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Boston Marathon History: 1996-2000

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1996

Although technically it was the $600,000 prize purse that made the 1996 race the richest ever, it was the record starting field, the drama of the divisional races, and a moment in history that separated the 100th running of the legendary B.A.A. Boston Marathon from its 99 predecessors. Defending women's champion Uta Pippig of Germany overcame severe intestinal difficulties and a 30-second deficit to overtake runner-up Tegla Loroupe of Kenya at the 25-mile-mark and register her third consecutive title in 2:27:12. On the men's side, Moses Tanui, second in 1995, broke away from the lead pack and outran those who dared chase him along Beacon Street to claim the title in 2:09:15, and hault countryman Cosmas Ndeti's string of Boston titles at three. Lorraine Moller of New Zealand, who captured the women's open title in 1984, celebrated her Boston debut as a master's runner by posting a winning time of 2:32:02, while Hebert Steffny of Germany employed a late surge to cop the men's title in 2:19:33. The wheelchair division saw Jean Driscoll cross the line in a triumphant 1:52:56, and join the legendary Clarence DeMar as the only seven time winners. Men's champion Heinz Frei, the 1994 winner, posted his second title in three years in 1:30:14. The starting field of 38,708 stands as the largest in the history of the sport. Included in the total were 16 former Boston Champions.

1997

What was billed as a rematch between three-time winner Cosmas Ndeti (1994-96) and defending champion Moses Tanui, turned into a personal coming out party for Lameck Aguta of Kenya, who stole the show and the title with a triumphant 2:10:34 in his fifth attempt. Fatuma Roba, whose triumph in 2:26:23 snapped Uta Pippig's reign at three years, became just the fourth Olympic gold medalist to win the B.A.A. Marathon. Another champion was dethroned in the wheelchair division, when Jean Driscoll, eyeing an unprecedented eighth consecutive title, suffered an unfortunate crash after striking the streetcar tracks prior to Cleveland Circle. Leader Louise Sauvage, of Australia, cruised to the women's title in 1:54:28, while 1995 men's champion Franz Nietlispach of Switzerland captured his second Boston title in 1:28:14. Compatriots Dominique Chauvelier (2:19:10) and Josette Colomb-Janin (2:40:53) gave France a sweep in the masters divisions.

1998

In many respects, the 1998 Boston Marathon ranked among the most exciting in the event's storied history. Centennial champion Moses Tanui overcame a seemingly insurmountable 11-second deficit at the 35-kilometer mark to capture his second title in 2:07:34 and register the third-fastest time on the course. Just three seconds later, Joseph Chebet (2:07:37) crossed the line, while Gert Thys was third in 2:07:52 marking the first time in the history of the sport that three men broke the 2:08:00 barrier. On the women's side, Fatuma Roba successfully defended her 1997 title with a sizzling 2:23:21, which stands as the third fastest time by a woman. The most captivating race of the day came in the women's wheelchair division, where defending champion Louise Sauvage erased a 50-meter deficit on Boylston Street to catch seven-time champion Jean Driscoll at the line as both competitors received an identical 1:41:19 finishing time. Defending men's champion Franz Nietlispach registered the second fastest time in race history (1:21:52) to claim his third title in four years. The master's division saw late entrant Andrey Kuznetsov turn in the third-fastest time on the course (2:15:27), while Cindy Barber-Keeler (2:39:49) rounded out the list of champions.

1999

The final race of the century, the 103rd B.A.A. Boston Marathon marked the continued winning ways of those who donned the laurel wreaths and led the top finishers to $525,000 in prize money. Support from the Boston area's strong Ethiopian community through the hills of Newton inspired Fatuma Roba, and she captured her third consecutive women's title (2:23:25). The Olympic gold medalist extended her streak of having won every marathon she has entered in the U.S. in dominant fashion. As with Roba, defending champion Moses Tanui, of Kenya, entered the race as the odds-on favorite to win his third Boston title, but stomach trouble forced the centennial race champion's withdrawal in the 23rd mile. Countryman Joseph Chebet, who finished as the runner-up in each of his last three marathons including the 1998 Boston Marathon, overtook late entrant and surprise leader Silvio Guerra, of Ecuador, just beyond the 22-mile mark and broke the tape in 2:09:52 to become the race's fifth Kenyan champion. In the wheelchair division, Franz Nietlispach, of Switzerland, stayed true to his strategy of breaking away early from his competition. The result was his third straight title and his fourth in five years, but his time of 1:21:36 left him 13 seconds shy of the course and world record. Similarly, Louise Sauvage, of Australia, captured her third consecutive women's wheelchair division crown and, for the second time in as many years, she was credited with an identical finishing time as runner-up Jean Driscoll, of Illinois. In the masters division, Andrey Kuznetsov, of Russia, who finished seventh overall and posted the third fastest masters time in Boston's history (2:14:20), won his second straight crown. Josette Colomb-Janin, of France, reclaimed the women's title which she first won in 1997 and finished 14th among all women in 2:40:36. 11,274 official runners and 60 wheelchair division athletes added their names to the list of Boston finishers, as 98% of those starting the race finished despite warm conditions which reached 70F by Wellesley.

2000

Boston Marathon 2000? proved worthy of its advanced billing as the 104th running of the world's oldest annually contested marathon resulted in one of the most compelling and entertaining all-around performances in event history. The first champion to be crowned was Franz Nietlispach, of Switzerland, who obliterated a loaded men's wheelchair division field to claim his fourth consecutive title and fifth overall. In the women's wheelchair race, Jean Driscoll, of Illinois, dethroned three-time champion Louise Sauvage, of Australia, and registered an unprecedented eighth Boston Marathon title. For the first time in the history of the men's race, three competitors rounded the final turn together onto Boylston Street, where Kenyan Elijah Lagat unleashed a surprising kick to overhaul compatriot Moses Tanui and Ethiopian Gezahenge Abera. Lagat and Abera were credited with an identical finishing time (2:09:47), marking the closest finish in race history, while two-time former champion Tanui finished three seconds back (2:09:50), to mark the closest finish between the first three. Many expected the women's open race to conclude with Ethiopia's Fatuma Roba becoming the first four-time champion in event history. Hence, it came as no surprise when she pulled away during the hills. However, Kenyan Catherine Ndereba pulled even on the final summit, and, after matching strides along Beacon Street, began to pull away on Commonwealth Avenue. While Ndereba sprinted to victory on Boylston Street (2:26:11), Irina Bogacheva, of Kyrgyzstan, passed the fading Roba at the line, where the duo registered an identical time (2:26:27). Like the men's race, it marked the closest finish between first and second (16 seconds) and first and third (also 16 seconds). In the masters division, Kenyan Joshua Kipkemboi, who was runner-up a year ago, dethroned two-time defending champion Andrey Kuznetsov, of Russia, while Denmark's Gitte Karlshoj posted a winning time of 2:35:11, which stands as the sixth fastest in division history. The top Americans on the day were Jamie Hibell, of Pennsylvania (24th; in 2:22:52), and masters runner Maria Trujillo de Rios, of California (18th; 2:42:24).

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B.A.A. Moment 8

1966 - Bobbi Gibb

Although not an official entrant, Roberta “Bobbi” Gibb became the first woman to run the Boston Marathon. Joining the starting field shortly after the gun had been fired, Gibb finished the race in 3:21:40 to place 126th overall. Gibb again claimed the “unofficial” title in 1967 and 1968.