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For many entrants, it was a road to ruin

Yesterday's weather may not have been as oppressive as the 1976 "Run for the Hoses," when more than 40 percent of the 1,942 starters dropped out, but it produced its share of what marathon buffs call "road kill."

More than 1,000 entrants required medical attention during or after the race, according to race officials, including more than 140 who were taken to local hospitals. Race officials said two runners, whom they would not identify, went into cardiac arrest but were said to be out of danger, and that one man broke his leg while crossing the finish line.

Given the temperature, which was in the 80s throughout, the percentage of finishers was quite high -- more than 93 percent of the 18,002 starters had finished by the cutoff time of 6 hours 20 minutes 12 seconds (extended by 20 minutes). The usual percentage, officials said, is around 97.

Nearly 2,000 entrants never picked up their bibs and another 400 failed to start. The original figure of 20,404 was the second-highest in race history, trailing only the 38,708 who entered the 100th race in 1996.

Reduced to footnotes

Most prominent among the DNFs were the last two champions. Defender Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot dropped out in the Newton hills, where he broke open the race last year. Rodgers Rop stopped on the Brookline flats. Also pulling out, before the midway point, was France's Mohamed Ouaadi, who had the second-fastest seed time (2:07:55) among the men. The conditions produced an intriguing mix of top-10 finishers, including two masters (40 and over) in Kenya's Joshua Kipkemboi (seventh) and Russia's Fedor Ryzhov (ninth) and the first Australian (Andrew Letherby, eighth) since Steve Moneghetti was 10th in 1996. It was Ryzhov's third top-10 finish in the last four years . . . A transportation glitch in the morning kept dozens of anxious marathoners, all of them among the top fifth of the field, waiting at Boston Common for nearly two hours for buses to Hopkinton. "When the buses came, people were climbing through the windows," said runner Andy Crabb, who said he made it to the starting line just a few minutes before the noontime gun. "People were taking taxis out there." Race officials said that after the scheduled vehicles didn't appear, five MBTA buses were rustled up shortly after 10 a.m. and that the runners were dropped off at Hopkinton by 11:45. "The organizers promised to get people to the starting line," said Crabb. "Maybe they did. But the runners didn't have time to warm up. I thought it was a disgrace."

Pain before gain

Despite the heat, which produced the slowest men's winning time in 13 years, Catherine Ndereba beat last year's top women's time (2:25:20 by Svetlana Zakharova) by 53 seconds. Her 2:24:27 was the 11th-fastest women's time here. Not that Ndereba didn't pay a heavy price, dropping to her knees from cramps at the finish line. "I could not withstand them," said Catherine the Great. The time by runner-up Elfenesh Alemu (2:24:43) was the 14th fastest. Her finish was the best by an Ethiopian woman since Fatuma Roba won her third straight title in 1999 . . . The top American man, in 13th, was Chris Zieman, a 32-year-old mechanical engineer from Felton, Calif., who was running Boston for the fourth time. "I didn't know I was first until the finish line when somebody said, `Hey, you're the first American,' " said Zieman, whose 2:25:45 was the slowest time by the top domestic runner since 1962, when Alexander Breckenridge finished third in 2:27:17. "I was happy it was over at that point." The first US woman, in 16th, was Julie Spencer, a 27-year-old from Baraboo, Wis., who ran 2:56:39 despite starting in the mass race instead of the elite women's field. It was the slowest time by the top American female since Jacqueline Hansen's victory (3:05:59) in 1973.

Another Kenyan coup

The daily double of Timothy Cherigat and Ndereba marked the third time in five years that Kenya has swept the men's and women's titles. Ndereba and Elijah Lagat won in 2000 and Rop and Margaret Okayo in 2002. Cherigat's victory also was a twin spin for Team New Balance. Evans Rutto, Cherigat's training partner in Kenya and Boulder, Colo., won the London Marathon Sunday . . . Yesterday's team titles were claimed by the Virginia-based Pacers (men's open), Greater Boston Track Club (women's open), Whirlaway Racing Team of Methuen (men's masters), and Forerunners Florida Track Club (women's masters). The Forerunners, who placed two women in the top 20 overall, beat GBTC by an hour (in 8:58:31), with the top three times counting . . . Yesterday's predicted 30-mile-per-hour tailwinds never materialized. The breeze never got above 5 m.p.h. and varied throughout . . . Hot as it was here, it was hotter in Kenya yesterday. The temperature in Garissa: 98 degrees.

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