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  103rd BOSTON MARATHON

Guerra got caught after attempting a getaway

By Allen Lessels, Globe Staff, 04/20/99

ilvio Guerra never knew what caught him.

Feeling strong and fit about 16 miles into yesterday's Boston Marathon, Guerra had made his move. He pulled away from a pack of runners and kept going. He put some distance between himself and the field. He led the race at 30 kilometers (18.64 miles) and 35 kilometers (21.74 miles).

And then came Joseph Chebet.

Guerra had a bit of a problem with blisters but was pretty much maintaining his pace. Still, he could do little about Chebet at that point.

''When I saw him at the finish line, he said he was feeling too good, very strong,'' said Luis Posso, Guerra's agent, in explaining Guerra's breaking away. ''He didn't slow down. Chebet sped up. He looked once and saw nobody.''

He saw nobody, and went for it.

''When I left, I just wanted to make a move and so I ran off,'' said Guerra. ''It was just a little move I did. When I saw nobody was there, I started to push hard.''

But soon Chebet came after Guerra hard, and blew by him just after the 22-mile mark. From there, Guerra, 30, held on to finish a solid second in 2:10:19 in his fourth marathon and first Boston.

A pair of up-and-coming South Africans out of Johannesburg - Frank Pooe, 25, in 2:11:37 and Abner Chipu, 27, in 2:12:46 - grabbed the third and fourth spots in their first attempts here.

There was little front-line drama at the finish: Chebet was 27 seconds in front of Guerra, Guerra was 78 seconds in front of Pooe, and Pooe was 69 seconds in front of Chipu.

Guerra provided the excitement midway through the marathon and was racing to win when he broke things open.

''The first half of the race was not too fast,'' Guerra said. ''That's why I decided to go out after 25 kilometers. I was feeling good. This is only my fourth marathon, so I'm still learning how to run a marathon.

''To win a race, you have to risk it,'' he said. ''I was feeling good and I took the risk. When you feel good, you have to go for it. If you can do it, good. If not, at least you tried.''

Guerra ran a 2:14:02 in his marathon debut in Tokyo in 1997, when he was paid to set the pace, said Posso. Later that year he put up a 2:09:49 in Chicago, and he had a 2:12:30 in Paris last year.

Guerra was looking to win yesterday.

''I didn't know how it would be in the end,'' Guerra said. ''But I was racing to win the race. I prepared myself training the last six months and the last couple of months in Boulder. I was ready for the race and to improve my time. I didn't do it, but I'm very proud of the second place.''

Guerra, Pooe, and Chipu established themselves even more as forces to be dealt with down the road.

Pooe, a late entrant who was racing outside South Africa for the first time, got his third-place finish in a different manner than Guerra came to second. Pooe was steady to Guerra's flashy.

Pooe first broke into the Top 10 at the 20-kilometer checkpoint, was up to fifth at 25 kilometers and third at 30 kilometers, then held on. He would have liked to finish even more strongly.

''To run well against the Kenyans, you have to be clever and save your energy to finish in a good position,'' Pooe said. ''The last miles, I wasn't feeling so good, so I dropped back on my pace. I was dehydrating. My finish wasn't so great, so I think I'll come back and do it the next time.''

Pooe came to Boston off his second straight South African national marathon championship in February. He won that race in 1998 in 2:13:09 and this year turned in a 2:12:40.

''This is quite an incredible achievement only two months after that race,'' said Alec Riddle, a South African who is the agent for Pooe's countryman, Chipu.

Chipu, too, had an impressive run in his third marathon. A year ago, he was working 12-hour days as a security guard. Last fall, he signed on with Riddle and in January entered Max Africa, a camp designed to develop the country's runners.

Riddle was hoping for a Top Three finish from his runner but will certainly take fourth.

Posso felt all along that Guerra could contend at the front of the pack.

''This morning I told him, `You are at the same level as everyone in the race and don't let them intimidate you,''' Posso said. ''I really believe he can run a 2:07. This gives him a lot of confidence. Now he believes he can run with these guys.''

This story ran on page F03 of the Boston Globe on 04/20/99.
© Copyright 1999 Globe Newspaper Company.

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