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Boston Marathon 2009 - The Preview
Men's Race |
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Prize Money |
by Sharon Ekstrom
The 113th running of the Boston Marathon will be a highlight of the spring marathon season. 2008 was a banner year for marathoning with a flurry of personal racing bests from top runners worldwide, a new marathon world record (Haile Gebrselassie's 2:03:59 at the Berlin Marathon), and the Beijing Olympic Games - and now the running community looks to the 2009 Boston Marathon to showcase two of America's top marathoners, Ryan Hall and Kara Goucher, striving to win the men and women's races that have been dominated by international runners for over twenty years. The 2009 Boston Marathon will also see the return of both defending champions, Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot (KEN) and Dire Tune (ETH). Both will meet a strong field of contenders in this unparalleled competition.
The Men's Race
Attempting his fifth Boston Marathon win, Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot (KEN) has recovered from a thigh injury which forced him to miss the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games Marathon. With weeks to go, Kipkoech Cheruiyot is already focused on attempting a world record later this year at the 2009 World Championships in Berlin. If this Boston Marathon veteran is in the shape of his life, he could break his 2006 personal best and course record time of 2:07:14 with little effort. At the 2008 race, Kipkoech Cheruiyot ran under course record up to mile twenty-four before falling short of the mark by thirty-two seconds. What Kipkoech Cheruiyot may not be prepared for is the strong men's field that stands to be a threat.
Deribe Merga (ETH), Ryan Hall (USA), Evans Cheruiyot (KEN) and Daniel Rono (KEN) are the four men who stand to challenge the defending champion. All have sub-2:07 personal best finishes from 2008, trumping Kipkoech Cheruiyot's career fastest time. Merga is not a household name yet, but has made large strides in the last year: a 2:06:38 finish at the 2008 London Marathon; a fourth place finish at the Beijing Olympic Games marathon (having been edged out of a bronze medal in the last few hundred meters of the race); and his win of the 2009 Houston Marathon in January, setting the course record of 2:07:52.
Ryan Hall is back after a long recovery period, having admittedly overtrained for the Beijing Olympic Marathon, at which he placed tenth. Hall, who had the fastest American male debut ever with a 2:08:24 finish at the 2007 London Marathon, has been a stellar marathoner from the start. Hall's second career attempt at the marathon distance, his victory at the 2008 US Men's Olympic Trials - in a Trials record of 2:09:02 - was only the beginning. Hall's seventh place and fifth place finishes at the 2007 and 2008 London Marathons prove that he is one of the only Americans capable of competing with top African runners. Hall's first race since the Olympics was the Gasparilla Distance Classic 15K in February which earned him his first victory of 2009. Now he has set his sights on winning the Boston Marathon, a feat no American man has accomplished since Greg Meyer's 2:09:00 victory in 1983. The race has been dominated by international runners ever since, but 2009 could mark the year for change. Other Americans in the elite field are 2008 U.S. Beijing Men's Marathon Olympic team member Brian Sell, and up-and-coming U.S. distance runner Jason Lehmkuhle.
The last American to win the Boston Marathon was Greg Meyer in 1983 and prior to that was running legend Alberto Salazar in 1982 with a 2:08:52. Salazar is currently coaching American Kara Goucher who will be running her first Boston Marathon.
Other prominent runners in the elite field are Evans Cheruiyot (KEN) and Daniel Rono (KEN). Evans Cheruiyot, of no relation to Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot, is one of the all-time top ten fastest half marathoners, with five sub-sixty minute half marathon times and a resume boasting many top three finishes at almost every half marathon and marathon in his running career. Despite Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot's three wins of the Chicago Marathon, Evans Cheruiyot won the 2008 race in 2:06:25, almost a minute faster than Kipkoech Cheruiyot's personal best marathon finish. Also on the roster is Daniel Rono, who shaved over two minutes off his previous best marathon finish at the 2008 Rotterdam Marathon with a time of 2:06:58 and second place standing. He then topped off the year with a third place finish at the New York City Marathon. The third fastest marathoner on the elite roster, Rono will be tackling his second race in the United States.
