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2009 Boston Marathon - Ones to Watch
While this Ethiopian talent is still a newcomer to the marathon distance, Deribe Merga's potential has yet to be seen. He debuted at the 2006 Boston Marathon and failed to finish the race. Merga returned to marathoning the following year finishing tenth at the 2007 Paris Marathon in 2:13:33. Months later, he made drastic improvements with a second place finish of 2:06:50 at the 2007 Fukuoka Marathon, finishing ten seconds after Half Marathon World Record Holder Sammy Wanjiru.
Merga challenged himself with the high caliber field of the 2008 London Marathon and the result was a sixth place personal best finish in 2:06:38. But it was at the 2008 Olympics Games Men's Marathon when Merga garnered attention. With the lead pack running at a blistering speed in the heat of Beijing, Merga held strong while others struggled to hold the pace. Although on course for a bronze medal, Merga lacked a final kick and as a result fellow countryman Tsegaye Kebede passed him in the final hundred meters of the race.
Yet, in the shape of his life following the Olympics, Merga had a personal best half marathon victory in 59:15 in New Delhi. For 2009, this Ethiopian is off to a great start, winning the Houston Marathon in 2:07:52 and setting several personal bests at the 5K, 10K and 15K marks at the 2009 RAK Half Marathon where he also set a 15 kilometer world record in 41:29. However, he faded to a third place finish in 59:18. With three sub 2:08 finishes from the past two years, Merga is a strong contender. If he works on race strategy and retains some speed for a final kick, he can break veteran champion Robert Kipkoech Cheriuyot's winning streak despite a lack of experience on the Boston Marathon course.
Daniel Rono has had a quiet 2009; however, his win at the 2008 Rotterdam Marathon where he set a PR of 2:06:58 gives him the fourth-best PR amongst the men's field at Boston. His third-place finish in New York in 2008 is not to be ignored either as he was up against tough competitors, including former world record holder Paul Tergat and the seasoned Hendrick Ramaala.
Rono won the 2006 Toronto Waterfront Marathon and was Runner-up in 2007, a year in which he also placed third at Paris. By no means out of the race, Rono will have to work hard to keep up with his fellow debutants or, for that matter, Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot.
Evans Kiprop Cheruiyot
After winning the 2008 Chicago Marathon in 2:06:25, Evans Kiprop Cheruiyot is not a household name yet. Under the tutelage of Dr. Gabriele Rosa, coach of top Kenyan distance runners Paul Tergat, Martin Lel, Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot and James Kwambai to name a few, Evans Cheruiyot has built a strong racing career on the half marathon distance.
Sixth on the World's fastest half marathon list, his resume boasts sixteen top three finishes in the distance of which there are five sub 60:00 finishes including a bronze medal from the 2007 World Half Marathon Championships in Udine. His debut in the marathon led to a victory in 2:09:14 at the 2007 Milan Marathon, a race where veteran Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot first got his start in 2002. Boston will be unfamiliar territory to Evans Cheruiyot; but with one of the fastest marathon finishes in the field, he could have an incredible race.
Lidiya Grigoryeva is a doyenne in an elite field of younger women making their Boston debuts. This veteran runner has won six different career marathons dating back to 1998. Her resume, punctuated by victories at the 2006 Los Angeles Marathon finishing in a personal best time of 2:25:10, the 2007 Boston Marathon in challenging wet Nor'easter conditions, and the 2008 Chicago Marathon, proves she can handle any course in any condition. Despite four young challengers with faster marathon finishes in the line-up, Grigoryeva has the experience and self-efficacy to pull of a repeat victory.
At 25, Bekele is a young runner with some good years still ahead of her. Her PR of 2:23:09 - which only earned her second place at the 2008 Dubai Marathon - is still good enough to put her at the top of the women's field. Her sole marathon win came at Dubai in 2009, though she has boasted good half marathon times in past years including wins at Rotterdam in 2005 and Lisbon in 2007. A seventh place finish at Chicago last year was uninspiring, but this petite runner could stand tall in Boston if she runs to her capabilities.
Timbilili was a young phenom, winning 10000m gold at the Kenyan Championship in 1999 at age 16. She continued on to the 10000m for Kenya in both the 2000 and 2004 Olympics, finishing tenth and fourteenth, respectively. In 2005, she earned silver at the IAAF World Cross Country Championship. At the half marathon distance, Timbilili placed second at the 2007 Philadelphia Distance Run and again at Lisbon in 2008. Most recently, she was runner-up behind Kara Goucher at the 2009 Lisbon Half Marathon showing that she still has some legs under her. Timbilili will have her work cut out for her the Boston course to prove that she has not burned out.