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2005 Report

BOSTON – The 109th edition of the BAA Boston Marathon was one for the record books. By Jim Gerweck, Running USA wire

Even before the starting gun sounded, 20,453 runners made it the second largest field since the record 38,708 who assembled in Hopkinton for the 100th running in 1996. And at the finish, Catherine Ndereba of Kenya became the only woman to win four Boston titles with her controlled 2:25:13, while Hailu Negussie became only the second Ethiopian male victor since Abebe Mekonnen first turned the trick in 1989. Alan Culpepper and Peter Gilmore placed fourth and 10th, followed by Ryan Shay in 11th, making it the best showing by American men in Boston since 1993 when Mark Plaatjes and Keith Brantly placed sixth and ninth respectively. Culpepper’s 2:13:39 fourth place was the highest U.S. placing since Dave Gordon was fourth in 1987 in almost the same time.

Hailu Negussie Boston 2005 WinnerBalmy temperatures of 70 degrees warmed the runners at the traditional noontime start, but it must have seemed like a winter’s chill after last year’s scorcher in the mid-80s.

“It was deceiving, because there was a breeze cooling us a little, but we were still depleting ourselves by sweating a lot,” said Culpepper of Lafayette, Colo.

Perhaps sensing this, both the men and the elite women, who started half an hour before the men for the second year in a row, set off at conservative paces. A group of more than two dozen men cruised along at over five minute per mile pace, while the women were similarly cautious, save Romanian Nuta Olaru and Ethiopia’s Elfenesh Alemu, who sped ahead to a lead of more than a minute by the halfway point. The presence in the pack of Ndereba and Timothy Cherigat, the defending champions, helped keep the pace slow, as everyone else was content to follow their example.

“My legs were feeling heavy at the start, and I did not want to push early,” said Ndereba.

By the halfway point, Ndereba, the 2004 Olympic Marathon silver medalist, started to feel better, and began cutting into the 1:20 gap to Olaru and Alemu, finally catching the latter just before the 20 mile mark. It was a mini-replay of last year, when the pair had dueled in the heat for much of the distance before Ndereba pulled away in the final mile. This time, matters were settled more quickly, as Alemu, fourth in last year’s Olympic Marathon, could only watch as the Kenyan opened a five meter gap that quickly grew to 10 times that distance in the space of two minutes as they came off the final hill.

“I guess she just fell off of my pace,” said Ndereba, 32, who moves into a tie with Bill Rodgers and Gerard Cote as four-time Boston winners. Clarence DeMar won seven times between 1911 and 1930. Alemu was second – nearly two minutes back – in 2:27:03

The final ascent past Boston College was also the decisive point in the men’s race, as it often is. Negussie, who succumbed to team tactics by the Kenyans to finish fifth here last year, was not going to allow that to happen again.

“I moved once, and then again, and the second time they could not respond,” said the new Boston champion who like Ndereba earned $100,000.

That was not surprising, given that his 22nd mile, coming off the hill, was a 4:30, and was followed by a 4:46 to cement matters.

Although Negussie ran almost six minutes faster than last year, overall it was not a day for fast times, even though the conditions were not significantly more challenging than the past several editions of the race. Negussie’s 2:11:45 was the slowest winning time since Toshihiko Seko’s 2:11:50 in 1987. Wilson Onsare of Kenya finished second in 2:12:21.

Michigan native Shay, 25, who clocked 2:18:17 after going through the halfway point with the pack in 1:06:32, noted that “my core temperature was really going up – I had a hard time keeping any fluids down the last 12 miles.”

Culpepper, 32, a two-time U.S. Olympian, also admitted to feeling fatigued the final four miles. “I was questioning how my legs were going to make it to the end,” he said. “The crowds were a huge factor in getting me through – they were so loud they made you take your mind off how you were feeling. This is a very special race, one of the greatest events in the world, right up there with the Olympics.”

When asked if their performances here, coupled with the strong showing and two medals by American marathoners in Athens, signified a return to competitive parity for this country, Culpepper said, “I think it’s the beginning of a positive direction for U.S. distance running. It’s been a long time coming, but we’ve got young talent coming up and veteran guys like us still representing us well.”

Does that mean an American male might return to the Boston victory stand for the first time since Greg Meyer was there in 1983? “This is a tough race to win,” stressed Culpepper. “Everything has to come together just right. It’s tough even for last year’s champion to repeat, but I think at least we’re getting closer.”

Results 2005

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