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Learning on the run, Cheboror finds place

Cheboror learns on the go

He didn't know the course and its nuances. He wasn't sure where to make his move, or if it was even wise to attempt a move on such a hot day.

Robert Cheboror wasn't certain what to expect when he made his Boston Marathon debut in yesterday's 108th running.

"Because it was my first time and I didn't know the course, and it was my second marathon," Cheboror said, "I was a little afraid at the start."

At the finish, however, the 25-year-old Kenyan was all smiles.

A half-marathon specialist who has proven to be a quick study at the marathon distance, Cheboror submitted an impressive performance -- in oppressive heat -- by finishing second to Timothy Cherigat after covering the 26.2-mile trek from Hopkinton Green to Boylston Street in 2 hours 11 minutes 49 seconds.

If Cheboror had any nerves, they were settled by the 15-kilometer mark, when he nestled into the lead pack, content to let his fellow Kenyans help him navigate Boston's hilly course.

"Toward the end," said Cheboror, who surged to the lead briefly at the 18-mile mark in Newton, "I was seeing that we were running only with Cherigat and I was surprised and excited."

Rightfully so. In his second career attempt at the distance, he cut 43 seconds off his time at last fall's ING Amsterdam Marathon. He finished a minute and 12 seconds behind Cherigat (2:10:37).

Cheboror entered Amsterdam only as a pacer but was baptized a marathoner when he decided to test his legs and wound up ninth.

"When I got to 31 kilometers [at Amsterdam], I decided to finish the race because I felt good and I finished in ninth place," said Cheboror, who had placed second at the Berlin Half-Marathon and won the Bridge to Bridge Ten Mile in the Netherlands before running Amsterdam. "I went back to training in Kenya and my coach saw that I was training up and down in the hills and he said to me, `Boston can be good for you.' And so I accepted it and I told him I'd do it."

Cheboror, who wore bib No. 16, was glad he did.

"It was my first time on the course," he said, "and I was afraid to go forward alone because I didn't know the course."

Without any roadside assistance from OnStar or course directions from MapQuest, Cheboror resisted the urge to take any chances.

Afterward, though, Cheboror served notice that that would not likely be the case next year. He felt confident he could improve upon yesterday's result.

It would not be a stretch if he returned as a favorite. He doesn't have far to go after finishing second to Cherigat, who won his first Boston Marathon after finishing fourth a year ago.

"Finishing second is going to keep me focused for next year," Cheboror vowed. "I'm going to go home to prepare now and maybe next year I will do well because I will know the course."

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