|The 105th Running of the Boston Marathon - The Men's Race
by John Elliott
Boston, MA April 16, 2001 -
The Men's race at Boston was billed to be a race between three past winners Elijah Lagat (2000 champion), Joseph Chebet (1999) and Moses Tanui (1996,1998). Rounding out the list of favorites were the 2000 Olympics Gold Medalist and Boston 2000 runner-up, Gezahegne Abera, and 1996 Olympics Silver Medalist, Bong-Ju Lee. At the end of the race, however, only one of these men would end in the top 10 (and victorious) as the grueling Boston course took its toll on even the experienced.
The race began, as scheduled and quickly three men broke out to form a lead pack. Two teammates from South Africa, Makhosonke Fika (a 2:10:39 PR) and Simon Mpholo (no previous marathon time) looked to push the pace, while the third, Bashir Hussein from Great Britan (2:22:00 PR), was most likely looking for some TV face time... By 5K, this group had nearly 30 seconds on the following pack which held more than two dozen of the serious contenders.
Through 15K, Fika and Mpholo maintained the lead, keeping 20-25 seconds ahead of the rest of the field, but not widening the lead. Strange things were taking place for Fika, however, as he was unable to find his replacement drink at the Elite runners water station. At each station, Fika would look at the waiting bottles, not find his and move on. Finally at the 20K water station, Fika literally stopped running to pick up ever bottle on the table - still not finding his but losing 20 seconds from stopping. We can only speculate as to the effect of the building dehydration from running that speed with no fluids. Fika would be caught by the pack at that water station, would continue with the pack for another 10K and eventually finish in 9th place with a time of 2:14:13. Could he have placed if he had found his drinks???
The pack crosses 30K in 1:32:39, a conservative time. Just beginning to string out, the pack still consists of a dozen runners. Silvio Guerra (Ecuador, 2:09:49 PR) decides that the pace is too slow and begins to move away from the pack, bringing four other runners with him: Lee Bong-Ju (Korea, 2:09:43 PR), Joshua Chelang'a (Kenya, debut), David Kiptum Busienei (Kenya, 2:10:38 PR) and Laban Nkete (South Africa, 2:12:30 PR). Into the Newton Hills, this group increases their lead, with Nkete, not quite of the same caliber as the others, falling off. The remaining four will continue on to take the first four places, but in what order?
Through the 35K mark, Lee Bong-Ju begins to take control, running with a look of determination on his face, pulling Chelang'a and Guerra along. Kiptum Busienei looks like he is tiring and begins to lose ground on the pack, but he will hang on for fourth place. The remaining runners are stringing out, with five runners between the lead group of three and another group that is hanging together more than a minute behind. American Rod DeHaven stands in tenth place and looks to be working to be the first American finisher.
By 35K, the outcome is virtually written. Nearly all of the top 10 runners are within the top 10 positions, with the notable exception that Gezahegne Abera (2000 Olympics Gold Medalist and 2000 Boston runner-up, 2:07:54 PR) is running in sixth place at 35K, 29 seconds behind the leader. Given his experience and speed, we expect that he may be able to move up to take a top-three position, but he is tiring and the infamous "Heartbreak Hill" has taken it out of him. Abera will lose an additional 7 minutes in the final 10K to finish a disappointing 16th, nearly 7-1/2 minutes behind the leader.
Over the final 10K, Bong-Ju Lee widens his lead with each step, winning in 2:09:43. He is never challenged once he moves away from Guerra. Guerra, still strong, arrives across the finish line in second place in a time of 2:10:07. Joshua Chelang'a completes his first marathon in 2:10:29, comfortably earning third place more than a minute ahead of David Kiptum Busieni (2:11:47). Mbarek Hussein (2:10:45 PR, but probably best known as brother of three-time Boston champion Ibrahim Hussein) quietly arrives in fifth place in 2:12:01. A shining star for America, Rod DeHaven crosses the finish line in sixth place, surprising many by beating the leaders and setting a PR on a day in which so many great runners had disappointing results. DeHaven finished in 2:12:41, three seconds ahead of Laban Nkete (2:12:44).
Bong-Ju Lee becomes the first Korean to win the Boston Marathon since 1950 when the Korean contingent took the first three places. His time of 2:10:07 ties him for the 36th fastest time recorded in Boston - tying him with Kim Jae-Ryong, also of Korea, who was the 2nd place finisher in 1993. Coming after a disappointing, 24th place finish at the Sydney Olympics, Bong-Ju Lee's victory against the winner of that race was especially satisfying. Bong-Ju Lee's other perfomances in 2000 included two second place finishes, Tokyo (2:07:20 and a new national record) and a 2:09:04 in December's Fukuoka Marathon. His only other appearance at Boston resulted in an 11th place finish in a 2:09:57 time in year where eleven men finished under 2:10!
Silvio Guerra's second place finish recalls his 1999 Boston Marathon. In that race, Guerra finished second in a time of 2:10:19. In 1999, as in 2001, Guerra chose to pick up the pace and move away from the pack around the 30K mark, although in 1999 he had no followers - but Joseph Chebet,