Catherine the Great

Ndereba takes record fourth Boston Marathon

Posted: Tuesday, April 19, 2005


  Catherine Ndereba of Kenya crosses the finish line to win the women's division of the 109th running of the Boston Marathon in Boston Monday, April 18, 2005. This is a record-breaking fourth victory for Ndereba. AP Photo/Elise Amendola

Catherine Ndereba of Kenya crosses the finish line to win the women's division of the 109th running of the Boston Marathon in Boston Monday, April 18, 2005. This is a record-breaking fourth victory for Ndereba.

AP Photo/Elise Amendola

BOSTON — Twenty-five years after Rosie Ruiz came out of nowhere to ''win'' the Boston Marathon, Catherine Ndereba staged a rally almost as improbable.

Trailing by four football fields at the halfway point, the Kenyan known as ''Catherine the Great'' caught Elfenesh Alemu to win an unprecedented fourth women's title Monday, finishing in 2 hours, 25 minutes, 13 seconds.

Ethiopia's Hailu Negussie covered the 26.2-mile course from Hopkinton to Boston's Back Bay in a heat-slowed 2:11:45 for the men's title, earning $100,000 and breaking Kenya's stranglehold on the event. Alan Culpepper gave the U.S. something to celebrate, placing fourth in the best finish for an American since Dave Gordon was fourth in 1987.

Ndereba made sure the Kenyans weren't shut out.

''In Kenya we all celebrate as a group, so when someone wins we all celebrate,'' said Benson Cherono, who was third in the men's race behind Negussie and Kenyan Wilson Onsare. ''I gave my congratulations to her for winning. I thank God for what she did.''

Ruiz became one of the most notorious cheaters in sports history when she was declared the winner of the 1980 Boston Marathon despite running only about a mile. The real winner, Jacqueline Gareau, was brought back on Monday to claim some of her usurped spoils.

Ndereba didn't need any trickery to beat Alemu for the second consecutive year. Last year's 16-second gap tied the closest in the history of the women's race, but Ndereba won this year by 1:50.

''It is more than a thrill,'' Ndereba said. ''I felt like my legs were kind of heavy when we started. As I kept on pushing the pace, I felt like my body was moving and I felt like, 'Wow! I can do it.'''

Alemu was in the lead pack from the fifth mile in Framingham, pulling away at Wellesley College to open an 80-second lead at the 13.1-mile mark. Ndereba pulled even with the Ethiopian at the crest of Heartbreak Hill, about two hours into the race.

They ran side-by-side past Boston College onto Beacon Street before Alemu fell back at Cleveland Circle in Brookline.

Alemu has finished second two times in a row.

In 2002, her only other Boston appearance, she finished third to Ndereba's second.

''I am not disappointed because there is winning, and there is not winning,'' Alemu said. ''It happens. I am not worried about that.''

Kenyans had won 13 of the previous 14 men's races, but this year they'll have to settle for Ndereba's victory.

''I'm proud to be the one who won for Ethiopia,'' said Negussie, who was fifth last year and the only non-Kenyan in the top six. ''Day and night I was thinking about winning the Boston Marathon. And I think I did what I was dreaming of.''

Culpepper of Lafayette, Colo., finished in 2:13:39, but he wasn't the only American who did well. Peter Gilmore of San Mateo, Calif., was 10th and Ryan Shay of Central Lake, Mich., was 11th.

''It's been a long time coming, but we're just getting some momentum,'' Culpepper said. ''I think it's the beginning of a positive direction for U.S. distance running.''

Ernst Van Dyk of South Africa won his fifth consecutive wheelchair race, finishing in 1:24:11 — almost six minutes ahead of countryman Krige Schabort. Van Dyk, who set a world best of 1:18:27 last year, is the first man to win five Boston wheelchair races in a row; Franz Nietlispach, who was third this year, has also won five but only four were consecutive.

Cheri Blauwet, of Menlo Park, Calif., also repeated in the wheelchair division, winning by 3:08 in 1:47:45.

A field of 20,453 lined up in Hopkinton for the start for the world's oldest annual marathon. The 109th edition of the race was replete with tributes to Johnny Kelley, a two-time winner and seven-time runner-up who died in October at the age of 97.

Kelley's bib No. 61 — one for each time he started the race — was retired this weekend. Runners were serenaded with ''Young at Heart'' before the race, even though Kelley wasn't there to sing it. Gareau served as grand marshal — a position created to honor Kelley when he became too frail to continue running.

Gareau got out of the car in the Back Bay and ran to the finish line to break the tape, something she didn't do in her victory after Ruiz entered the course near the finish line and pretended to win. Gareau was given an olive wreath and the Canadian national anthem was played.


Associated Press writers Ken Maguire and Michael Kunzelman contributed to this report.

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