|The 106th Running of the Boston Marathon - The Men's Race
by John Elliott
Boston, MA April 15, 2002 -
The Men's race at Boston was wide open... Last year's winner, Lee Bong-Ju, was the popular favorite, especially with his upcoming wedding and his comment that a good performance at Boston would be a wonderful wedding present. But, there were any number of great runners who could win this race: Ben Kimondiu, the pacesetter in the 2001 Chicago Marathon who decided to stay on to win that prestigious race; twice runner-up Silvio Guerra - another crowd favorite; Joshua Chelang'a who finished third in this race last year in his debut marathon; Fred Kiprop who had the fastest PR going into the race, his 2:06:47 performance in Amsterdam in 1999; and a couple of younger brothers of past champions: Mbarak Hussein (brother of 1988/1991/1992 champion Ibrahim Hussein) and Elias Chebet (brother of 1999 champion Joseph Chebet). There were other elites, any of whom could (and did) finish in the top 10!
The race began, as scheduled and a huge lead pack ran away together - no one pushing the pace, no one wishing to risk a quick start with such a strong and deep field.
At the 5 mile mark (25:30), the lead pack consisted of 35 men - all still running together in a moderate pace, averaging 5:06 per mile. Elly Rono leads the group, but there is no real leader. All of the favorites are still in the lead pack and it's anyone's race.
At the 8 mile mark (40:16), the pace has picked up just slightly, but not enough to drop any of the leaders. Thirty-one runners are still in this pack, no one willing to make a move and everyone looking strong.
At 10 miles (50:07), the pack is down to 23 - still quite large. Makhosonke Fika is the first elite to drop out of the race. All of the other name runners remain in contention.
Mile 12 (59:57), the average pace has dropped to 5:00/mile, but the pack remains at 23 runners...
Mile 15 (1:14:38), the lead pack has 21 runners - this remains anyone's race - for now.
Finally, a runner makes a move... Rodgers Rop, apparently tired of the large pack, begins to move away. At this point two other runners move with Rop, Fred Kiprop and Joshua Chelang'a. This group moves through mile 16 in 1:18:54. The last mile was completed in 4:38 - clearly this group wants to move away. At this point their lead is only 5 or 6 seconds.
At mile 17, the secondary pack has caught the leaders (or have the leaders fallen back?). Twelve runners remain together or within a few seconds of the leaders. Rop remains at the front, but at least five others are even with him. It appears that the surge has not had its effect.
Another fast mile (4:44) between 18 and 19 has broken the pack again. And again it is Rodgers Rop who has initiated this move. Five runners remain at this point, Rodgers Rop, Christopher Choiboch, Joshua Chelang'a, Elias Chebet and Laban Nkete. Getachew Kebede holds on just behind this group, while Lee Bong-Ju and Silvio Guerra have fallen off the pace. Rop and company run through mile 19 in 1:33:59.
Mile 21 (1:43:48), the field has finally broken apart. Rodgers Rop is pulling further away with one other runner, Christopher Choiboch, holding on, about 3 seconds behind. The field is getting further spread out and no one is running together.
Mile 22 (1:48:24), Rop is picking up the pace, running through the last mile in 4:36. He looks strong and determined to win.
Mile 23 (1:53:09), Rop has opened up a 200+ yard lead. He is pulling away and apparently is unstoppable. Christopher Choiboch is running alone in second place, followed by Kiprop and Hussein who are now running together.
Mile 25 (2:02:52), Rop is running a bit slower posting 5:00 for the last mile. Choiboch is catching up and is now about 10 seconds behind. The race may not be over.
The final stretch, still yards from the finish line, Rop is raising his hands in victory, perhaps unaware that Choiboch is closing in from the rear. Choiboch is making a valiant effort, but the finish line comes too soon and Rop is the victor, winning in 2:09:02. Choiboch's efforts have brought him within 3 seconds of Rop and he claims second place in 2:09:05.
The race for third place is fantastic. With more than 200 yards remaining, Fred Kiprop and Mbarak Hussein are in an all out sprint for third place. Each appears as strong as the other, but in the end Kiprop's experience wins out as he finishes ahead of Hussein, both with the same time of 2:09:45. Lee Bong-Ju arrives across the finish line in fifth place in 2:10:30, more than 45 seconds slower than his winning time last year. Elias Chebet finishes just behind to claim sixth place in 2:10:40.
Keith Dowling was the first American across the finish line, completing the course in 2:13:28 in 15th place overall. Clint Verran was the second American (17th overall) in 2:15:19 and Mark Coogan was third American (19th overall) in 2:17:35. American favorite Josh Cox announced just two days before that he would not run due to a viral infection.
Rodgers Rop was especially happy with his first marathon victory (in his second marathon). In the post-race conference he exclaimed that he had a great deal of confidence coming into the race, and that his hard training had paid off. He said that he tried to get other runners to come with him as he pulled away from the pack, but when he looked behind him he could tell that the others were tired. It was then that he knew the victory would likely be his.
Christoper Choiboch had come to this race hoping to run in the 2:08 range, but was nevertheless happy with his new personal best. Lee Bong-Ju, a national hero, was disappointed in his race - but was very much looking forward to his wedding which will take place next week in front of 20,000 people in the Olympic Stadium in Seoul. We wish him luck!