Ndeti, Pippig run to repeat wins in Boston Marathon

April 18, 1995|By Jere Longman | Jere Longman,New York Times News Service

BOSTON -- They stood side by side -- Cosmas Ndeti of Kenya holding three fingers aloft, Uta Pippig of Germany holding two -- signifying their consecutive victories in the Boston Marathon, one having silenced a legion of doubters, the other having charmingly satisfied all expectations, both having combined to establish a first in the event.

It happens year after year. The experts predict that Ndeti will fail in Boston because he runs infrequently and unimpressively elsewhere. Yet, yesterday, in the 99th running, he became only the third man to win Boston three times in succession, joining Clarence DeMar (1922-24) and Bill Rodgers (1978-80) in this racing hat trick.

Ndeti, 25, broke fellow Kenyan Moses Tanui over the last four miles to win the 26.2-mile race in 2 hours, 9 minutes, 22 seconds. The time was well off the course record of 2:07.15 that Ndeti set last year, but the result was impressive for it was achieved in a crosswind that blew into the runners' faces over the final miles.

Tanui finished second in 2:10:22, and Luis Dos Santos of Brazil took third in 2:11:02, the only non-Kenyan to finish among the top five men.

First prize was worth $75,000 -- plus up to $150,000 in bonuses -- which should go toward a handsome birthday present for Ndeti's son, Gideon Boston, who carries the race's name and who celebrated his second birthday yesterday.

The boy was to have been in Boston, but could not obtain a travel visa on short notice. Ndeti said he hoped to bring him along next year for the 100th Boston Marathon, when he can become the first person to win four consecutive times.

Yesterday, Ndeti and Pippig became the first male and female winners to repeat in Boston. Pippig, 29, has completed medical school in Berlin and freed herself of the distraction of studying.

She took the lead at the start and won in 2:25:11, fighting off Elana Meyer of South Africa and Tegla Loroupe of Kenya, who are inexperienced at the marathon and got tangled at a water stop beyond 19 miles.

Meyer and Loroupe reeled in Pippig on this splendidly clear day, with temperatures in the low 50s, but they had expended considerable energy and could not hold on. Meyer fumbled another water bottle with four miles remaining then stopped momentarily as she developed a cramp in her thigh. She continued but had to settle for second in 2:26:51.

Loroupe, who was suffering from diarrhea, became dehydrated and finished ninth in 2:33:10.

"Uta raced well; she showed she's the best marathoner in the world," said Meyer, who finished third to Pippig in 1994.

Ndeti cannot yet be called the best in the world; in fact, there were many who predicted that he would not be the best in Boston. He runs few marathons and his training methods remain largely a mystery, apart from his work with cross country runners and the use of a 12-mile training loop outside his home in Machakos, Kenya.

It is there that he polishes the downhill running that pounds on the quadriceps muscles at the beginning and end of the Boston course.

"He relaxes his shoulders, and he has legs built like pistons -- big upper legs and no calves," said Ndeti's Boston-based agent, Mark Wetmore. "They are the perfect shock absorbers."

One of 37 children of a father who has three wives, Ndeti took three months off after last year's Boston victory. In October, he dropped out of the Chicago Marathon at 20 miles after developing a blister on his left instep.

Last month, he finished 49th in a half-marathon in Lisbon. Some questioned his training, which has been compared to cramming for exams. But apparently Ndeti, a born-again Christian, never questioned himself.

"I trusted myself and I know my God is able and I was going to win," Ndeti said.

Once again, he ran the second half of the course faster than the first, going out in 1:05 and coming back in just over 1:04. No other Boston champion has run a so-called "negative split" in the modern era.

Ndeti sat in a pack of 25 runners while Barnabas Rotich of Kenya held the lead for most of the first 16 miles. It was a moderate pace, and Ndeti held plenty in reserve. The pack winnowed, Ndeti took the lead by mile 18, and with Heartbreak Hill behind them, Ndeti and Tanui were left to decide the race between them in the final four miles.

Tanui is a former world champion at 10,000 meters. He has a stronger kick, but he has run few marathons and is not yet up to the distance. At least not with Ndeti, who pulled away to win by a minute.

"The marathon is different from 10,000 meters," Ndeti said. "I knew he couldn't keep up with me."

Nor could any of the women keep up with Pippig, who was running her first marathon since she took first at Boston in 1994 in 2:21:45, the third-fastest women's time.

Ndeti promised an encore in 1996.

"Next year, I trust I will be back and I'm going to win," he said.



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