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Boston Marathon History: 2001-2005

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After an unprecedented ten consecutive victories by Kenyans in the men’s race, Lee Bong-Ju of Korea halted the streak with his spectacular win at the 105th race. Lee finished 24 seconds ahead of Silvio Guerra of Ecuador while Kenyan Joshua Chelang'a rounded out the trio battling for the win over the final miles. In the highly competitive women’s field, Kenyan Catherine Ndereba’s runaway win was her second straight victory at Boston, and her time was the seventh fastest in race history. American competitors made a resurgence in 2001 as Rod DeHaven of Wisconsin captured sixth place with a personal best time, California’s Josh Cox finished in 14th place, and Massachusetts native Mark Coogan crossed the finish in 19th place. On the women’s side, former Boston resident Jill Gaitenby passed compatriot Susannah Beck near the 24 mile mark, finishing in 14th place. South Africa’s Ernst Van Dyk beat five-time and defending champion Franz Nietlispach, as well as the course record holder, Heinz Frei, to capture the men’s wheelchair division title. With the retirement of Jean Driscoll after her eighth Boston title in 2000, many perceived Australia’s Louise Sauvage as the peerless contender for the title at the 2001 race. However, Edith Hunkeler of Switzerland supplied the tight competition for which the women’s race has become known. Hunkeler and Sauvage raced side-by-side throughout the race until Sauvage secured a four- second margin in the final 600 meters. A field of 47 wheelchair division athletes, eight competitors in the handcycle exhibition, and 15,606 runners (including 12 in the mobility-impaired program and 14 in the visually-impaired division) made the 105th race the most inclusive race in event history.


In his Boston debut, Kenyan Rodgers Rop reclaimed the men’s title for his country with his winning time of 2:09:02. Rop led a 1-2-3-4 finish by Kenyan men, with countryman Christopher Cheboiboch finishing just three seconds back for second place. Keith Dowling of Virginia was the first American finisher (15th place overall) in a personal best time of 2:13:28. Massachusetts native Jill Gaitenby was the top American woman for the second consecutive year (2:38:55, 13th woman). Women’s winner Margaret Okayo of Kenya set a course record of 2:20:43, eclipsing Uta Pippig’s 1994 record-setting run of 2:21:45 by more than one minute. In less-than-ideal running conditions (96% humidity, 57 degrees) Okayo also defeated defending champion and world-record holder Catherine Ndereba in their eagerly anticipated first marathon match-up. Ndereba finished runner-up in 2:21:12. In the women’s masters race, Firaya Sultanova-Zhdanova of Russia broke the 14-year old course record set by Priscilla Welch (2:30:48) by two minutes and 50 seconds with her 2:27:58 victory over defending masters champion, Denmark’s Gitte Karlshoj. It was the fastest marathon by a female masters runner on U.S. soil (U.S. all-comers record). On the men’s side, Kenyan Joshua Kipkemboi reclaimed the masters title from rival Fedor Ryshov of Russia, finishing in 2:12:48. With nearly 16,936 entrants, the 2002 race was a compelling commemoration of Patriots’ Day as runners and spectators alike demonstrated their patriotism along the route and in special pre-race ceremonies.


Kenyan dominance was the story of the day in the men’s race with Robert Cheruiyot emerging as the winner in 2:10:11. The top five men were from Kenya, and defending champion Rodgers Rop (also of Kenya) was seventh. Eddy Hellebuyck, 42, of New Mexico was the top American. The winner in the 40-and-older division was Russia’s 43-year old Fedor Ryzhov, who placed sixth overall in a time of 2:15:29 and the highest place by an over-40 runner since New Zealand’s John Campbell finished fourth in 1990 in a time of 2:11:04. Svetlana Zakharova, the 32-year-old Russian national record-holder, survived an early cat-and-mouse game with Kenyan Margaret Okayo, the Boston Marathon course record-holder, to pull away in the Newton Hills, winning in 2:25:20. Three American women finished in the Top 10 here for the first time since 1993--led by Marla Runyan of Oregon (fifth; 2:30:28). Winning the women’s masters division in 2:31:30 was defending champion Firaya Sultanova-Zhdanova, 41.

