- The Washington Times - Monday, April 15, 2002

BOSTON Save for the insomniacs, by the time most marathon enthusiasts here awoke Sunday morning, American Khalid Khannouchi had shaved four seconds off his own world record and Brit Paula Radcliffe had come a tantalizing nine seconds from breaking Catherine Ndereba's world best.
Exciting news, yes. But does it change the focus of the elite athletes preparing for today's 106th Boston Marathon? No.
The expected warm temperatures surely will change some plans for the elites and the nearly 17,000 entrants, the second-largest field in history to the 40,000 at the 1996 centennial run. And security around the course will be tighter than ever.
It has been a long time since Boston has talked about world records. And for good reason. While other major marathons in Chicago, Berlin and London (where Khannouchi set the mark yesterday) have fancied themselves with designing courses for speed aka world records Boston has been traditional Boston.
The course has barely varied over more than a century. While the starting line was moved from Ashland to Hopkinton to comply with the standard Olympic distance of 26 miles, 385 yards back in the 1920s, the finish line over the years has been moved just a few city blocks.
Nonetheless, with all the construction and rerouting of roads over the years, the feared, respected and beloved "Heartbreak Hills" have existed from the beginning.
These hills are one reason world record times are not run here. Their position on the course starting at the Newton Fire Station at Mile 17 and ending at Boston College at Mile 21 is bad enough. But the quad-numbing downhills leading into the city past Fenway Park are a knockout punch for many a marathoner.
The only time a world record was set in the men's race here was in 1947, when Korean Yun Bok Suh, at 5-foot-1 the shortest Boston victor, accepted funds from American servicemen to cover the cost of his trip to Beantown to run a world-record 2:25:39.
The venerable Joan Benoit Samuelson was the second and last woman to set a world record here, when the 25-year-old Bowdoin College grad blasted more than two minutes off the previous world mark in 2:22:43 in 1983.
The only record that could fall today is the women's course record set by three-time champion Uta Pippig of Germany in the exceptionally fast 1994 race (Cosmas Ndeti of Kenya set the men's mark at 2:07:15 that year). Pippig's 2:21:45 is in the sights of Ndereba, who ran a world-record 2:18:47 at the fast and flat Chicago Marathon last October.
Ndereba, a 29-year-old Kenyan, has no interest in bettering her world record as she attempts to win her third consecutive Boston Marathon. "Can I better my Chicago time?" she said at a news conference Friday. "I don't think it is possible on this kind of course."
While her coach, El-Mostafa Nechchadi, a world-class marathoner in his day, is confident Ndereba can break Pippig's course record, his athlete is much more reserved.
Asked about her prospects of winning No. 3, the deeply religious Ndereba responded: "I don't know. I'm leaving it to God. It is His decision."
"I haven't set a time," she further commented. "But I always like to compete with my time." Her progression at Boston: 2:28:27 in 1999, 2:26:11 in 2000 and 2:23:53 last year.
Meanwhile, Korean sensation Lee Bong-Ju returns. Running here last year one month after the death of his father and still reeling from a 24th-place disappointment after a fall in the 2000 Olympic marathon, the goateed 31-year-old recaptured his honor by pulling away in the final miles to break the 10-year Kenyan lock in the men's race.
Lee brings to town tremendous expectations from his fellow Koreans, who were able to watch his victory live last year in the middle of the night. Since then, the modest marathoner said his life has hardly changed in Korea because he already was afforded superstar status.
However, Lee said, "Winning Boston did increase my image. Since then, more and more people in Korea are running, like in the mornings. You could say that my winning had an impact on the life of Koreans. They are healthier now."
He will have to overcome the usual collection of world-class Kenyans and an Ecuadorian named Silvio Guerra, who was second to Lee last year and is hungry for the $80,000 first-place cash.
And while Lee, the 1996 Olympic silver medalist, pines away for an Olympic or world gold medal, he has much to do after Boston and its Heartbreak Hills. A few days later, he will marry before 20,000 fans at the Olympic Stadium in Seoul.


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