|The 107th Running of the Boston Marathon - The Men's Race
by John Elliott
Boston, MA April 21, 2003 -
The Men's race at Boston was wide open, at least 10 runners, almost all of them Kenyan, had a chance to win or at least arrive in the top three. Last year's winner, Rodgers Rop, was our favorite coming into the race - he knew the course and had an outstanding run in his New York Marathon win last November. Christopher Cheboiboch who came in second to Rop in both last year's Boston and New York. Vincent Kipsos came to the race with the fastest PR, 2:06:52 in his third place finish at Berlin 2002. Thre Kenyans who debuted last year also were set to be featured in this race: Benjamin Kosgei Kimutai (1st at Amsterdam 2002 - 2:07:26), Robert Cheruiyot (1st at Milan 2002 - 2:08:52) and Martin Lel (3rd at Venice 2002 - 2:10:02). And, hoping to break the Kenyan stranglehold was Giacomo Leone whose personal best was achieved in 2001 - 2:07:52. There were other elites, any of whom could (and did) finish in the top 10 - but these were the main contenders.
The race began as scheduled, and almost immediately, Vincent Kipsos moves to the front and begins to pull away from the other runners. A pack of about 25 to 30 runners is following. Kipsos runs through the first mile in 4:53, second mile in 4:46, third mile in 4:55, fourth mile in 4:49.
4 miles: Vincent Kipsos runs through the four mile mark in 19:19, more than 20 seconds ahead of Cosmas Ndeti's time at the same point when he set the course record of 2:07:15 in 1994. The rest of the pack - about 25 runners is together and 60-70 meters behind, about 20 seconds back from the leader.
5 miles: Vincent Kipsos runs through the five mile mark in 24:35, a 5:04 split for this mile, and he is still more than 10 seconds ahead of Cosmas Ndeti's time at the same point when he set the course record in 1994. His lead is now up to perhaps 80 meters. Kipsos, who has the best PR of any participant in this event seems to want to run away with the race...
Miles 6/7/8: The race continues as it has, but Kipsos' lead is not increasing. The pack seems comfortable running as a group and no one else has broken away. The potential for a course record is still there as Kipsos passes the 8 mile mark in 39:24. The pack consists mostly of Kenyans, with just a few additions including Giacomo Leone (Italy), Silvio Guerra (Ecuador), Fedor Ryzhov (Russia) and Eddy Hellebuyck (USA). A report had come to us that Rodgers Rop dropped back from the pack and seemed in trouble, but by mile 8, Rop is running comfortably in the group.
9 miles: The pack has caught Kipsos and sixteen runners are running nearly together - but spread across the road, apparently the wind is not a factor, and no one feels the need to draft... Kipsos' time at 9 miles is 44:25. Giacomo Leone drops out at this point.
10 miles (49:28): Between 9 and 10 miles, Kipsos has moved away from the pack, but has again been caught by the pack. Rodgers Rop is now moving to the front of the pack, pushing the pace, looking strong - his experience in this race seems to be giving him the confidence to work.
12 miles (59:27): Over the last two miles, Kipsos surged again and ran away from the pack. The pace of the race is not as quick as it had seemed in the first few miles and perhaps Kipsos is feeling the pace is just too slow - at this point, the pace is slower than Ndeti's record run. The rest of the pack which consists of approximately 11 runners is now running about 20 seconds behind.
Half-Marathon (1:05:07): Kipsos continues to lead, now four seconds ahead of the pack, which has whittled down to 8 other runners, Robert Cheruiyot, Benjamin Kimutai, Timothy Cherigat, Martin Lel, David Kiptum Busienei, Rodgers Rop, Elly Rono and Laban Kipkemboi - it's an all Kenyan show!!! Just seconds behind the pack are Karl Rasmussen, Fedor Ryzhov and Eddy Hellebuyck, who is running a fantastic race as first American runner.
14 miles (1:09:33): Kipsos has dropped out... After the race Kipsos told the press that he felt that the weather was not great and that his half-marathon time was showing him that he would run a slow time, so he chose to drop out. Benjamin Kosgei Kimutai is just at the front of the pack, but Rop seems to be controlling the pack, which now consists of 11 runners.
18 miles (1:30:00): Rodgers Rop leads the race in a pack of nine. Rop is controlling the race, and it is down to six runners in the lead pack and they all look strong: Rop, Benjamin Kosgei Kimutai, Martin Lel, Robert Cheruiyot Timothy Cherigat and Christopher Cheboiboch - the race will likely belong to one of these men. Other runners are spread out at least twenty seconds behind this lead group. Eddy Hellebuyck is running in 10th position as first American and first masters runner.
21 miles (1:44:53): The marathon is down to four runners: Robert Cheruiyot and Timothy Cherigat are just ahead of Benjamin Kosgei Kimutai and Martin Lel - all running in a pack. Rodgers Rop has dropped back out of site - he has fallen out of the race.
22 miles (1:49:30): Robert Cheruiyot has just put in a 4:37 mile to run away from the pack. The other runners are at least 15 seconds behind with Benjamin Kosgei Kimutai a few seconds ahead of Cherigat and Lel.
24 miles (1:59:03): Robert Cheruiyot looks very strong and is running about 20 seconds ahead of Kimutai who has a strong grasp on second place. If nothing changes, these two will arrive across the line first and second. Timothy Cherigat and Martin Lel are running together about 30 seconds behind Kimutai. Cheboiboch is a minute behind this group and Rop has faded well back.
The Finish: Robert Cheruiyot wins the 107th Boston Marathon in a time of 2:10:11. Benjamin Kosgei Kimutai finishes second in 2:10:33. Martin Lel finishes in third place in 2:11:11 and Timothy Cherigat arrives in fourth place in 2:11:28. Other runners straggle in: Christopher Cheboiboch fifth in 2:12:45. Fedor Ryzhov passed Rop at 25 miles to finish in sixth place and as first Masters runner in 2:15:29. Rodgers Rop, last year's champion finishes in a disappointing 7th place in 2:16:14, holding onto that position ahead of David Kiptum Busienei who finished 2:16:16 and didn't appear to want to challenge Rop. Eddy Hellebuyck has finished as first american and second Master's runner in 2:17:18.
Nine of the top eleven finishers were Kenyan!
Following the race, Rodgers Rop told the press that his legs tightened up and his arms got heavy at 15 miles. He wasn't sure why - perhaps the hot weather, perhaps he was dehydrated.
Fedor Ryzhov commented that at his age (43) - you can never be too sure what will be your last marathon - so he was very glad to do as well as he did.
Eddy Hellebuyck was happy to be in the top 10, but had hoped to run a 2:14 to make the world championship team. Perhaps running the Crescent City Classic 10K in 31:01 on Saturday was not the best idea for Eddy...