- The Washington Times - Monday, November 6, 2006

NEW YORK — The Americans confidently strode into the Big Apple with great hopes and high expectations at the 37th New York City Marathon.

They left with great disappointment.

But so did most of the favored athletes who competed in the record field of 38,368 starters, including seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong.

Marilson Gomes dos Santos, an unheralded 29-year-old Brazilian, became the first man from his country, or from Latin America for that matter, to win the world’s largest marathon.

He covered the 26-mile, 385-yard course through New York City’s five boroughs in 2 hours, 9 minutes and 58 seconds.

He finished ahead of defending champion and world record holder Paul Tergat of Kenya and 2004 New York winner Henrick Ramaala of South Africa. Gomes dos Santos earned $130,000 for the win, $25,000 for breaking 2:10 and a small car.

Jelena Prokopcuka earned the same prize money after becoming just the sixth woman to win back-to-back titles. The 30-year-old Latvian finished in 2:25:05.

Meanwhile, the top Americans fell apart.

Deena Kastor, the U.S. marathon record holder and fastest marathoner in the world this year, said she made many tactical mistakes to end up just sixth in 2:27:54. That was her slowest time in eight attempts and more than eight minutes slower than her U.S. record 2:19:36 set in April in London.

“Tactically, I was not good today,” she said, explaining that she had an upset stomach during a crucial period in the middle of the race. “I had high hopes here. It has been my dream to win here and still is.”

America’s top men had similar issues. Both Meb Keflezighi and Alan Culpepper, Olympians in 2004, were hampered by stomach problems coming into the race.

Culpepper, who had a surprising fifth-place finish in Boston earlier this year, pulled out at around 16 miles. Keflezighi, among the favorites to win, fought valiantly to stay in the lead group for the first 20 miles. He then dropped back to 21st for his worst marathon performance in seven starts.

Dathan Ritzenhein — a highly touted the 23-year-old from Boulder, Colo. — finished 11th (2:14:01), well short of his predictions. He finished one place behind top American finisher Peter Gilmore.

Two American women making their debuts ran respectable times. Katie McGregor of Minnesota was ninth in 2:32:36, and Samia Akbar of Herndon was 12th in 2:34:14.

“It was a great debut on this course,” said Akbar’s coach, Scott Raczko.

Armstrong fought through calf tightness in the last seven miles and finished his first marathon in 2:59:36 — 24 seconds better than he predicted.

“With the level of conditioning I am in, that was the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” Armstrong said. “In 20 years of endurance sports, even the hardest days on the tour, nothing was so hard. I thought the marathon was easier than that. It’s a tough event. I don’t know how these guys do it.”

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