U.S. runners try to break through in Boston Marathon

A dozen runners from SE Alaska in race

Posted: Monday, April 21, 2003

BOSTON - The 107th edition of the nation's most famous footrace starts at 8 a.m. today (ADT) as prelude, one suspects, to another occasion of two recurring Boston Marathon themes.

One is the dominance of runners from Kenya, which has produced 11 of the last 12 men's winners and the last three women's winners.

The other is the repeated failure of Americans, who have not won a men's title since Greg Meyer finished first in 1983 or a women's crown since Lisa Larsen-Weidenbach triumphed in 1985.

Kenya's 10-race men's winning streak was ended in 2001 by South Korea's Lee Bong-Ju, who covered the 26.2-mile course in 2 hours, 9 minutes, 43 seconds.

But the Kenyans came back with a vengeance last year, when Rodgers Rop won the race in 2:09:02, leading a contingent of his countrymen who picked off second, third, fourth, sixth, seventh, 11th, 12th and 14th places.

No American runner has finished in the top five at Boston since 1987, and it is a virtual cinch that none will do so today in the men's race. Foreign entries also look like the class of the women's field, but Marla Runyan of Eugene, Ore., could break into the top 10.

A dozen Southeast Alaska residents are among the 46 Alaskans entered in today's race. This year's field was capped at 20,000 runners, and 20,233 are listed on the prerace registration list.

Running from Juneau are John Bursell, age 39-male, Amy Carroll, 35-female, George Johnson, 24-M, Kim Rivera, 43-F, Tracy Rivera, 36-M, and Deborah Rudis, 49-F. Entered from Douglas are Suzanne Hebert, 33-F, Kenneth Maas, 44-M, and Christian Wilkens, 27-M. James Thomson of Auke Bay, 56-M, is also running. Rounding out the list of Southeast runners are two from Thorne Bay - Aaron Prussian, 31-M, and Katherine Prussian, 32-F.

Apart from Khalid Khannouchi, the Moroccan-born world-record holder who became a U.S. citizen three years ago, no American ranks in the top 100 on the men's world list, and none has run faster than 2:09 in nine years.

So much for those men who can't win Boston. Here is a list of those who can:

Rop, 26, returns after winning both Boston and New York last year and setting a personal best of 2:08:07 in New York. Only three other men have won both races in the same year. Rop won Boston by three seconds. He has never finished lower than third in any marathon.

Vincent Kipsos, 26, of Kenya brings the fastest personal best to Boston. He was timed in 2:06:52 at Berlin last year, finishing third. This will be his first go at Boston, on a course that can be rough on a rookie.

Benjamin Kosgei Kimutai, 32, is another Kenyan who will be making his Boston debut. He made his marathon debut in Amsterdam in October and won in 2:07:26.

Giacomo Leone, 32, of Italy has a personal best of 2:07:52 on a resume that includes a victory in New York in 1996 and a fifth-place finish in the 2000 Olympic Games.

Christopher Cheboiboch, 26, finished a close second to Rop, a countryman, both at Boston and New York. He ran a personal best of 2:08:17 in New York.

Pavel Loskutov, 33, a two-time Olympian for Estonia, has a personal best of 2:08:53, run at Paris last season. He won a silver medal in the European championships.

The women's lineup this year will not include Catherine Ndereba, a Kenyan who trains at Valley Forge National Historical Park. A Boston winner in 2000 and 2001 and a runner-up last year, she passed up Boston to run in London this month.

The leading contenders for the women's laurel wreath include:

Margaret Okayo, 26, is the diminutive Kenyan who ran away from Ndereba in the final mile last year. She was timed in 2:20:43, breaking the course record by more than a minute.

Svetlana Zakharova, 32, has placed in the top three in at least 13 marathons since 1996. She lowered her personal best to 2:21:31 at Chicago last fall, finishing fourth. She holds the Russian national record.

Joyce Chepchumba, 32, of Kenya won the bronze medal in the 2000 Olympics. She is the reigning champion of the New York City Marathon and has won at Tokyo and London, where she ran her personal best of 2:23:22 in 1999.

Elana Meyer, 36, of the United States has run Boston four times. She finished third in 1994, when she set a personal and national record of 2:25:15.

Marla Runyan, 34, who is legally blind, is better known as a U.S. champion in track at 5,000 and 10,000 meters. She made her marathon debut last fall at New York, where she finished fourth as the top American in 2:27:10.

The first 15 finishers in both the men's and women's open-division races in Boston will earn prize money, with $80,000 going to each individual champion.

A winner who beats the world best (2:05:42 for men, 2:15:25 for women) will get a $50,000 bonus. The bonus for a course record is $25,000.

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