Wesley Korir and Sharon Cherop will return to defend Boston Marathon titles

Pushing through 85-degree heat, Kenyans Wesley Korir and Sharon Cherop captured 2012 Boston Marathon titles. John Hancock Financial announced Tuesday Korir and Cherop will defend their titles in 2013.

“Winning the Boston Marathon was the biggest accomplishment of my life and the win placed me in a distinguished group of champions who are legendary,” Korir said in a release. “The entire world recognizes and respects the Boston Marathon, and I am proudly a Boston Marathon champion forever.”

Korir said after his Boston victory that he considers the world’s oldest marathon “an Olympic event.” The prestige of the event is certainly a major reason for Korir and Cherop returning. Also, it’s likely both elite marathoners want another chance to run fast on the storied 26.2-mile course. The heat prevented that during the 2012 race.

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On his way to the title, Korir followed a patient strategy. He approached Heartbreak Hill roughly 200 yards behind the leaders, then started moving into contention. He passed one heat-sapped runner after the next, taking the lead as he exited Kenmore Square. At that point, leg cramps slowed Korir and he fell to second. Singing religious songs and continuing to hydrate, he regained the lead over the final mile and finished in 2 hours, 12 minutes, and 40 seconds.

In addition to his Boston win, Korir’s marathon running résumé includes two Los Angeles titles and a runner-up finish in Chicago in 2011. In 2013, Korir, a permanent US resident of Louisville, said his primary goal will be a successful defense of his Boston title.

Cherop outkicked countrywoman Jemima Sumgong on the final stretch down Boylston Street, winning by two seconds in 2:31:50. It was the fifth straight year the women’s race was decided by three or fewer seconds.

“I will be in Boston to try to win again and perform at my best level,” said Cherop in a statement. “I know that there are some of the best athletes in the world competing in Boston in 2013, but I’ll be ready for the big race. The course is very hard because there are a lot of hills and you are running without pacers, but I like this course because it’s also making a natural selection among the athletes.”

Cherop will face tough competition from the three Americans who competed in the marathon at the London Olympics — Shalane Flanagan, Kara Goucher, and Desiree Davila. To her credit, Cherop also has won the Toronto and Hamburg marathons and earned bronze at the 2011 IAAF World Championships Marathon.