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The women's field [ Men's odds ]

Roba hoping it's as easy as 1-2-3-4, but her challengers have other plans

By Bill Griffith, Globe Staff, 4/14/2000

oreign women have won 14 straight Boston Marathons. The surprise is that not one of them was a Kenyan. Both streaks could continue this year.

Fatuma Roba Fatuma Roba, 1999 Boston Marathon winner. (Globe Staff Photo / Frank O'Brien)    

A third streak comes into play in picking a Boston winner. No woman has won more than three straight Boston races, a standard that three-time women's defending champion Fatuma Roba is seeking to break Monday when she goes for No. 4 in a row in the race for the Boston Athletic Association's laurel wreath.

She'll be out to extend the three-straight standard she co-holds with Uta Pippig (1994-96) and unofficial three-peaters Sara Mae Berman (1969-71) and Roberta Gibb (1966-68). On the men's side, Clarence DeMar (1922-24), Bill Rodgers (1978-80), and Cosmas Ndeti (1993-95) have accomplished the feat.

Roba has grown into her role as Boston and Olympic champion and is well aware that another Boston victory and a second Olympic gold medal will move her into a special place in world marathon history. She's got her support system in place, a good number of fans along the course, and she's certainly familiar with the city and the course.

The scenario has been consistent: Roba runs her race and her opponents fall away on the hills of Newton.

Should it be Roba who falters, the race becomes wide open. Ever-present Elana Meyer (2:25:15 best at Boston, 1994) will be there, but so will Kenyans Lornah Kiplagat and Catherine Ndereba. Irina Bogacheva, at 38, is still cranking out 2:27s as can another half-dozen members of the elite field the folks at John Hancock have assembled for this 104th run from Hopkinton to the finish alongside the Boston Public Library on Boylston Street.

Fatuma Roba, Ethiopia, 2-5
PR: 2:23:21 (Boston, 1998) Age: 26

She has outrun a formidable field each year since making her Boston debut in 1997. She was threatened early last year, but by the finish it was no contest as she ran solo from Newton through Brookline to Boston, registering a time of 2:23:25. She ran 2:23:21 in 1998 (the third fastest time by a woman at Boston), winning by nearly four minutes and establishing her country's national record. When she claimed her first Boston victory in 1997, she snapped Uta Pippig's streak of three straight victories, won by 46 seconds (2:26:23) over Elana Meyer, and became Boston's first female African champion. Prior to her Olympic Marathon victory in Atlanta in 1996 in a personal record time of 2:26:05, she had won the Rome Marathon (2:29:05) and Morocco's Marrakech Marathon (2:30:50) earlier in the year. Last month (March 12) she won the Kyoto City Half Marathon in Japan in 1:10:16, indicating that she is on pace to defend her title. In March 1999 she won the Matsue (Japan) Half Marathon in 1:10:54. She was ranked No. 4 in the world last year by Track & Field News. What she's done lately: She finished fourth at last summer's World Championships Marathon in Seville, Spain.

Elana Meyer, South Africa, 3-1
PR: 2:25:15 (Boston, 1994) Age: 33

She comes to Boston with a new coach for the new century. Meyer also has changed her training methods, concentrating more on distance. She has come close, but has never won a a major marathon. Meyer finished fifth at London last April in 2:27:18 and third at Chicago last fall in 2:27:17, her country's top two performances of the year. At Boston, Meyer was runner-up to Fatuma Roba in 1997 in 2:27:09, second in 1995 (2:26:51) and third in her 1994 debut marathon (2:25:15). She was the silver medalist at 10,000 meters at the 1992 Olympics before turning her attention to longer distances - especially the half-marathon. At the 1999 Tokyo Half Marathon, she recorded the year's best for the distance (1:06:44). Meyer had intended to run Boston in 1998 but was forced to withdraw with a back strain.

Catherine Ndereba, Kenya, 7-2
PR: 2:27:34 (New York, 1999) Age: 27

Ndereba was ranked No. 1 on the roads by Runner's World and Running Times for 1996, 1998, and 1999 for her dominance at distances from 5 kilometers to 10 miles. She ran in 18 major road races in 1999, winning 13. But she has yet to master the marathon distance. She made her marathon debut in Boston last year and faded to sixth in 2:28:27 after challenging the leader, Fatuma Roba, from Wellesley to the turn on to Commonwealth avenue at 17.5 miles. Ndereba took her Boston experience to New York City last fall and placed second to Mexico's Adriana Fernandez in 2:27:34. What she's done lately: She beat a strong field in the April 1 Cooper River Bridge Run 10K in Charleston, S.C., in 31:42.

