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The end of the road

Race is over, but memories last

By yesterday morning, Copley Square was almost back to normal. Some of the tent hardware was still being taken down, and there was a stray thermal blanket on the sidewalk near the Westin Hotel. But for the most part, Monday's 109th running of the Boston Marathon was in the history books and in the memories of those who ran it and those who witnessed it.

Inside the Fairmont Copley Plaza, the champions of the open divisions and wheelchair divisions -- three of them repeat winners -- were still celebrating.

Catherine Ndereba of Kenya not only defended her title but became the first woman to win Boston four times.

Ndereba, who won the silver medal in the marathon at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, said she doesn't deserve any credit because she answers to a higher power.

"I compete because I'm representing the Lord's kingdom here on earth," said the deeply religious Ndereba, who took first in 2 hours 25 minutes 13 seconds. "With all the victories, that's why I keep on doing it. I'm not doing it for myself. I'm doing it for my creator."

Ndereba, 32, ran a very patient race, waiting to make her move on Elfenesh Alemu of Ethiopia, who was runner-up for the second straight year. At one point, Ndereba was 1:20 behind Alemu but wound up winning by 1:50.

Yesterday, Ndereba was accompanied by her daughter, Jane, who turns 8 May 12. In addition to religion, motherhood keeps Ndereba grounded.

"She has been a blessing in my life," she said.

Hailu Negussie of Ethiopia, who won the men's race in 2:11:45 -- 36 seconds in front of second-place finisher Wilson Onsare of Kenya -- was the only non-repeat champion. For much of the race, Negussie was surrounded by five Kenyans.

"I felt like I was running against a team -- that's how I felt running against all the Kenyans," said Negussie, through interpreter Elias Kebede. "I had a lot of thoughts about breaking away but I had to time it in a perfect moment. There were so many Kenyans that I thought if I broke at the wrong time, it would be wrong, so I hoped it would be the right time."

When he reached the hills of Newton, he turned it on and outran his rivals the rest of the way.

In the women's wheelchair race, Cheri Blauwet of Menlo Park, Calif., took the top prize in 1:47:45, which was slower than her finish of 1:39:53 last year, largely because of a strong headwind. She balances her athletic training with being a medical student.

"Coming into Boston this year, I was fortunate in that we had a little bit less of an intense class [load]," she said. "Heading into Athens last year, I didn't have classes in the summer, which was nice, and I deferred the fall quarter to compete in Athens and I'm going to make it up next fall. I think being a student-athlete is much, much easier than attempting to work and also be an athlete."

Ernst Van Dyk of South Africa won the men's wheelchair race for an unprecedented fifth consecutive time.

He said the workouts for wheelchair athletes are different than for runners.

"The training program for a wheelchair racer is something between that of a cyclist and runner," said Van Dyk, who crossed the finish line in 1:24:11. "It's somewhere in the middle." . . .
Statistically speaking, if you start Boston, chances are you'll finish it. A total of 18,319 runners started Monday's race and an impressive 95.8 percent (17,549) finished by 6 p.m., which was the cutoff time. Only 22 of the 6,977 women who began the race didn't finish by that time. All 50 states were represented, as well as the District of Columbia. Although Massachusetts had the most entrants (4,100), it had the lowest percentage of finishers (90.9). The second-highest state was California with 1,210 entrants, of which 1,171 (96.8 percent) finished. Of the 61 countries represented, not surprisingly the US had the most entrants who reside here (16,018), with 95.4 percent finishing. Canada had 1,562 residents running, with all but 10 of them finishing (99.4 percent). The oldest official finisher was 83-year-old Mike Fremont of Cincinnati. He ran the course in 5:41:09 overall but his net time (minus the wait to get to the starting line) was 5:21:50. He was also the oldest finisher last year. Race officials reported that 673 runners were treated in the finish-area medical tent, which is a little more than half of last year's number. . . .
Of all the races contested in the Marathon, the closest finish was in the TV ratings, where Channel 5 had won its competition with Channel 4 for at least the past five years. The final score for the 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. window: Channel 5 did a 4.0 rating (13 share) and Channel 4 a 3.9 rating (also a 13 share). "We won," was the cry at WCVB. "Statistical dead heat," was the retort at CBS4. Going to the judges' cards, Channel 5 retained the title, reaching 96,000 households to 94,000 for Channel 4.

Bill Griffith of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

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