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Winners, runners-up talk about the race

By Andy Nesbitt, Special to 4/17/00

The top finishers in today's Boston Marathon thanked God for their wins, complained about the windy weather, blamed themselves for not doing better, and explained just how it was they came in first, second or third.

"I'm very happy to win this race," said Elijah Lagat, who won the men's division with a time of 2:09.47.

At a post-race news conference at the Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel, Lagat said he was happy "not only to win, but to qualify for the Olympics and to run for my country."

Lagat, who for much of the race was back in a pack of runners or in second place, said that as the event wore on, he found himself catching up to fellow Kenyan Moses Tanui.

"I was in second place," he said. "I found I was getting closer and closer to Moses, and I began to sprint to the maximum and that allowed me to win.

"The wind was very strong," he said. "We had it all the way ... in front of us, so it was hard. I wanted to go (out) in front, but the wind was so hard that I had to fall back with the other athletes."

Tanui said he made a mistake in trying to sprint too soon. "Everybody has to make a mistake and that was my mistake," he said. "I felt strong, then I was nervous, thinking maybe I had made my move too early.

"Usually that position is where I move," Tanui said. "The difference today was it was too windy."

Catherine Ndereba, who won the women's division with a time of 2:26.11, said she was not worried about her closest competitor, Fatuma Roba.

The two women were elbow to elbow near the end of the Marathon -- until Ndereba broke out in front. Roba finished third.

"I was not worried about (Roba's) distance," Ndereba said. "What I was concerned about was finishing strong, and in the process I caught her and was able to win the race."

Roba said, "I had been leading for quite a few miles and was disappointed to finish third. I was hoping to make history" by winning her fourth consecutive Boston Marathon.

She blamed the breezy conditions for slowing her down. "The weather was windy. It was in front of us. It was too cold."

Said Ndereba: "I was surprised to get No. 1 in Boston. But I was working hard. I prayed to God to help me, and I had my blessings answered today."

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