- The Washington Times - Monday, April 20, 2009

BOSTON | The Boston Red Sox broke their curse in 2004. American distance running stars Ryan Hall and Kara Goucher hope to break the Boston Marathon curse Monday morning.

That curse has been the absence of an American champion. Not since 1985, when Lisa Larsen-Weidenbach won the women’s title, and 1983, when Greg Meyer prevailed for the men, has a runner from the United States worn the laurel wreath on Patriots’ Day.

Hall, the baby-faced 26-year-old from Big Bear Lake, Calif., comes into the 113th running of the world’s oldest annual 26.2-mile race with the fastest time in the field, a superb 2:06.17 at London last spring. Hall has run just three other marathons - his debut 2:08.24 in the 2007 London Marathon, a win at the U.S. Olympic trials in New York’s Central Park and a 10th-place effort at the Beijing Olympics last year.

Yet he has become the greatest American hope since training partner Meb Keflezighi scored the silver medal in the 2004 Olympics in Athens. Keflezighi’s third-place finish here in 2006 was the best American male showing since Gary Tuttle took the runner-up spot in 1985.

“I never step to the line unless I think I can win,” said Hall, the first American male to break an hour in the half-marathon and the second-fastest U.S. marathoner ever. “I hope that I can contribute to bringing American marathoning back to the forefront. There is no better place to do that than Boston. What is done in Boston lives on for all time.”

Nobody knows that better than four-time champion and course record-holder Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot of Kenya, who’s back for the sixth time. In addition to winning here in 2003, 2006 (a Boston record and personal-best 2:07.14), 2007 and 2008, he also was fifth in 2005.

Kenya and Ethiopia bring deep fields again with at least a dozen sub-2:10 marathoners vying for the $150,000 top prize, including Evans Cheruiyot (PR 2:06.25) and Robert Kiprono Cheruiyot (2:07.21); neither is related to Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot.

The 30-year-old Goucher of Portland, Ore., also faces stiff competition. She moved up to the marathon distance shortly after competing in the 10,000 and 5,000 meters at the Beijing Olympics. Her debut 2:25.53 in New York City in November was nothing short of spectacular.

Dire Tune, a 23-year-old from Ethiopia, hopes to repeat her 2008 triumph, the closest women’s finish in race history (two seconds). But Lidiya Grigoryeva, a 35-year-old Russian, has plans of her own. The 2007 champ wants to flush last year’s disappointing ninth-place finish from her memory; she’s coming off an upset win at October’s Chicago Marathon.

This year’s field includes 26,268 registered runners, the second largest to the 38,708 entrants for the 100th running in 1996.

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