The tall man with the beard out of the northern provinces of Italy kept the
six runners out of three central African nations squarely within sight as they
ran over the streets of Natick and Framingham yesterday, and as they headed
toward the dreaded Newton hills and their individual moments of reckoning.
Gelindo Bordin, of Milan and the training grounds of Pisa, was patient in
the 60-degree sunshine, convinced the relentless pace of the runners in front
of him by nearly 50 seconds would slow. When the resolute Juma Ikangaa of
Tanzania led the way through the half-marathon in 1:02:01, Bordin's rationale
still seemed sound.
Bordin executed the game plan he and coach Gigliotti Luciano drew up to
perfection for the 94th Boston Marathon. When he finally overhauled Ikangaa at
the crest of Heartbreak Hill to take a lead he would never surrender over the
final 6 miles, Bordin became the first Olympic gold medalist to win history's
oldest continuing marathon, and he did it in the second-fastest time (2:08:19)
run on the course.
A few minutes later, Rosa Mota of Portugal, who ran with a TAC/USA card
because of disputes with her national federation, became the second Olympic
gold medalist to win Boston, posting her third victory in this race in her
fourth-fastest time (2:25:23) and her 11th under 2:30. It was another wire-to-
wire gem to add to the Jan. 28 win in Osaka (2:27:47) on her 1990 calendar.
Bordin's was a brilliant and astonishing performance, and even though there
were traces of a tailwind puffing out of the southwest, Bordin ran a
controlled race to beat the cramped-up Ikangaa (2:09:52) by 1:33.
''If Gelindo ran today in Rotterdam where the world's three fastest times
have been recorded under normal conditions with a good pace, he would run
2:06:30,'' said Luciano.
Ikangaa would have to settle for his third straight runner-up placing in
Boston in the 15th-fastest time over the course. Ibrahim Hussein of Kenya, who
beat Ikangaa by one second in an enthralling duel two years ago, was knocked
out of the race when a hamstring tightened at 21 miles. Reigning champion
Abebe Mekonnen of Ethiopia, who broke away on the Newton hills a year ago to
win by 50 seconds, will run Rotterdam next Sunday.
The six Africans who set the blistering pace and stayed together through 11
miles in 51:38 included Kenyans Hussein and Olympic 10,000-meter bronze
medalist Kipkemboi Kimeli, Tanzanians Ikangaa and Simon Robert Naali and
Ethiopians Zeleke Metafaria and Tesfaye Tafa. Ikangaa and Tafa (11th, 2:14:29)
were the only ones to make it to the finish line on Boylston Street by the
Boston Public Library.
Ecuador's Rolando Vera (2:10:46), New Zealand's amazing 41-year-old John
Campbell (2:11:04) and course record-holder Rob de Castella of Australia
(2:11:28) picked up the pieces to round out the top five.
''It never ceases to amaze me the aggressiveness of the African runners,''
said de Castella. ''They either have a very short memory of previous marathons
or they don't hold the marathon in very high respect.
''As far as I'm concered, the marathon is always two halves. The first half
is the first 20 miles. The second half is the last 6 miles. We seem to lump
the Africans all in together, but they are very competitive amongst each other
up there in one group. They're very preoccupied about racing against each
other. It's a wonderful way to race. It makes for some exciting races. They
keep on going for as long as they can. I know they were running very fast,
because I'm running fast and they were out of my sight.''
Campbell added considerable luster to the afternoon when he broke
countryman Jack Foster's world master's record of 2:11:19 run in Christchurch
on Jan. 31, 1974, earning $13,000 for his fourth-place finish, $7,500 for his
masters win, $7,500 for a course record and $10,000 for the world record.
''When I got up this morning and saw how warm it was,'' said four-time
Boston winner Bill Rodgers (2:20:46, fifth masters, 31st overall), ''I said,
'No records.' It's an incredible performance.''
The record field of 9,362 started out from the Doughboy Statue on
Hopkinton's village green at noon, and it quickly became apparent the Africans
were going to go at it, as they passed through the downhill first mile in
''It was crazy,'' said Bordin. ''Especially in the first mile. It's all
downhill. My plan was to run 14:30 for 5 kilometers. They were 14:04.''
Naali, whose course-record 1:02:23 for the half-marathon set last year was
broken by Ikangaa's 1:02:01, kept surging into the lead and dropping back.
Attrition began to set in. Naali left the pack just before 11 miles (51:48) in
Natick Square. Metafaria dropped off 20 kilometers into the race (58:41), and
Tafa dropped off just before the 14th mile.
Ikangaa, the only man to break 2:09 six times and the winner of the New
York City Marathon last November, broke away and was 30 yards ahead of Hussein
and Kimeli. The diminutive Tanzanian army major had opened a 23-second lead as
he turned off Route 16 and onto Commonwealth Avenue by the Newton Fire Station
and prepared to head into the critical uphills of Newton.
He glanced over his shoulder, and Hussein and Kimeli were struggling.
*Bordin*was moving up, and having passed through the halfway mark in 1:02:45,
he began to work the hills and finished off Hussein.
''When he went by me,'' said Hussein, ''I tried to respond. I couldn't.''
It was a two-man race to the finish, and Bordin ran to a victory he ranks
second only to his Olympic gold medal.
''I was afraid I might not finish the race,'' said Ikangaa. ''I started to
feel the calf cramp. I knew there was somebody behind me, so I said, 'Be
''I felt confident at halfway if I didn't get hurt I could run 2:07 or
2:08. I saw a sign by Newton Wellesley Hospital, 19 miles that I was on 2:05
pace. I was considering 2:07. By the time Bordin caught up with me, I was
already feeling the pains in my calf.''
Bordin, who reportedly turned down a lucrative offer to run Boston a year
ago and passed it up because of lingering physical problems that followed his
Olympic gold medal race in Seoul, made a calculated decision 10 kilomters into
''I ran alone the whole race,'' he said. ''When you run in the back, you
can take your mind off your running and relax and push yourself at the finish
of the race.
''Africans run different ways. I decided at 10K, 'I must go now.' Normally,
I start at the half-marathon to try and catch the people. It's very long. I
decided, 'I must go now the way the race is going.' It was very hard. It was
like running cross-country. I had to start to do something.''
So Bordin, who had said he was concerned he'd have problems over the final
miles, put down the throttle and became the ninth runner from the European
continent and first from Italy to win Boston.
''I was in Boston to try to win this race,'' said Bordin. ''This week means
very, very much to me. This is the best in the world this year.''