103rd BOSTON MARATHON
The men's fieldThe question is: Can Moses lead the way again?
The adage holds that there are horses for courses, and the Boston Marathon route that stretches over 26 miles 385 yards from the starting line at the Town Common in Hopkinton to the finish line by Boston Public Library in the Back Bay is no exception. From Clarence DeMar to Bill Rodgers to Cosmas Ndeti, certain runners have excelled over the distance.
DeMar won seven Bostons. Rodgers, who won four between 1975 and 1980 to become known as Boston Billy, will run the race again this year at age 51. Ndeti stepped in to win three consecutive races between 1993 and 1995 and threatened to become the first to win four straight before falling to third in 1996, beaten by Kenyan countryman Moses Tanui, who won again last year.
The Kenyan preeminence on the roads is reflected in the list of champions at Boston, the world's oldest continuing marathon. Starting with Ibrahim Hussein's memorable one-second victory over Juma Ikangaa of Tanzania in 1988, Kenyans have won nine of the last 11 races, including the past eight.
There was no more total domination of the race by the visitors from the African country than in '96, when Tanui was followed across the finish line by an almost uninterrupted parade of countrymen. In all, Kenyans claimed the first five spots, seven of the first eight, and enriched their nation's economy with Boston prize money.
Today, Tanui will seek to join the elite group of those who have three or more Boston victories. He has won two of the last three, a string broken by a fifth-place finish in 1997, when he was ailing with bronchitis.
The odds: 2-1
Moses Tanui, Kenya (No. 1) - He raced to the third-fastest time (2:07:34) in Boston history last year, sprinting away from countryman Joseph Chebet down Boylston Street to win by three seconds. In the process, Tanui led the fastest top-three finish (Chebet, 2:07:37; South African Gert Thys, 2:07:52) in the race's history. It was reminiscent of the race Tanui ran in the World Championships of Track & Field in Tokyo in 1991, when he shadowed countryman Richard Chelimo in the 10,000-meter race and went by him in the final strides to win. Tanui will be forever remembered as Boston's centennial champion and, at age 33, is still in top form. He was fifth in the Tokyo City Half Marathon on Jan. 15 in 1:01:47. He'd won the race in 1998 in 1:00:24 over a different course. He returned to the streets of Japan on March 14 and established a course record of 1:01:06 in winning the Kyoto City Half Marathon for the second year in a row, running 28 seconds faster than he did in his 1998 victory. He was fifth (2:09:42) in Chicago last year, and was runnerup to the incomparable cross-country great Paul Tergat by five seconds at the Mattoni Grand Prix exhibition in Prague in September. He's an accomplished cross-country runner, a World Championships gold medalist on the track, and a two-time Olympian, and his marathon record speaks for itself. He became the first person to break one hour in the half marathon when he ran 59:47 in Milan on March 4, 1993. He won the World Half Marathon Championship in 1995 and was runnerup in 1997. He trains in the Rift Valley in the village of Eldoret.
John Kagwe, Kenya (No. 3) - He was fifth in last year's Boston (2:08:51), and the quality of his recent performances is similar to Tanui's. He also has won the last two New Yorks, last year biding his time until he approached the finish line by the Tavern on the Green in Central Park before outkicking Chebet, who has the dubious distinction of losing both Boston and New York in the final mile. Kagwe won by three seconds in 2:08:45. He won by a more comfortable margin of 1:15 over Chebet the previous year despite having to stop on three occasions to tie his shoelaces. He also owns a fifth (2:11:42) in the 1995 New York race and a fourth (2:10:59) in 1996. He won the 1997 Prague International Marathon (2:09:07) and followed with a personal best of 1:01:18 in the Philadelphia Half Marathon. Two weeks prior to Boston last year, he was fifth at the Cherry Blossom 10-miler in Washington, D.C. Kagwe is a native of Miharati, Kenya, where he owns a farm, but he does a lot of his training on the trails of the Valley Forge Reservation near Norristown, Pa.
Joseph Chebet, Kenya (No. 2) - As pointed out above, his second-place finishes at both Boston and New York a year ago should be a motivating factor. He was there, he was merely outkicked. Actually, after winning his first two marathons, in Amsterdam in 1996 (2:10:58) and Turin in '97 (2:08:23), Chebet has been runnerup in his last three (he was also second to Kagwe in the 1997 New York race). The ledger also includes a victory in Luxembourg's Route du Vin Half Marathon in 1997 in 1:00:53. Even though he was beaten by Tanui's kick a year ago in Boston, he still ran a personal best of 2:07:37, which also stands as the fourth-fastest time over the course. After losing Boston and New York by three seconds each, how motivated is he to move up? The reports are that he started his training for Boston two months ahead of schedule.
