2008 Chicago Marathon

CHICAGO — One of the least experienced of the elite runners at the Chicago Marathon, Evans Cheruiyot of Kenya proved the fastest on Sunday, winning in 2 hours 6 minutes 25 seconds on a sunny, hot day that had organizers again concerned about the safety of the more than 30,000 average runners in the field. Lidiya Grigoryeva of Russia won the women’s race in 2:27:17, tempering an embarrassing summer for her native country, in which five Olympians were suspended before the Beijing Games for using someone else’s urine in an attempt to circumvent doping controls. Meanwhile, as temperatures rose to 78 degrees an hour and a half into Sunday’s 26.2-mile race, organizers were hoping to avoid a repeat of the calamitous 2007 Chicago Marathon, when the race was halted after 3½ hours because of temperatures in the high 80s, oppressive humidity and complaints about lack of available drinking water. This year, 20 aid stations were placed along the course, an increase from 15. More water was made available, along with misting stations and a color-coded alert system on the course. Considering that Chicago is seeking to host the 2016 Summer Olympics, another interruption of the race would have been a public relations — not to mention a health nightmare. No major incidents were reported as the average runners went through the first five aid stations. At Sunday’s 8 a.m. start, the temperature was already 65 degrees — about 10 degrees above optimum for the end of a marathon — and the humidity was 73 percent, though dropping. By 9:30, the mercury had risen to 78, with 41 percent humidity. Some 45,000 runners had registered for the race, but only about 35,000 appeared at the start on Sunday. Some, perhaps, were discouraged by the weather. In the men’s race, Daniel Njenga of Kenya, who had finished second or third in the past five Chicago Marathons, had hoped to finally get a victory on Sunday, but fell off the pace by 11 miles. Meanwhile, the race appeared to distill itself to three other Kenyans: Cheruiyot, who was running in only his second marathon, Emmanuel Mutai and David Mandago. By mile 18, Mutai had drifted, and it was left to Mandago and Cheruiyot to share the lead with a metronic pace of 4:52 per mile. Mandago, a taller runner whose left arm swings wide with each stride, drew ahead and at one point seemed to be pulling away from his countryman. But Cheruiyot, 26, would not fade, though. He drew ahead in the 24th mile and finally forced Mandago to succumb in mile 25 with a steady, short stride. Cheruiyot’s winning time was a personal best by nearly four minutes. Through 21 miles, Cheruiyot and Mandago were on pace to break Khalid Khannouchi’s course record of 2:05:42, set in 1999, until the heat sapped finishing speed from the Kenyans’ legs. Mandago took second more than a minute back in 2:07:37, and Timothy Cherigat of Kenya finished third in 2:11:39. In the women’s race, the Olympic champion Constantina Tomescu-Dita of Romania tried to win a second marathon only 56 days after taking gold in Beijing. The pace was slow through the halfway point (1:15:26) and Tomescu-Dita hung with a pack of a dozen leaders. The sluggish pace seemed to be playing into her hands. Unlike the Olympic race, though, when Tomescu-Dita broke away at 13.1 miles, she didn’t have enough energy left in her legs on Sunday. Instead, it was two Russians, Grigoryeva and Alevtina Biktimirova, who drew ahead, along with Bezunesh Bekele of Ethiopia, with a 5:15 mile, by far the fastest in the race. By mile 15, Bekele, too, had dropped away and the two Russian were left to sort the race among themselves. After letting her countrywoman do the hard work in the lead, Grigoryeva surged to the front in mile 21, with another 5:14 mile. She had won Boston in 2007, and on Sunday she won by more than two minutes. Biktimirova took second in 2:29:32. Kiyoko Shimahara of Japan was third in 2:30:19. Tomescu-Dita finished a distant fourth.

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