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John Hancock Financial Announces Top Male Contenders for 2008 Boston Marathon

BOSTON, MA, February 27, 2008—In its 23rd year as the principal sponsor of the Boston Marathon, John Hancock Financial announced their team of top male contenders for the 112th running of the race on April 21.

Three-time Boston Champion Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot is set to defend his title against 2007 Chicago Champion Patrick Ivuti, 2007 Boston Runner-up James Kwambai and 15 other top international athletes.

Cheruiyot, the course record holder and winner in 2003, 2006 and 2007, has added incentive to win as he will seek to become the first Kenyan to claim four Boston Marathon crowns. Cheruiyot also won Chicago in 2006, Milan in 2002 and was named the inaugural World Marathon Majors Series Champion last year.

Leading this year’s challenges is 2007 Chicago Marathon winner Patrick Ivuti of Kenya, who is determined to begin his own legacy on the Boston course. In one of the most exciting marathon finishes of all time, Ivuti won in Chicago last year by .05 of a second over two-time World Champion Jaouad Gharib of Morocco. He also bested Cheruiyot in the pair’s first head-to-head marathon, as Cheruiyot finished fourth after fading from the leaders in the oppressive heat.

A two-time World Cross Country silver medalist, Ivuti also competed in the 10,000m at the Sydney Olympics where he finished fourth, less than a second out of the medals. Ivuti excelled in his 2005 marathon debut turning in a fast 2:07:46 in Chicago. In 2007 he won the Prague Half Marathon in a course record 1:01:00 and in Rotterdam improved his personal best to 59:27.

John Hancock also announced the return of 2007 runner up James Kwambai, who showed his potential by challenging Cheruiyot until the final mile last year. Kwambai debuted in 2006, winning his first two marathons in Brescia and Beijing. With experience on the course now and respect for Cheruiyot’s racing strategy, Kwambai is determined to win this year.

“Since I was young, I have worked hard to be a good athlete, and I hope to be able to realize this dream by making a good result in the Boston Marathon,” he said.

Additional top contenders on the John Hancock Elite Team include last year’s third place finisher Stephen Kiogora of Kenya and Gashaw Asfaw of Ethiopia, the 2006 Paris winner and 2007 Paris and Mumbai runner up. Also at the start will be Abderrahime Bouramdane of Morocco, the 2007 runner up in Seoul and Ottawa and past winner of Tunis, Marrakesh and Ottawa, and William Kiplagat of Kenya, who was runner up in Lake Biwa in 2007 and past winner in Seoul and Rotterdam.

Other athletes of note include Shadrack Kiplagat of Kenya, a 2:07 marathoner, and Christopher Cheboiboch, a past Boston and New York City runner up and 2007 Las Vegas winner.

Young talent set for this world class race includes 21-year-old Yirefu Birhanu of Ethiopia, who won Baltimore in 2006 and finished third in Seoul in 2007, and 23-year-old James Mwangi Macharia of Kenya, who finished second in Vienna in 2007 in his marathon debut.

These top athletes will join the complete John Hancock Elite Team, which will be announced in March.