Sammy Korir, Kenya (No. 5) - He has won Amsterdam the past two years, was third in the 1997 Rotterdam Marathon, and won his marathon debut in Florence in 1997. He also has a win in the 1998 Route du Vin Half Marathon in 1:00:15. He recently checked in with a 1:01:37 half marathon in Lisbon on March 21 to demonstrate his Boston fitness. Korir won Amsterdam on Nov. 1, 1998, in 2:08:12, edging countryman Simon Bor (2:08:47) in a race many figured would be between Spaniards Martin Fiz and Alberto Juzdado. Fiz was on a sub-2:08 pace through the halfway mark but missed his drink and dropped out after 1:45. Korir pulled away from Bor and set a course record.
Vanderlei Lima, Brazil (No. 6) - He ran a personal best of 2:08:31 and finished second a year ago in the Tokyo City Marathon - a race he'd won two years earlier in 2:08:38. He rounded off last season with a fifth in New York (2:10:42), and he could be on target to be the first Brazilian to win Boston. He is no novice to the distance. He won his first significant marathon in Reims in 1994 in 2:11:06, and he was seventh at Rotterdam and ninth at Berlin the following year and runnerup in the 1997 Dong-A Marathon in Gyongiu, South Korea, in 2:12:41. He was on the Brazilian Olympic team for the Atlanta Games three years ago (a disappointing 47th). There is an evident Brazilian marathon resurgence in terms of world elites led by world record-holder Ronaldo da Costa and former national record-holder Andre Ramos.
Masaki Oya, Japan (No. 9) - He holds the Japanese record for the half marathon: 1:01:40 in 1993. He ran a national record of 2:09:11 over the fast Rotterdam course two years ago, when he finished eighth in the race that annually goes head to head with Boston. There also was a third in Fukuoka in 1995 (2:09:33) and a 14th in London a year ago.
Jose Garcia, Spain (No. 8) - This runner's personal best was a 2:08:40 in the Tokyo International Marathon a year ago. After enjoying great success as a cross-country runner, he's moved up to the marathon distance. He made an impressive debut last year in London (2:09:30), finishing eighth.
Andres Espinosa, Mexico (No. 7) - He considers Boston his home turf, and his dream is to win here. Espinosa holds the second-fastest time over the course: His 2:07:19 brought him in just behind Cosmas Ndeti in 1994. Espinosa also took a third here (2:10:44) behind Ibrahim Hussein in 1992. He also knows the down side of Boston, having experienced disappointment in 1996 (13th, 2:13:03) and 1997 (15th, 2:16:19). He didn't race here a year ago. After finishing second in the 1991 (2:10:00) and 1992 (2:10:44) New York City Marathons, he won the 1993 race in 2:10:04. He also finished fifth there in 1996 in 2:11:39. He owns a third in Amsterdam in 1997 (2:10:33) and in the Dong-A Marathon in 1995, and was ninth later that summer at the World Championships. He won a half marathon Feb. 7 in Austin, Texas, in a course-record 1:01:16 and seems to be in form.
Franklin Tenorio, Ecuador (No. 14) - He has stepped to the forefront of Ecuadorian running, representing his country in the Atlanta Olympic Games. In his marathon debut last year, he finished third in Rome in 2:10:22. He had two impressive second-place finishes at shorter distances in 1997, in the Colorado Run and the Deseret News 10K. Last year, he was fifth in the Orange Classic 10K and eighth in the San Blas Half Marathon.
Peter Githuka, Kenya (No. 16) - He made his true marathon debut in New York last fall, finishing eighth in 2:11:20, after first appearing in the race the previous year as the early pacesetter before dropping out. His road race achievements are considerable, including 14 finishes in the top five in 1998 and 21 top-fives in 1997. Among his 1998 wins were the Philadelphia Distance Run Half Marathon (1:01:58), Syracuse's Festival of Races 5K (course-record 13:38), and Atlanta's Hilly US 10K Classic (29:07). He was also second in the Bobby Crim 10-miler in 46:21. He holds the world reccord for the 8k distance (22:03), which he set in the 1996 Crazy Eights 8K in Kingsport, Tenn.
Rod DeHaven, Madison, Wis. (No. 22) - He's the top American threat in a field that includes very few top US runners. He was 15th in a personal best (2:13:00) in the Chicago Marathon last fall, won the US Half Marathon Championship in Parkersburg, W.Va., in 1:03:42, and was fourth in the Gate River Run US Championship 15K race in Jacksonville in 44:20. DeHaven, 32, was fifth in his marathon debut at the Twin Cities Marathon in 1994 in 2:14:48.
This story ran on page D10 of the Boston Globe on 04/19/99.