- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 17, 2007

BOSTON — Runners and race officials prepared for the worst as a fierce storm bore down on the city in the hours before yesterday’s 111th Boston Marathon.

The deluge of rain and the 50 mph gusts eased before the start of the race, leaving the field of 20,614 to slog the 26.2-mile, 385-yard course in a windy, chilly drizzle that produced some of the slowest times in decades.

Robert Cheruiyot of Kenya defended his title and won his third overall Boston Marathon with a time of 2:14.13, seven minutes slower than the course record he set last year and the slowest winning time since 1977.

“The weather was not so good, so the race was tough,” said the 6-foot-2, 143-pound Cheruiyot, who shook off runner-up and countryman James Kwambai in the final 11/2 miles.

Cheruiyot became the 15th Kenyan to win here in the past 17 years as Kenyans took the top four places yesterday and seven of the top 10.

The damp, breezy and cool conditions actually helped women’s winner Lidiya Grigoryeva of Russia.

Grigoryeva entered the race with the slowest personal best time in a marathon of any of the top women. Yesterday, however, she bided her time and used the speed that has made her a two-time Olympian in the 10,000 meters to pull away in the last two miles.

Her time of 2:29:18 was the slowest winning time since 1984, when Lorraine Moller of New Zealand finished in 2:29:28.

“The weather condition made a difference,” said Grigoryeva, who ran her best time of 2:25:10 at Los Angeles last year. “I prepared for a faster race and time. But with weather conditions, I had to make changes. The leading group of about eight people started slow, but I decided to stay behind them and go through the pace.

“In the last half of the race, I felt very strong and confident in my ability to win the race.”

She hung with the leaders, which included defending champion Rita Jeptoo of Kenya, Jelena Prokopcuka of Latvia — a two-time winner in New York and the runner-up last year in Boston — Madai Perez of Mexico and Deena Kastor of the United States, who won in London last year and in Chicago in 2005.

The lead group of women passed the halfway mark in a pedestrian 1:17:10, and every 5K split for the first 20 kilometers was slower than the previous one, including a 19:35.

Race favorite Kastor pulled off the course shortly after the halfway point to use a restroom and figured she lost at least a minute there. When Jeptoo dropped back by 18 miles in the hills of Newton, Prokopcuka, Perez and Grigoryeva were left to fight it out, throwing in the last 5K splits of 17:09, 17:44 and 17:05.

By 25 miles, Grigoryeva was in the lead for good. Just before crashing the finish tape, she veered off to the crowd, grabbed a Russian flag and waved it. Her last half of the race was 1:12:05. Prokopcuka followed 40 seconds later and Perez another 18 seconds back.

The Russian earned $100,000 for the victory, just as she did for winning the battle of the sexes at Los Angeles last year. Meanwhile, a disappointed Kastor clocked 2:35:09 for fifth, her slowest marathon ever by nearly six minutes.

“I just had a really bad day out there,” she said. “… I had to stop to go to the restroom, and after I got back on the course I was in eighth or ninth place. But I was able to pick off a few people. At about the halfway point I started to have problems.”

Cheruiyot also earned the $100,000 first prize and virtually assured himself the $500,000 top catch in the World Marathon Majors, a major triumph for a man who nearly split his skull after slipping on a slick corporate logo at the finish line in Chicago in October. That accident required an emergency hospital visit.

Only seven runners in history have won at least three Boston Marathons. The last man to earn three laurel crowns was Cheruiyot’s former training partner, Cosmos Ndeti (1993-1995).

The top runner from the D.C. area was Michael Wardian, 33, of Arlington, who finished 61st overall.

“It went OK, given that it was my fifth race in six weeks and sixth marathon in seven weeks,” he said. “It was much better than I expected. I was expecting 45 mph winds.”

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