, and marathon stalwarts such as Serena Burla (2:28 personal record), Jason Hartmann (fourth place at the last two Bostons), Nick Arciniaga (2013 national marathon champion) and Brett Gotcher (fifth at 2012 Olympic Trials).

Flanagan, a native of nearby Marblehead, Mass., ran Boston for the first time last year, placing fourth in the race marred by twin bombings near the finish line that resulted in three fatalities (plus a fourth during the ensuing manhunt) and numerous injuries.

"It's hard to express what it means to return this particular year to the place where I grew up and compete," Flanagan said. "In one word, I guess it would be 'pride'. I and many in the field will be fueled by those who were affected by the tragedy and will be running for those who cannot."

Although it will be Ritzenhein's first race on the Boston course, he should be well prepared for the route's unique challenges. His coach, Alberto Salazar, won the race in 1982. Ritzenhein should also benefit in his buildup from the fact that Oregon Project teammate Mo Farah will make his marathon debut in London eight days before Boston.

Ritzenhein's most recent marathon was a disappointing fifth-place, 2:09:45 finish in Chicago in October, a race where he was trying to lower the 2:07:47 PR he'd set there the previous year.

Davila Linden will run Boston for the first time since 2011, when she was second with a personal best of 2:22:38, which is also the fastest time by an American woman on the course. Boston will mark the next step in Davila Linden's comeback from the femoral stress fracture that resulted in her not finishing the 2012 Olympic Marathon.

She placed fifth in 2:29:15 at the Berlin Marathon in September in her first marathon since the Olympics. Her fitness has continued to progress since then; she ran a 1:10:51 half-marathon in Japan last month.

Kelfezighi was slated to run last year's Boston but withdrew just before the race with a calf injury. Keflezighi ran 2:23:47 at November's New York City Marathon after struggling with injuries in his buildup for that race. He finished third at Boston in 2006 and fifth in 2010.

"I am training hard and smart to be healthy and fit enough to compete for a victory," Keflezighi said. "Let's visualize our goals in our months of training and race with a united purpose on April 21st."

Other Americans in the field will include Adriana Nelson, the top U.S. finisher at the 2013 New York City Marathon, and Jeffrey Eggleston, the top U.S. finisher at the 2013 world championships marathon.

Not included in the announced group were Kara Goucher and Ryan Hall.

Goucher was sixth in last year's marathon and placed third at Boston in 2009 and fifth in 2011. Goucher recently relocated to Boulder, Colo., and said her focus in the first part of 2014 is regaining her track speed. Hall ran Boston in 2009, 2010 and 2011, placing third in 2009 and fourth the other two times. He was scheduled to run last year but withdrew before the race with injury.

Last month it was announced that the marathon's 2013 winners, Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia and Rita Jeptoo of Kenya, will defend their titles.