Sharon Cherop is part of the so-called elite field for the Boston Marathon. These runners, who will vie for the championship medals, hail from a dozen countries and numbered 46 as of March 3. Ms. Cherop, a Kenyan, won the women's race in 2012.
Last year in Boston, she placed third. In fact, she crossed the finish line so far ahead of the bombings that she was already back at her hotel and in the shower when she found out what happened. "I heard something on the TV outside of the bathroom," she says. "People were crying outside, and then we realized it was a bomb blast."
Her father, husband, and children had come all the way from Marakwet, her hometown in Kenya's Rift Valley, to cheer for her. "I thanked God we were all safe," Cherop says. "We just prayed ... for the families who lost relatives."
She says it was never a question whether she would return this year.
"Boston is like a home to me," she says. "It's really important for me even after that incident that I go to the same place, the same road."
The Boston Marathon has been an annual highlight for Cherop. In her 2011 debut, she took third, and for her 2012 win she posted a time of 2:31:50. Her third-place finish last year was 36 seconds behind the women's winner, fellow Kenyan Rita Jeptoo.
Cherop and Ms. Jeptoo will both be part of this year's field, which the BAA is calling the fastest ever assembled for the race.
Kenya is sending a powerful team. Six of the top 10 seeded women are from the East African nation, plus seven of the top 20 men.
As a veteran of the Boston race, Cherop says she's confident.
"I know there is a strong team this time around," she says. "But even last time it was strong. I trust myself. I trust my training."
Her goal, she says, is to reach the podium.
– Jason Patinkin, correspondent