Our dark horse picks for this race are also Kenyan - Benjamin Maiyo and Robert Kiprono Cheruiyot (no relation to Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot or Evans Cheruiyot). Maiyo challenged Kipkoech Cheruiyot in the 2006 edition of the Boston Marathon, but the tactical error of pushing the blistering pace of the lead pack at mile ten in his debut Boston race cost him the victory. He finished as runner-up over a minute off Kipkoech Cheruiyot. In the years since, Maiyo has not run a sub-2:09 race; but perhaps with past mistakes behind him, he will blow away this field. Meanwhile, Kiprono Cheruiyot's win of the 2008 Frankfurt Marathon in 2:07:21 brings him into the spotlight. This unknown without a racing resume, who debuted in the distance in his first trip out of Kenya, is also one of the youngest in the elite field at age twenty. With Jos Hermans as his manager, Kiprono Cheruiyot is bound to be a talented runner, but on the Boston course he may shine or be destroyed by this highly competitive field.
This exciting race will come down to who is strongest on the hills, and the men's elite field will surely give reigning champion and 2006/2007 World Marathon Major winner Kipkoech Cheruiyot a run for his money.
The Women's Race
The 2009 Boston Marathon's roster of top elite women is noticeably different: missing from the field are female finishers in second through eighth place from the 2008 race, a list that includes a number of high profile veterans. Among the absent are 2008 runner up Alevtina Biktimirova (RUS), who lost to Tune by two seconds; 2006 winner Rita Jeptoo (KEN); five-time Boston competitor and two time runner-up Jelena Prokopcuka (LAT); and five-time Boston competitor Bruna Genovese (ITA). Regardless, the 2009 running of the Boston Marathon promises to be a great event, with standouts including defending champion and youngest Boston Marathon winner Dire Tune (ETH), rising star Kara Goucher (USA), and Bezunesh Bekele (ETH).
At twenty-two, Dire Tune (ETH) had a strong 2008: a personal best victory in 2:24:40 at the Houston Marathon; a world record covering 18.517 kilometers in the One Hour Race at the IAAF Golden Spike international athletics contest; and her win in the 2008 Boston Marathon in a 2:25:25, edging out Alevtina Biktimirova by two seconds - the narrowest margin of victory in the history of the Boston women's race. Tune also completed four marathons in 2008 - Houston, Boston, Beijing Olympics and New York City - something most elite athletes would avoid. Her seventh place at the 2008 New York City Marathon could have been indicative of over-racing; yet, as 2009 began Tune started off strong with wins at the Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon (in a personal best time of 67:18) and a third place finish at the World's Best 10K in Puerto Rico in 31:55. Despite evidence of peak fitness, Tune will not go into Boston uncontested.
Kara Goucher (USA) will be right alongside the defending champion. With American marathon record holder Deena Kastor out of the spotlight, Goucher is on her way to becoming the top American distance runner. While many turned to the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials Women's Marathon competitors to find the next great marathoner, Goucher at thirty years of age was still focused on the track, having garnered attention at the U.S. Trials in Eugene and at the 2008 Beijing Games in both the 5,000 and 10,000 meter distances. Four months later, Goucher exploded onto the marathon scene. With running legend Alberto Salazar as her coach, it's no surprise that she set the USA women's debut record in 2:25:53 at the 2008 New York City Marathon, finishing third. Goucher entered the annals of the marathon world having taken on this high profile race in her debut and becoming the first American to podium in fourteen years, since Anne Marie Letko took third place in 1994 - a feat top American distance runner Deena Kastor never attained. Prior to the marathon, Goucher's longest road race was a victory in her half marathon debut at the esteemed Great North Run, where she beat half marathon and marathon world record-holder Paula Radcliffe by almost one minute to win in 1:06:57, the fastest half marathon time by an American woman.
Goucher began her career as a strong collegiate runner who qualified for the 2000 Olympic Trials in the 5,000 meter finals and finished eighth. She has continued to improve her performances on both the track and the road. So far in 2009, Goucher has raced to victory at all four track events she's enetered, ranging from one mile (4:33.19i) to 3,000 meters (8:46.65) - and achieving new personal bests in both distances. Goucher has her sights set on winning the Boston Marathon, something an American woman has not accomplished in twenty-three years, since Lisa Larsen-Weidenbach crossed the finish line in 1985 in a predominantly American field.
In this small elite women's field of the Boston Marathon, of which Goucher and Elva Dryer are the only Americans, Goucher remains one of the strongest competitors to rival defending champion Tune. Goucher's current racing resume is very similar to Tune's on paper, though in their last head-to-head 10,000 meter race, at the 2007 Osaka World Championships, Goucher lost to Tune; this Boston race seems bound to be a nail-biter.
