- The Washington Times - Monday, April 18, 2005

BOSTON — The sleepy Boston suburb of Hopkinton comes to life this morning as more than 20,000 energized, carbo-loaded runners line up for the 109th Boston Marathon.

Expected to be at the front of their respective divisions after 26 miles, 385 yards of rolling terrain are 2004 champions Timothy Cherigat (Bib #1) and Catherine Ndereba (Bib #F1), both Kenyans. Ndereba will make history today if she can notch her fourth victory after triumphs in 2000, 2001 and 2004.

Last year’s runner-up, Elfenesh Alemu (F2) of Ethiopia, returns again after losing to Ndereba by a scant 16 seconds.

The champions from two years ago, Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot (13) of Kenya and Svetlana Zakharova (F3) of Russia, also will provide a challenge.

Alan Culpepper (10), a 2004 Olympian, and Ryan Shay (16) are America’s top hopefuls, although it’s unlikely an American will win this race for the first time since Greg Meyer in 1983.

Last year, Eric Post of Centreville and Michael Wardian of Arlington were the top two Americans, surviving temperatures in the mid-80s. Post (62) and Wardian (40) are back again.

No American women are expected among the leaders. Lisa Rainsberger was the last U.S. woman to win Boston in 1985.

Locally, nearly 1,000 entrants reside in Virginia, Maryland or the District. Lee DiPietro, a 47-year-old from Ruxton, Md., and Chuck Moser, a 53-year-old from Sterling, both placed fourth in their respective age groups here last year and are registered again.

The top area finisher could be Daniel Komen, a 27-year-old Kenyan who frequently trains in the Washington area and placed 12th overall last year.

Bennett Beach (4536) of Bethesda will be attempting his 38th consecutive Boston finish at age 55. Unfortunately for Beach, 58-year-old Neil Weygandt (15079) of Drexel Hill, Pa., is going for No. 39, the longest streak on record.

And one of the most famous athletes in the today’s race also hails from the Washington area. Kerri Strug, the 1996 Olympic gold medalist in gymnastics, will take on her third marathon, second here at Boston. The 27-year-old government employee from Arlington appropriately will wear No. 1996.

She debuted at the Houston Marathon in 1999 in 4:12:06 and completed Boston last year in 4:14:31.

Strugg was one of 20,393 entrants, which include mostly athletes who qualified for the nation’s oldest marathon by running another in faster than 3 hours, 10 minutes for the younger men and 3:40 for the younger women all the way to 5:00 for 80-year-old men and 5:30 for 80-year-old women.

A couple of thousand participants were allowed entry without qualifying by partnering with local charities to raise funds.

Reflecting the continuous aging of the sport, some 9,276 of the entrants are 18-to-39, with the remaining 11,117 aged 40 and over. A striking 104 of those entrants are at least 70 years of age.

The first wave of athletes takes to the roads at 10 a.m. with the mobility impaired, followed by the 39 wheelchair entrants and eight handcycles at 11:25, followed by the elite women’s field at 11:31 and concluding with the mass start of the rest of the field. The winners should reach the finish close to 2 p.m.

Outdoor Life Network will provide live coverage of the race from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

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