- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 19, 2003

BALTIMORE — After Russia’s Elvira Kolpakova won her third consecutive Baltimore Marathon yesterday, her agent joked that the 30-year-old distance runner should buy an apartment in Baltimore.

The $4,000 first-place prize wouldn’t cover the cost, but it sure was good compensation for 2 hours, 48 minutes, 48 seconds of work.

Kenya’s Erick Kimayo grabbed the top prize for men by putting on a dazzling 400-meter kick to beat training partner Christopher Kipkosgei by four seconds in 2:18:41 in a field of 2,800 registrants. Kimayo won here last year.

Kolpakova has won all three runnings of this fledgling 26.2-mile trek up and down the hills of downtown Baltimore neighborhoods. Each year, as race organizers work to flatten the course and make it easier, Kolpakova has finished faster. Her legs also were fresher coming in this year.

“It came a little bit easier this year,” said Kolpakova through agent Konstantin Selinevich. “I didn’t have to compete in the World Challenge 100K as I had in the previous two years. So I wasn’t so tired.”

The Worlds are next month in Taiwan. Kolpakova did run and win the Detroit Marathon two weeks ago, something that runner-up Lee DiPietro was thinking might slow her down a bit.

“I know she is an ultramarathoner,” said DiPietro, a local favorite from Ruxton, Md., who is easily recognizable because of her 6-foot frame. “I was hoping she was tired having run the marathon two weeks ago.”

Kolpakova shadowed DiPietro from the uphill start at Camden Yards over Druid Hill, past Locust Point and back to the Inner Harbor at the midpoint, then through Little Italy and past the 17-mile mark.

Kolpakova then surged to catch up with a group of male runners, but DiPietro reeled her back in. She finally broke free of DiPietro by the time the mile was over.

“This guy on one of the relay teams went by, and she went with him,” said DiPietro, who also ran Boston and Twin Cities this year and qualified at 45 for the women’s Olympic marathon trials April3 in St. Louis. “She was pretty much on my heels until then. I knew if the guys went by me, she would go. You know she has an extra gear.”

By this point last year, Kolpakova was out of sight. This time, however, DiPietro kept Kolpakova in view until about the 23rd mile, when the course twists and turns as the runners reentered downtown.

“People were telling me she’s one minute ahead, then 1 minutes ahead, then two minutes ahead,” said DiPietro, a former star triathlete who was second here last year. “I guess she wasn’t dying.”

Up ahead, Kimayo, a 34-year-old coach some 10 years older than Kipkosgei, was about to teach his student a quick lesson, much like he did last year with Charles Kamindo. But instead of breaking Kipkosgei at City College at mile 21 as he did with Kamindo last year, the coach patiently waited.

The three Kenyans — Kimayo, Kipkosgei and Kamindo — broke free of a pack of five as they passed a large and boisterous crowd at the Inner Harbor midway point. After that, the runners had to avoid a cat, a man with a cane crossing the street, a dog and cars cutting onto the course before Kamindo dropped off on an uphill at Clifton Park at 19 miles.

Kimayo and Kipskosgei train together at a Fila Discovery Kenya training camp in Kapsait that includes the world’s second-fastest marathoner ever, Sammy Korir. As they sprinted down the alley behind the Orioles’ stadium, at the spot where Boog Powell’s barbecue pit serves fans during the baseball season, they both knew how it would end.

“I knew he would outkick me,” said Kipkosgei, who matched Kimayo with a 4:57 26th mile.

Kimondo was third in 2:20:51. Arlington’s Michael Wardian rebounded from the Detroit Marathon to place sixth in 2:33:18. He might have taken fifth had he not wasted about four minutes going off course at a golf club between mile 18 and 19.

Washington area women also did well. Patti Shull, a veteran runner from Ashburn, Va., placed fourth in a respectable 3:07:29.

Kerry Rodgers, 38, of the District ended up sixth in 3:08:35.

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