Lornah Kiplagat, Kenya, 7-2
PR: 2:25:30 (Amsterdam, 1999) Age: 25

A year ago, she came to Boston not to race but to watch and familiarize herself with the course. She has finished four marathons, winning three: Amsterdam in 1999 (2:25:30) and Los Angeles in 1998 (2:34:03) and 1997 (2:33:50). Gearing up for Boston this year, she won the City Pier Half-Marathon in Den Haag, the Netherlands, in a course-record 1:06:56, the second-fastest half-marathon by a Kenyan woman and the fifth-fastest ever by a woman.

Renata Paradowska, Poland, 4-1
PR: 2:27:17 (Boston, 1998) Age: 29

Paradowska, the surprise runner-up at the 1998 Boston Marathon in a personal-best time of 2:27:17, finished ninth last year in 2:31:41. Usually content to run her own race, she typically may trail the lead pack by three- to four minutes at the halfway mark, then pick off runners as they fall off the pace. In her other marathon of 1999, Paradowska was eighth at Chicagoin 2:31:59. She has been selective in her choice of marathons, having raced infrequently.

Sun Yingjie, China, 9-2
PR: 2:25:45 (Tianjin, 1998) Age: 21

A year ago, she ignored advice to run conservatively and went for it, setting checkpoint records at 5K (15:58), 15K (49:23), and 20K (1:06:43). Cooked, she dropped back and finished 11th. At Beijing in October, she finished second in 2:31:19 to countrywoman Ai Dongmei's 2:29:20. Sun already has been selected to represent China in the Sydney Olympics.

Ai Dongmei, China, 9-2
PR: 2:27:30 (Beijing, 1997) Age: 22

A year ago, she ran conservatively at Boston and finished 19th. She trains at altitude north of Beijing and is hoping to earn a spot on the Chinese Olympic team for Sydney. The suspicion here is that the Chinese teammate/training partners will have learned their pacing strategy and be formidable challengers.

Anuta Catuna, Romania, 8-1
PR: 2:27:34 (Boston, 1998) Age: 31

Catuna's calling card says, ''New York champion, 1996.'' That's the year she outran world leaders Tegla Loroupe and Joyce Chepchumba in the Big Apple, setting a Romanian national record of 2:28:18. At Boston, she finished third in 1998 (2:27:34) and last year came in 10th in 2:33:49. She won the 1995 World Cup Marathon in Athens and was 11th in the World Championships Marathon in Athens in 1997.

Irina Bogacheva, Kyrgyzstan, 8-1
PR: 2:27:46 (Chicago, 1999) Age: 38

Next year she'll turn 40 and move into the Masters division; however, she's hardly slowing down, having won seven marathons over the past three years. Last year, she set a personal best of 2:27:46 while finishing fifth in Chicago. She also posted victories at Los Angeles (2:30:32), Honolulu (2:32:36), and San Diego (2:28:46). She already has her ticket to Sydney and has Olympic experience, finishing 21st at Atlanta in 1996.

Ornella Ferrara, Italy, 15-1
PR: 2:28:01 (Turin, 1997) Age: 32

Ferrara is on the comeback trail after having a baby. A veteran marathoner, she had a strong 1997, placing second at Turin (2:28:01), fifth at the World Championships in Athens (2:33:10), winning at Capri (2:28:45), and placing fifth at New York (2:31:44). The Italian camp is excited about her prospects, touting her as a strong hill runner. This year she won the Turin Half-Marathon in 1:11:46, then was 10th in the Lisbon half in 1:12.

Marta Tenorio, Ecuador, 25-1
PR: 2:27:57 (Boston, 1999) Age: 32

Her personal best, while finishing fifth at Boston last year, set both Ecuadoran and South American records, bettering her mark of 2:30:12, which she posted with a seventh place at Boston in 1994.

Men's odds

This story ran on page F13 of the Boston Globe on 4/14/2000.
© Copyright 2000 Globe Newspaper Company.

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