Also in the field are Bezunesh Bekele (ETH) and Lidiya Grigoreyva (RUS). With a personal best of 2:23:09, Bekele is the fastest in the field and winner of the 2008 and 2009 Dubai Marathons. A dark horse in the lineup is marathon veteran Lidiya Grigoryeva (RUS). Her fastest marathon time of 2:25:10, from the 2006 Los Angeles Marathon, should not eclipse her wins of the 2008 Chicago Marathon and the 2007 Boston Marathon. Over the past thirty-seven years, as women officially received recognition at the Boston Marathon, several female champions ran to victory with sub-2:24 finishes. As of 2009 only three women have ever attained career personal bests in the sub-2:24 range; but sometimes speed is not what makes a great race, but rather the battle between contenders.
Prize money - Overall
Prize Money - Masters Division
World record bonus of $50,000 for men breaking Haile Gebrselassie's time of 2:03:59 from the 2008 Berlin Marathon and women breaking Paula Radcliffe's time of 2:15:25 from the 2003 London Marathon.
Course record bonus of $25,000 for men breaking Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot's time of 2:07:14 set at the 2006 race and women breaking Margaret Okayo's time of 2:20:43 set at the 2002 race.
There are also Masters world record bonuses of $10,000 for men breaking 2:08:46 set by Andres Espinoza at the 2003 Berlin Marathon and 2:26:51 set by Priscilla Welch at the 1987 London Marathon. Masters course record bonuses of $7,500 for men breaking 2:11:04 set by John Campbell in 1990 and 2:27:58 set by Firaya Sultanova-Zhdanova in 2002.
|Male Elite Athletes|
|Ryan Hall||USA||2:06:17, London, 2008|| History |
|Evans Cheruiyot||Kenya||2:06:25, Chicago, 2008|| History |
|Deribe Merga||Ethiopia||2:06:38, London, 2008|| History |
|Daniel Rono||Kenya||2:06:58, Rotterdam, 2008|| History |
|Benjamin Maiyo||Kenya||2:07:09, Chicago, 2005|| History |
|Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot||Kenya||2:07:14, Boston, 2006|| History |
|Robert Kiprono Cheruiyot||Kenya||2:07:21, Frankfurt, 2008|| History |
|Gudisa Shentema||Ethiopia||2:07:34, Paris, 2008|| History |
|Gashaw Asfaw||Ethiopia||2:08:03, Paris, 2006|| History |
|Stephen Kiogora||Kenya||2:08:24, Frankfurt, 2008|| History |
|Solomon Molla||Ethiopia||2:08:46, Seoul, 2008|| History |
|Timothy Cherigat||Kenya||2:09:34, San Sebastian, 2002|| History |
|Lee Troop||Australia||2:09:49. Otsu City, 2003|| History |
|Elijah Sang||Kenya||2:10:13, Frankfurt, 2007|| History |
|Tekeste Kebede||Ethiopia||2:10:36, Tempe 2009|| History |
|Brian Sell||USA||2:10:47, Chicago, 2006|| History |
|Grigoriy Andreev||Russia||2:11:01, Turin, 2008|| History |
|Jason Lehmkuhle||USA||2:12:54, New York City Trials, 2008|| History |
|Female Elite Athletes|
|Bezunesh Bekele||Ethiopia||2:23:09, Dubai, 2008|| History |
|Salina Kosgei||Kenya||2:23:22, Berlin, 2006|| History |
|Dire Tune||Ethiopia||2:24:40, Houston, 2008|| History |
|Helena Kirop||Kenya||2:25:01, Berlin, 2008|| History |
|Lidiya Grigoryeva||Russia||2:25:10, Los Angeles, 2006|| History |
|Atsede Habtamu||Ethiopia||2:25:17, Dubai, 2009|| History |
|Kara Goucher||USA||2:25:53, New York City, 2008|| History |
|Alice Timbilili||Kenya||2:26:45, Paris, 2008|| History |
|Adanech Zekiros||Ethiopia||2:27:32, Rotterdam, 2008|| History |
|Shuru Deriba||Ethiopia||2:28:26, Dubai, 2009|| History |
|Elva Dryer||USA||2:31:48, Chicago, 2006|| History |