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Tanui can't go the distance

By Shira Springer, Globe Correspondent, 04/20/99

he will was strong, but the body was weak.

Thirty-four kilometers into yesterday's Boston Marathon, Moses Tanui suddenly felt pain in his stomach. The urge to vomit overwhelmed him. He stopped. He walked. He sipped water. He attempted to run again.

But just past the 35K mark (22 miles) on Chestnut Hill Avenue in Brighton, the defending champion reluctantly decided he could not continue.

For the first time, Tanui did not finish a marathon.

''I'm not happy because everybody cried when I stopped, but I had no other way,'' said Tanui, who was too ill to attend the postrace press conference and was reached by phone as he rested in his room at the Athletes' Village. ''It was very sad. Everyone was waiting, and all of a sudden this problem came.''

Tanui said his training this year was much better than in 1998, when he won the race in 2:07:34. But over the last three weeks, according to his coach, Dr. Gabriele Rosa, Tanui said he did not feel well and had symptoms similar to a chest cold. Rosa suggested Tanui get a checkup, but the runner declined, telling his coach not to worry.

Rosa believes that Tanui's cold symptoms and his failure to finish may be connected. Today, Tanui departs for Italy, his coach's home, for tests.

Said Tanui, ''I want to test everything because it was very unusual for me. I was completely confused because I don't know what happened to my body.''

Until the 30-kilometer mark, Tanui kept pace with the frontrunners but never surged into the lead. He appeared to be running the same type of smart race that enabled him to come from behind and win in 1998. Last year Tanui was 11 seconds back at the 35K mark, but he surged to win in the third-fastest time on the course.

This year, many of the elite runners were keying off Tanui, waiting for him to make a big move. They waited until the moment the defending champion stopped.

In recent years, Tanui has been an unmistakable presence at the Boston Marathon. With his dignified carriage, carefully measured words, and two titles, the athlete from Eldoret, Kenya, serves as an ambassador of sorts for the elite runners.

A group of Kenyan spectators was shocked when they learned that Tanui had dropped out.

''That's a shame,'' said Michael Odhiambo, a student at Northeastern School of Law from Nairobi. ''But we have nine more runners and I am confident we are going to take it for the ninth year in a row.''

This story ran on page F02 of the Boston Globe on 04/20/99.
© Copyright 1999 Globe Newspaper Company.

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