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Kenyans sweep top 5 at Boston Marathon

Robert Cheruiyot leads the way, finishing in 2:10:11 to become the 12th Kenyan in 13 years to win.

©Associated Press
April 22, 2003

BOSTON -- His name sounds like chariot, and he certainly rolled through the streets from Hopkinton to Heartbreak Hill.

Robert Cheruiyot became the 12th Kenyan in 13 years to win the Boston Marathon on Monday, and his countrymen took the next four spots in the 107th running of the race.

With the top-three finishers running for the first time in Boston, Kenyans seem poised to keep their grasp on the race.

"I was well-prepared," said the 24-year-old Cheruiyot (pronounced cheh-REE-yot). "It is a marathon to make your name known in the world."

Russia's Svetlana Zakharova won the women's race to prevent a second straight Kenyan sweep. Marla Runyan, who is legally blind, was fifth -- the best finish for a U.S. runner since 1993. The men's and women's winners in the field of 20,260 each won $80,000.

Cheruiyot pulled away from Timothy Cherigat at the 22-mile mark, led by 16 seconds with 11/2 miles left and won by 23, finishing in 2 hours, 10 minutes, 11 seconds.

"I like the way people make encouragement along the way," Cheruiyot said. "They are happy about Africans and I like that very much."

Cheruiyot won his other marathon in December in Milan and primarily has competed in 10-kilometer (6.2-mile) races and half-marathons.

But he handled the longer distance well, though the temperature at the noon start was 70 degrees with a light wind. Benjamin Kimutai was second, Martin Lel third, Cherigat fourth and Christopher Cheboiboch fifth.

Eddy Hellebuyck, a native of Belgium who became a U.S. citizen in 1999, was the first American to finish, coming in 10th.

"It's disappointing," said Hellebuyck, who lives in New Mexico. "I'm representing the U.S. and I'm 42 years old. Where is everybody?"

The St. Petersburg Forerunners Club won the women's masters (40-and-older division), beating the defending champion Whirlaway Racing Team of Massachusetts. The women finished in a combined 9:14:18.

The Forerunners' top three were Lisa Valentine in 2:50:42, 17th overall among women and fourth in masters; Kim Donaldson in 3:11:43, 79th overall and 15th masters; and Mary Ann Protz in 3:11:54, 82nd and 17th.

Zakharova snapped Kenya's three-year winning streak as Russians took the top two women's spots and four of the top seven.

"It's a difficult course," said Zakharova, whose 2:25:20 beat runner-up Lyubov Denisova by 1:31. "Russian women like to go through certain difficulties. Maybe that's the reason."

Americans took three of the top-10 spots, including Runyan's fifth-place finish.

"I think it's a very proud day for Americans," said Milena Glusac of Fallbrook, Calif., who finished eighth at 2:37:32. Jill Gaitenby of Providence, R.I., was ninth at 2:38:19.

Runyan trailed a bicyclist who provided her with her times at the checkpoints and guided her to water bottles.

"My greatest difficulty today was really physical," said Runyan, who felt a stitch in her side between 16 and 17 miles. "I was changing my stride to alleviate that."

In the men's wheelchair competition, South African Ernst Van Dyk earned his third straight victory in 1:28:32. Krige Schabort, a South African who lives in Cedartown, Ga., was second in 1:30:07.

Around mile 11, Schabort struck a 7-year-old girl who was trying to cross the course. The girl was treated at Metro West Medical Center and released.

Christina Ripp of Savoy, Ill., who finished second last year, won the women's wheelchair race in 1:54:47.

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