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The 103rd Boston Marathon

By Shao-Fei Moy

Joseph Chebet of Kenya dominated the field to win the 103rd running of the Boston Marathon. Chebet, 28, completed the 26 mile 385 yard course in 2:09.52 to break his string of three straight second place finishes -- 1997 and 1998 New York Marathons and 1998 Boston Marathon. His victory also extends the streak of Kenyan wins at the Boston Marathons to nine in a row.

Chebet took the lead at the 22 mile mark from second place finisher Silvio Guerra and never looked back. Guerra tried to separate himself from the pack by stepping up the pace on the series of hills in Newton but Chebet stayed with him. However foot blisters forced Guerrra to ease up and he lost the lead. Chebet finished the remaining four miles unchallenged and Guerra crossed the finish line 26 seconds later.

For the women, 27-year-old Fatuma Roba of Ethiopia won her third straight Boston Marathon in a time of 2:23.25. Her victory matched Uta Pippig’s streak extending from 1994-96.

Sun Yingjie of China set a blistering pace for the women early in the race; however, Roba overtook the lead when Sun was unable to maintain her speed. Roba never looked back and finished nearly a half mile ahead of the second place runner, Franziska Rochat-Moser. The two first place finishers collected $80,000 each in prize money as well as an appearance fee.

Among the American runners, Lynn Jennings, 38, finished in 2:38.37 to place 12th. Joe LeMay was 13th among the men with a 2:16.11.

Several MIT runners also participated in the marathon. Jesse Darley G finished 56th overall and clocked a time of 2:31.04. Arnold Seto G ran a 2:38.23 to finish 108th.

“I came into the marathon with a couple of goals,” commented Seto, one of which was to run the entire race. He not only ran the entire marathon, Seto passed American female star Jennings and former Olympic Champion Bill Rogers along the way. This was Seto’s fifth and best marathon, improving more than 15 minutes from last year’s time.

“I really enjoyed running the race,” said Christina Wilbert ’01. “It didn’t even seem like it was 26.2 miles. What I never realized was that there would be 26.2 miles of people cheering for me. One of my favorite comments was ‘You go to MIT; you’re too smart to run this race.’”

Wilbert ran the entire race with Christine Kornylak ’99 and finished in an unofficial 4:35.

Timothy B. Booher ’99 characterized the marathon as “one of the top things I’ve done in Boston so far... you go through five or six suburbs and see the real people who live here. In terms of capturing the Boston experience I think there’s nothing better.”

The Boston Marathon is the oldest and arguably the most prestigious marathon in the world; 12,797 official runners competed this year.

Chips time runners

Registered runners are timed by a chip worn on their shoes, Booher said. Every 5 km runners pass a sensor mat, and registered runners’ 5 kilometer times are registered. Times are then made available on the internet. This enabled his mother’s elementary school class back in Ohio to follow his times, Booher said.

The chips made timing more accurate by accounting for the time it takes to reach the starting line, Booher said. Runners aren’t competing to start first then, but before starting “everyone’s really friendly, chatting with each other,” then after the race started it got very competitive, Booher said.

In addition to students who ran, about 30 MIT athletes volunteered at the mile 15 watering station. The group included members of the men’s and women’s track teams, women’s crew team, women’s tennis team, and women’s swim team. “It was a great MIT athletics bonding moment,” said Robin C. Evans, ‘99. The group was organized by an MIT coach who also coaches with the Boston Athletics Association, which hosts the marathon, Evans said.

According to Activities Chair Melanie M. Wong ‘02, about 30 members of sorority Alpha Chi Omega volunteered at the 24.1 mile water station. “We had so much fun,” Wong said.

“What I never realized before is that there would be 26.2 miles of people cheering for me,” Wilbert said. “There was so much energy in the crowd that I couldn’t help but keep running,” she said.

“For the first ten miles we couldn’t stop giving high fives and stuff,” said David C. Wang ‘01. Wang called the first couple of miles, “a pretty party atmosphere.”

“About one and a half miles from the finish line, some my friends from [kappa alpha theta] jumped in and finished the race with me,” said Cherry Liu, ‘99

“I ran the last eight miles on sheer willpower” despite cramping leg muscles, said Stanley Hu ‘00.

“I juggled a full MIT course load, a part-time job, and marathon training” in the weeks before the marathon, Hu said. Ryan E. Peoples ’00, who ran with Hu, said he wishes he had been in better condition before the race. “I blame 6.111,” Peoples said, citing lost sleep and training time as results of 6.111 labs. Hu and Peoples both said they were glad to have run, though.

Wang said that he and his running partner “couldn’t walk as soon as we passed the finish line,” and that “[Thursday] is the first day I could walk normally.”

Despite the pain, many runners encourage others to run the Boston Marathon, and many plan to run again. “Now that I know what it is like I would definitely recommend [running the marathon],” Wilbert said. “It is a truly worthwhile experience.”

“It was a lot more fun than I expected,” said Liu, who plans to run again next year.

“The whole time I was running I kept telling myself, ‘I will never do this again, I will never do this again.’ But [Wednesday] . . . I was planning strategy for next year,” Kornylak said. “I think the whole thing has made me a little crazy.

Karen Robinson and Steve Hoberman contributed to the reporting of this story.