- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 17, 2001

BOSTON With a swift move in the late stages of the race, Lee Bong-ju ended a 51-year Korean drought and a 10-year Kenyan dominance at the 105th running of the Boston Marathon yesterday.

It was an improbable victory, but not completely unimaginable for the 30-year-old runner from Seoul, South Korea, with fast credentials.

He broke from his last two pursuers with a mile and a half left in the 26.2-mile race and ended with plenty of breathing room in 2 hours, 9 minutes, 43 seconds.

"It was hard for me to make the break," said Lee, who lost the 1996 Olympic marathon gold medal by an agonizing three seconds and was a disappointing 24th at the Sydney Games last year. "I thought if it was hard for me, it was hard for the other guys."

The women's race was much less dramatic, and Catherine Ndereba made quite sure of it.

The 28-year-old Kenyan took control in the hills of Newton after 18 miles and, according to plan, ran away with her second consecutive Boston title and the $80,000 first prize.

"I wasn't surprised [when nobody challenged me]," said Ndereba, who recorded the seventh-fastest time in race history in 2:23:53, and the fastest second half (1:10:48) ever by seven seconds. "I knew whatever I was doing, when I started to make my move, I was confident I could keep it up."

Ndereba's victory was no surprise. After winning here last year in the last mile over three-time (1997-1999) defending champion Fatuma Roba of Ethiopia, Ndereba was left off the Kenyan Olympic team.

Since then, she's been on a rampage. She ran a triumphant 2:21:33 at the Chicago Marathon last October the fifth-fastest ever and set her sights squarely on Boston.

She hung back yesterday through the first 15 miles, patiently awaiting the right time to make her move.

"That was the plan," said her coach, Mustapha El Nechadi, who added that an attempt on the world record of 2:20:43 by Kenyan Tegla Loroupe will be made at Chicago in October. "She ran exactly on plan. We talked about going 72-73 minutes at the half. If she felt good, she could go. I was a little bit worried when she wasn't with the group early on. At the 20K mark, I saw her, she was with the girls and I knew she was OK."

While her 3-year-old daughter Jane, watching her mother compete for the first time outside of Kenya, took a nap at the hotel near the finish, Ndereba was rounding the firehouse after 17 miles and heading up the first of the four famed Heartbreak Hills. Just Roba followed, but not for long. Within a mile, Ndereba was pulling away and by 20 miles, Roba was nowhere in sight.

Roba finished fifth in 2:28:08, her worst time in five appearances here.

After Poland grabbed the second spot with Malgorzata Sobanska in 2:26:42, Russia dominated with third, sixth and seventh in Lyubov Morgunova, Irina Timofeyeva and Ludmila Petrova, who tumbled to the ground at mile 16 and scraped her right knee.

While the Russian women filled the ranks this year, it has been the Kenyan men who have owned this event for the past 10 years. In fact, the Kenyans have had at least three runners in the top 10 including seven in 1996 and 2000 every year since 1993.

All eyes were on the Kenyans again this year: defending champion Elijah Lagat, two-time (1996, 1998) champion Moses Tanui and 1999 victor Joseph Chebet. Lagat and Moses fought a ferocious battle against Ethiopian Gezahegne Abera last year, going 1-3, and Abera snagged a close second.

This year, Tanui beat both of them, but he was far back in 12th place in a disastrous 2:15:05. Abera was 16th and Lagat, who said he suffered back pains from early on, was 17th.

That left the door wide open for Lee. Inspired by his father, Lee Hae Ku, who died last month at age 74 after a long illness, Lee ran comfortably with a pack of 16 through 18 miles. It was down to six by 20 miles, with no Tanui, Lagat or Abera to be seen.

Instead, it was Lee, Silvio Guerra of Ecuador and first-time marathoner Joshua Chelang'a of Kenya. Lee's first surge a 4:42 21st mile failed. On the second surge after 24 miles, Lee was gone, finishing 14 seconds faster than his 11th-place effort here in 1994. It was the first Korean victory since that nation swept 1-2-3 in 1950.

Guerra, second in 1999 and 10th last year, was second again in 2:10:07 and Chelang'a was third another 22 seconds back.

Rod DeHaven was a surprising sixth place in a personal best 2:12:41. The 34-year-old Madison, Wis., native, America's only runner in the 2000 Olympic marathon, ran 2:13:02 in 1998.

"Of course I am happy I was sixth," DeHaven said. "I was five seconds ahead of Roba last year."

• Susanne Nearman contributed to this report.

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