- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 21, 2009

BOSTON | Some 25 miles into Monday’s Boston Marathon, Kara Goucher found herself just minutes away from history. A win would have been the first by an American in the event since 1985.

But she also found herself battling with defending champion Dire Tune of Ethiopia and Salina Kosgei of Kenya.

Emerging from the Massachusetts Avenue underpass, Goucher, who had been pushing the pace hard for the previous five miles, threw her gloves to the side of the road.

“I wasn’t going to quit,” she said. “I was feeling my hands getting ready for the sprint, and I could feel the sweat on my hands, but the gloves had to go.”

A couple of city blocks later, Goucher, 30, turned onto Hereford Street, struggling to stay in contention. She was falling back, a spectator to the closest finish in race history.

Kosgei, who had never won a major marathon, surged into the lead with 400 meters to go down Boylston Street. But Tune, who eked out a two-second triumph last year, was not done. The 23-year-old thrust into the lead in the last 50 meters and appeared headed for her second straight win.

But a final surge by Kosgei pushed her through the finishing tape in 2 hours, 32 minutes, 16 seconds with a huge smile and a $150,000 payday. One second later, Tune crossed the line and collapsed. Minutes later, she was taken on a stretcher to Massachusetts General Hospital, where she was being held for observation.

Goucher ended nine seconds off the pace in teary disappointment.

Goucher’s finish was matched by the other highly touted American in the field of 23,156, Ryan Hall. The 26-year-old was no match for Deriba Merga of Ethiopia, who ran away with the race between Miles 18 and 20.

“I’m not disappointed,” Hall said. “I ran the very best I could. Especially coming off the Olympics, I thought this was a step in the right direction for me.”

Merga took the 113th running of the world’s oldest annual marathon in 2:08:42, adding another victory to his win at Houston three months ago. Merga has faded in big races in the past, including losing third in the waning moments of the Olympic Marathon last year. But not Monday.

Kenyan Daniel Rono was second in 2:09:32, holding off a sprinting Hall by eight seconds. Three-time defending champion Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot of Kenya, who was attempting to become the first man to win this race four consecutive times, dropped out after 15 miles.

While both Hall and Goucher placed third, their races were different. Hall pushed a wild opening pace, running a 4:38 first mile and a 14:34 first five kilometers, 47 seconds faster than was split during the course record three years ago.

It caught up to Hall, who slipped to 11th after 16 miles. But it also caught up with others; Hall worked back to fourth after 19 miles and third after 22.

Goucher was part of a large, slow pack that passed the halfway point in 1:18:12, more than three minutes slower than last year. Goucher asserted herself near Mile 21 as the course rolled downhill toward Boston.

But Goucher could not match the closing speed of Kosgei and Tune. American Colleen De Reuck finished eighth, one place better than she did 15 years ago when she still was running for her native South Africa. The 45-year-old placed third (1997), fifth (1998), and fourth (1999) in her other Boston attempts.

South African Ernst Van Dyk (1:33:29) won the men’s wheelchair division for the eighth time, the most Boston wins ever. Japan’s Wakako Tsuchida (1:54:37) was first for the women.

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