The 101st Boston Marathon passed into the history books Monday, and even
though the numbers weren't in the neighborhood of the centennial celebration's, the spirit was the same over the 26 miles 385 yards between the village green in Hopkinton and the finish line by the Boston Public Library. The crowd lining the route always gives the race a special flavor. ``The BAA was determined that last year's spectacular extravaganza was not
going to be a once-in-a-lifetime kind of event,'' said BAA president Frank
Porter, who ran in the race for the 20th consecutive year. ``However, this was
not the product of luck. It was the result of hard work and planning by a team
of men and women who put on one of our country's best-organized and
best-loved sporting events.''
Tale of two countries unfolded
By Joe Burris, Globe Staff 4/22/97
With 4 miles to go, yesterday's 101st Boston Marathon had come down to a
race between two nations, Kenya and Mexico. Elite male runners from the former
had dominated the previous six races. Elite males from the latter were
considered most likely to end that winning streak.
Four miles. Seven runners. Five Kenyans, two Mexicans. And a bunch of mind
games that had begun much earlier. Side glances. Peeks over the shoulder.
Chatting among the Mexicans. Momentary surges from the pack by one or two
runners. Shoulder-to-shoulder contact as the pack jockeyed for position.
The two-nation battle was decided just shy of the Citgo sign in Kenmore
Square, with about a mile to go. Mexicans Dionicio Ceron and German Silva had
faded, along with Kenyans Moses Tanui (the defending champion), Gilbert Rutto,
and Jimmy Muindi. The race had come down to two runners and one nation: Lameck
Aguta and Joseph Kamau of Kenya.
The former pulled away with about 2 kilometers left, giving the Kenyans
their seventh consecutive Boston victory. Aguta won in 2 hours 10 minutes 34
seconds, beating Kamau by 12 seconds.
But even the Kenyans, whose plan is to set the pace as a group, then dash
to the finish after putting away the competition, conceded that the Mexicans
were a force to be reckoned with. Though Kenyans took four of the top six
places (and eight of the top 13), Mexicans were third and fourth.
``This year it was hard because most of the newspapers were talking about
Silva and Ceron and Moses Tanui,'' said Kamau, who set the pace through most
of the race. ``So it was a tough battle between us because we were watching
them and they were watching us.
``It was a race between two different countries, but we knew if it was a
smooth race the Mexicans would have won the race. If the race was rough, it
was going to be our time. So that's why I made the race as hard as I could.''
When the race began slowly and no one seemed willing to take command, Kamau
stepped forward, forcing the others to keep up with him.
``I could have stayed with the guys, but I had the fastest speed,'' said
Kamau. ``The problem was that I would be the first to be tired. So the thing I
wanted to do was to make it hard for the other guys to race.''
The Mexican runners tried to counter the Kenyan plan, reportedly meeting
before the race to discuss strategy.
``The plan was to stay together as a group, run like other races,'' said
Ceron, a three-time winner of the London Marathon who wound up third yesterday
(2:10:59). ``The difference between London and Boston is this race is tougher.
Most of the time it is downhill. I tried to go faster, but the other two
Africans did the same. I finished third and I'm happy with that.''
For Silva (fourth, 2:11:21), there were other problems, including an early
tumble after several runners went the wrong way on a concrete island, then cut
back into a pack.
``It didn't hurt so much when I fell but I did something to my hamstring
and all the time during the race I felt that,'' he said. ``I don't know how I
finished. My legs are just destroyed. This was one of the strongest and most
competitive races I have ever participated in.''
When the runners reached Heartbreak Hill, Silva and Ceron jumped out in
front and began talking to each other. But shortly after their conversation,
the Kenyans made their move. Kenyan Nelson Ndereva surged from the left side,
and when the group closed in on him, Kamau took the lead from the left.
``We were trying to help each other,'' said Aguta. ``The Mexicans were
talking to each other, but we were not. We knew what we could do.''
Moments later, Ndereva had faded; he would fade to 10th. Brazil's Andre
Ramos, who led momentarily at the 20-mile mark, also slipped from the pack,
leaving only Kenyans and Mexicans. Silva took the lead just before the
35-kilometer mark, and soon he and Ceron were neck and neck, followed by
Kamau, Aguta, and Tanui.
Aguta and Kamau overtook a fading Silva, and when they reached the Citgo
sign, Ceron had drifted, too. Tanui, who later said he had suffered from
bronchitis last week, also dropped back.
That left Aguta, who had finished fourth at Boston twice, and Kamau.
``In other years, I was always trying hard to win, but when we reached 35K,
I would get tired,'' said Aguta. ``Today, when we reached 35K, I felt good.''
So much so that with 1 1/2 kilometers left, Kamau realized he was running
for second place.
``That's when I saw it was too late for me,'' he said. ``I made a mistake
staying back, watching Ceron to come and pass me so I could follow him, but he
was back. I thought he was just near and I thought he would come back and I
would follow him but he was not there. That was a mistake thing. It's tough.
``I can't say that I was fully prepared for this race. Now, I'll probably
go back to running shorter distances.''