Ernst Van Dyk, the 2001 and 2002 men’s wheelchair division champion from South Africa, defended his title in 1:28:32, never allowing his competitors to fully mount a challenge. In the women’s wheelchair division, defending champion Edith Hunkeler of Switzerland was joined by Americans Cheri Blauwet and Christina Ripp in the early miles. Working together against a headwind in the final miles, the Americans finished 1-2 with Ripp victorious in 1:54:47. The B.A.A.’s commemoration of Patriots? Day was visible throughout race day and along the route, including a fly-over of two F-15s prior to the race start; a patriotic red-white-and-blue design of the start and finish lines; large American flags on display throughout the start area, on-course, and at the finish; as well as a display of US Armed Forces flags at the finish line. For the first time in 13 years, the B.A.A. adjusted its qualifying standards, which affected runners 45-years of age and older and reflected the B.A.A.’s ability and desire to accommodate more participants. An incredible 97% (17,046) of the 17,567 starters completed the race in temperatures which ranged from 70-degrees at the start to 59-degrees at the finish. The 2003 field was second-largest in the event’s 107-year history.


In the most significant change to the women’s race since females were officially permitted to compete (1972) and prize money was instituted (1986), the top 35 entrants began in Boston’s first elite women's start at 11:31 a.m., 29 minutes prior to the Noon start. The new format was marked by a dual for the ages as defending world champion Catherine Ndereba, of Kenya, chased Ethiopian Elfenesh Alemu for the first 16 miles before pulling away for good with exactly one mile to go. Ndereba’s third victory and 16-second margin over Alemu tied the closest winner/runner-up finish in women’s race history. Timothy Cherigat, of Kenya, pulled three other countrymen up and over Heartbreak Hill before breaking loose on the famous landmark’s downslope. The fourth place finisher from the previous year, Cherigat added to his homeland’s dominance of the men’s race since 1988: he became the ninth different Kenyan male to win and Kenyans have won the last 14 of 17 races. At 45-years old, Joshua Kipkemboi won the masters division for the third time and became the oldest champion since the division was formalized in 1975. Ramilia Burangulova was victorious among female masters, marking the third consecutive victory by a Russian and the third consecutive year that the masters champion also finished among the top ten overall.

South Africa’s Ernst Van Dyk made history in becoming the first pushrim wheelchair athlete ever to break the one hour, 20 minute barrier and established a world record in his fourth consecutive victory. Van Dyk had targeted Heinz Frei’s 1994 course record time of 1:21:23 for years, and he believed Frei’s world record (1:20:14; Oita, Japan; 1999) also could be improved at Boston given the conditions and the competition. With Frei’s 1994 mile-by-mile splits taped to his racing chair for reference, Van Dyk improved every checkpoint record from the 15-kilometer mark onwards. His winning time of 1:18:27 was a course record by two minutes, 56 seconds, and a world record by one minute 47 seconds. Cheri Blauwet, the previous year’s runner-up by a mere 10 seconds, broke free over the Newton Hills, and extended her lead from Heartbreak Hill to the finish; hers was the seventh fastest performance in race history (1:39:53). Edith Hunkeler, who won in 2002, was runner-up in finishing among the top three for the fifth time. Christina Ripp, the 2003 champion, flatted twice and did not finish. The division began at 11:25 a.m., 20 minutes earlier than recent past years, and had 35 male and eight female finishers.

The weather--with the temperature at 83-degrees Fahrenheit at the start and 86 by mid-afternoon at the finish--was the other major story. Despite a record number of runners treated for heat-related illnesses, 93% of the field finished (20,404 entrants; 18,003 starters; 16,783 finishers). While it was the hottest Patriots’ Day since 1976, an accurate long-range forecast gave participants and race management ample time to adjust their game day plans.


In a rematch, Catherine Ndereba won an unprecedented fourth women’s race, pulling away from runner-up Elfenesh Alemu in the final miles to triumph in 2:25:13 and nearly two minutes ahead of her Ethiopian challenger. Ndereba trailed by as much as 1:20 by 20-kilometers, but began her comeback and picked up those 80 seconds over the next seven miles, catching Alemu at the crest of Heartbreak Hill. Meanwhile, an unheralded Hailu Negussie outlasted the field, capturing Ethiopia’s first men’s open title in 16 years. Negussie pushed the pack — including 2004 champion Timothy Cherigat and 2003 champion Robert K. Cheruiyot — through 35 kilometers and eventually won the battle of attrition in 2:11:45 on another warm day (70-degrees Fahrenheit at the start; 69-degrees at the finish). American Alan Culpepper was fourth in 2:13:39, which was the highest U.S. showing since 1987. Also of note, the field of finishers was the second-largest in event history (17,564), and a marathon for U.S. soldiers was held concurrently in Iraq in celebration of Patriots’ Day.

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B.A.A. Moment 1

1920 - Ashland Start

The Boston Marathon began in Ashland, Massachusetts from 1897 through 1923 then moved to Hopkinton for the 1924 race. The course was lengthened to 26 miles, 385 yards to conform to the Olympic standard, and the starting line was moved west from Ashland to Hopkinton. Since then, the race has started in Hopkinton every year.