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Kipkemboi follows suit

He adds new title to Kenya coffers

By Susan Bickelhaupt, Globe Staff 4/18/00

Kenyan Joshua Kipkemboi thinks his country has a sense of entitlement to the Boston Marathon. And why shouldn't he? His countrymen had won the men's race the past nine years.

So yesterday, Kipkemboi decided to get in on the act, too. He bolted from the starting line in Hopkinton and became the first Kenyan to win the masters division as he finished in 2 hours 17 minutes 11 seconds, good for 17th overall and $10,000 in prize money.

Kipkemboi sounded nonchalant about the race over which he took command as soon as the elite runners set out.

``I went out with the top runners until 30 kilometers,'' he said. ``Then those young guys left me, but I stayed in the lead of the masters.''

Kipkemboi, 41, who ran almost two minutes slower than he did last year when he finished second, said the weather slowed him down.

``When we started, it wasn't so windy, but then halfway it got bad,'' he said. ``It was hard on my legs going down Heartbreak Hill, and it was very cold with the wind.''

``Last year, I thought I was in good shape, but this guy from Russia was in better shape than me,'' he said, referring to 1999 winner Andrey Kuznetsov.

This year, the former world-class steeplechaser made sure it would be different.

Kipkemboi wasted no time running past Kuznetsov, who finished 38th overall, fourth in the division.

``I passed him at the start,'' Kipkemboi said. ``I stayed with my colleagues from Kenya.''

Eventually, though, the master showed his vulnerability.

``I got tired, I think because of my age,'' he said. ``These guys are young, 28, 30.''

In addition to helping his country win three of the top four divisions, Kipkemboi got to settle a score with Kuznetsov. After Kuznetsov won last spring, Kipkemboi came back in the fall to capture the Twin Cities Marathon while Kuznetsov finished second. The victory was controversial, though, because Kipkemboi wasn't wearing a masters number.

Yesterday, he definitely was the winner.

A woman from Denmark prevented a four-event Kenyan sweep as Gitte Karlshoj took the female masters race.

The runner, who turned 40 last May, made her masters debut in Chicago, where she won her division and finished 11th overall. Her second masters race yesterday was just as stellar: She finished 13th overall with a time of 2:35:11 and collected $11,800.

Karlshoj, a physiotherapist who started running at 23, had been to New England before for the Falmouth Road Race and the Beach to Beacon 10K in Maine. But she had never run the Boston Marathon before, having spent the past three years at the London Marathon (the day before Boston) ``as either a competitor or a pacer.''

So the course surprised her, but not in a bad way.

The route was ``scenic'' and ``it was a pleasure to see the crowds,'' Karlshoj said.

As for Heartbreak Hill? It wasn't the heartbreak she expected.

``I had looked at a profile of the course and seen the hills,'' she said. ``But when I got to Heartbreak Hill, I said, `Is this the hill?' So I know my training has been right, because I wasn't broken by it.''

Karlshoj said she started out with the lead pack, for fear of being bogged down by the masters.

`I went out with everyone, because I knew if you only focus on the masters, you run too slowly,'' she said. ``But then the wind got too much and I realized that an overall winning time was not possible for me.''

Asked if she ever saw Tatyana Pozdnyajova, a favorite to win the women's masters, Karlshoj though a minute, then replied, ``Well, I saw her on the starting line ... But she's so strong that I was always waiting for her to come up.''

Pozdnyajova came close, but not close enough, finishing 32 seconds behind Karlshoj for second place.

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