|The Boston Marathon 2004 - Women
by John Elliott
We started our article about the 2003 Boston Marathon with these word: "The women's field at Boston is never as deep as the men's field - and the race will usually be won by one of a few women." The story was the same this year, as only two or three women could challenge for the 2003 title. Catherine Ndereba was the woman to beat - the previous world record holder and two-time Boston Marathon champion. Two or three women could run with Ndereba for some of the race and/or challenge for a top-three position: Jelena Pfokopcuka of Latvia, Elfenesh Alemu of Ethiopia, Olivera Jevtic of Serbia and Lyubov Denisova being notable.
For the first time in the history of the Boston Marathon, the women are running their own race, starting 29 minutes before the men. Thirty-four women started the race in this group early group.
The start of the race was relatively slow, and a large pack held together for the first few miles. Not until the ninth mile is the race taking shape.
9 mile (50:11): More than 30 seconds behind the pace of the previous year, it is Elfenesh Alemu who is leading the runners and ensuring that the pace is at least respectable. Catherine Ndereba looks happy to stay back from the lead and let Alemu do the work - and Ndereba is running four or five seconds behind. Olivera Jevtic has been running just behind Ndereba. The next runners are more than 50 seconds behind, so the race for the top three will be between these runners.
Through mile 15, the story remained the same: Alemu leading the race and setting the pace with Ndereba running four or five seconds behind, expending no extra energy and just watching the race unfold.
By mile 16 (1:27:50), Ndereba has moved up with Alemu and Jevtic is running behind. The race will be between Alemu and Ndereba. Both look strong, but both runners must know that if they are still together at mile 26, Ndereba can win this in the final sprint.
Through mile 25 (2:16:56), the race remains a contest between Alemu and Ndereba. Neither has tried to run away from the other in this heat. Alemu has held the lead for most of the race, but Ndereba has moved to the front on a few occasions. Ndereba had been biding her time, confident in the knowledge that she has the speed and experience to pull away at the finish.
And, as expected, Ndereba runs away... With one mile remaining Ndereba sprints and it almost looks like Alemu is standing still. In the final mile, Ndereba gains sixteen seconds on Alemu... She finishes and immediately collapses (she will be alright).
Catherine Ndereba wins her third Boston Marathon in 2:24:27. Elfenesh Alemu finishes second in 2:24:43 - this ties the closest women's finish in any Boston Marathon. The rest of the women straggle in, mintues separating them: Olivera Jevtic finishes third in 2:27:34, Jelene Prokopcuka finsihes fourth in 2:30:16 and Nuta Olaru is fifth in 2:30:44.
Despite the heat, this is the 7th fastest women's finish for the Boston Marathon - the presence of Catherine Ndereba and the strength of Elfenesh Alemu (who will be running against each other again in the Athens Olympics) created a fine result on a hot day.