Robert K. Cheruiyot wins in Boston...again
[GALLO/GETTY]
Kenya's Robert Cheruiyot won his fourth Boston Marathon and Dire Tune outkicked Alevtina Biktimirova by 2 seconds in the closest finish in the history of the women's race.

Cheruiyot ran away from the pack to finish in a blistering 2 hours, 7 minutes, 46 seconds.

The Kenyan missed the course record he set two years ago by 32 seconds, but became the fourth man to win the world's oldest annual marathon four times.

After crossing the finish line, he dropped to his knees to kiss the ground before standing up and counting off his four victories with an upraised arm.

"This was the hardest,'' Cheruiyot said.

"Boston is not a very easy course, it's very difficult. (But) I enjoy running the hills.''

Cheruiyot and Tune, who finished in 2:25:25, each earned an enhanced prize of $150,000, the biggest in major marathon history.

Immediately behind Cheruiyot were two Moroccans, Abderrahime Bouramdane 1:18 back, and Khalid El Boumlili, in third another 1:31 back.

Cheruiyot's third straight victory gave Kenya its 15th men's title in 17 years; Kenyans also finished sixth through ninth. But Cheruiyot's countrymen struggled more than usual overall, with just the one man in the top five, the fewest since 1992, and one woman in the top 10.

Too lonely

Cheruiyot couldn't say whether the performance was related to the post-election violence back home, in which some of his country's top runners have been killed and threatened. Cheruiyot missed two months of training because of the unrest before his coach moved their camp to Namibia.

"My training has been going well despite the problems in Kenya,'' he said.

"When something happens, you have to forget and train.''

Cheruiyot pulled away from a pack of four at the base of the Newton Hills, running the 31st kilometer in 4:37 to finish Heartbreak Hill 27 seconds ahead of his Moroccan pursuers.

He passed defending women's champion Lidiya Grigoryeva of Russia, with the two No. 1 bibs running side-by-side, just before the 39-kilometre mark.

Cheruiyot remained on a record pace as he approached Kenmore Square before slowing over the 2 kilometres. His problem: No one to race with.

Although his course record remained intact, he still beat his winning time of 2:14:13 in last year's monsoon-like conditions.

"Myself, I tried to push,'' he said. "It's very difficult when you're running alone here in Boston. You need company.

"Last year, I wanted the race to be faster.''

Dire Tune out sprints Alevtina Biktimirova to
the finish line [GALLO/GETTY] 
Tune sprints home

Tune, who finished in 2:25:25, was the first Ethiopian woman to win since Fatuma Roba won three straight from 1997-99.

She ran side-by-side with Biktimirova into Kenmore Square, and appeared to give up an edge when she nearly missed one of the final turns.

Tune quickly composed herself and took the lead before the last turn, but Biktimirova caught her and regained the lead briefly.

Tune pulled ahead for the good on Boylston Street in the last few city blocks and beat the Russian to the line.

"I was fighting until the end,'' Biktimirova said. "And in the end I just didn't have enough speed.''

The previous closest women's finish came two years ago, when Rita Jeptoo beat Jelena Prokopcuka by 10 seconds. Jeptoo finished third this year, 69 second behind Tune.

More than 25,000 runners left Hopkinton under cloudy but calm skies and temperatures in the 50s (10s C), a major improvement over last year's monsoon that threatened to scuttle the race.

Celebrity runners

Among those in the event's second-largest field: Cyclist Lance Armstrong and astronaut Sunita Williams, who ran a simulated Boston Marathon last year while in orbit on the International Space Station.

Armstrong won the Tour de France seven times on the strength of his work in the mountains. When he started preparing for Boston, his third marathon, some race veterans told him the hills weren't as difficult as their reputation made them out to be.

"They were wrong,'' said Armstrong, who finished 496th in 2:50:58.

"They are harder, and they do come at a difficult time in the race.''

Before the race, Spyros Zagaris, mayor of Marathon, Greece, presented Hopkinton with a replica of a cup that was given to the winner of the first modern Olympic marathon in Athens in 1896. He vowed to build strong ties between his city and Hopkinton, both homes of the start of famous marathons.

Source: Agencies