Kenyans enjoy field day in Boston

Cheruiyot sets mark

Jeptoo first woman

Boston Marathon


BOSTON -- For the past 18 years, since Ibrahim Hussein's 1988 victory, Kenyans have dominated in the Boston Marathon.

Yesterday, they continued that tradition. Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot became the 15th Kenyan to win the 110th version of the 26.2-mile race and the fourth Kenyan to win it twice. On a chilly Patriots Day afternoon, he broke countryman Cosmas Ndeti's 12-year-old course record by a second, finishing in 2 hours, 7 minutes, 14 seconds. Six more Kenyans finished in the top 20.

That was no surprise.

The surprise: The Americans dominated the rest of the top 20, with 11 in the top 20 and five in the top 10, the most since 1985.

Olympic silver medalist Meb Keflezighi of Mammoth Lakes, Calif., came to Boston for the first time with one objective: to become the first American to win the race since 1983. He went for it, going out fast at the start with Kenyan Benjamin Maiyo and trying to hang on through the Newton hills.

He ended up finishing third in 2:09:56, three seconds off his personal best, behind runner-up Maiyo (2:08:21). Brian Sell of Rochester, Mich., was fourth (2:10:55), right behind Keflezighi and ahead of fifth-place Alan Culpepper (2:11:02) of Lafayette, Colo. Americans Peter Gilmore (seventh) of San Mateo, Calif., and Clint Verran (10th) of Rochester, Mich., rounded out the top 10.

"For those of us in it, we're probably not as surprised as some other people are," Culpepper said. "We've seen this coming for a while. This has been a work in progress for the last 5-6 years."

Rita Jeptoo, 25, of Kenya was the women's winner. She won her first marathon in the U.S. in 2:23:38, beating favored Jelena Prokopcuka of Latvia (second, 2:23:48) and Reiko Tosa of Japan (third, 2:24:11). Coming from Italy, where she had been training, Jeptoo had problems with her passport and didn't arrive in Boston until Saturday. She saw the course for the first time yesterday morning.

"At the last minute, I come here, and I feel very happy to come here and post my fastest time," Jeptoo said. "This is my fastest marathon in America, so I am happy so much and I won and this is my best time."

After the last two years, when the temperatures soared over 70 degrees, the weather finally cooperated on marathon day. It was 52 degrees and overcast at the start and slightly windy.

Cheruiyot, 27, who won Boston in 2003 in 2:10:11, ran his best time, beating his 2002 PR in Milan by almost two minutes. Yesterday, he won $100,000 plus $25,000 for the course record.

Even when the other runners pushed the pace at the start, Cheruiyot stuck with his game plan and kept the leaders in striking distance. He listened to his coach, Dr. Gabriele Rosa, and his friends and mentors, two-time Boston winner Moses Tanui and world-record holder Paul Tergat.

He was fourth much of the race, but caught up to Maiyo in the 18th mile in the Newton hills and took the lead going up Heartbreak Hill.

"At the first half, I didn't follow [the leaders] because I know the race is too fast," Cheruiyot said. "I see when I was at 40 kilometers, I think maybe I can run 2:06. Paul told me, `Don't run too fast, you need only to win.' Then I see that I can make it."

Nearing the finish line on Boylston Street, he saw the clock read 2:07.

"I said, `I can make it,' because I knew the course record was [2:07]:14 or 15," Cheruiyot said.

He did, just barely.

Culpepper ended up getting picked off on the turn onto Boylston Street by Sell.

"I thought I was clear," Culpepper said.

Said Sell: "It was the very last left turn. I was hoping it was a Kenyan up there."

Note -- Conrad Orloff (2:43:26) of Columbia and Douglas Marsh (2:46:31) of Annapolis were the top Baltimore-area finishers, ranking 202nd and 287th overall, respectively.

Lori Riley writes for The Hartford Courant.

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