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LeMay moves to forefront

By Susan Bickelhaupt, Globe Staff, 04/20/99

oe LeMay of Danbury, Conn., knew he wasn't the odds-on favorite to be the first American to cross the finish line in yesterday's Boston Marathon. Which was fine with him.

''I kept my eye on Rod DeHaven, the guy who everybody thought would win,'' said LeMay.

DeHaven indeed was the front-runner among US athletes for much of the race, running with the lead pack for most of the way, just a bobbing head to his fellow Americans.

''I just kept Rod in my sight - he probably had 20, 30 seconds on me the whole time,'' said LeMay.

Then, just before Heartbreak Hill, LeMay figured it was time to make his move. He surged ahead and joined the leaders, and although he was not fast enough to stay with eventual winner Joseph Chebet, he was fast enough to leave DeHaven behind.

LeMay earned no prize money as top American male, but his 13th-place overall finish was good for $1,800. And his time of 2 hours 16 minutes 11 seconds was good enough to earn him a spot in the US Olympic marathon qualifier next February.

DeHaven finished in 18th place, at 2:19:23, while last year's top American, Joe McVeigh, finished 19th, at 2:20:21.

LeMay, 32, had run four marathons, but yesterday was his first visit to the Boston course. He said it was everything that he had anticipated. And more.

''It was a little harder than I expected,'' he said. ''I thought the downhills would be nice and easy, but they really tore my quads apart. It was really difficult the last couple of miles.''

He made adjustments for the temperature, which rose from 51 degrees when the starting gun went off at noon to 73 degrees an hour later.

''I had promised myself that if it was close to 70 degrees, I'd adjust my goal,'' said LeMay. ''It was about 2:12 going in, but I adjusted it to 2:14, 2:15. And I was prepared for that, had a lot of water, and was constantly throwing water on me.''

LeMay is eager for another shot at an Olympic qualifying race after a bitter experience in 1996. He ran in the 10,000-meter qualifier that year and finished second. But the race was slow, and LeMay's time was not good enough to earn him a spot in the Atlanta Games.

LeMay, who started running competitively when he was 14, has excelled at both 10,000 meters and the marathon. His fastest marathon was in Chicago in 1996, when he finished in 2:14:58, and he still holds the record at Princeton University for 10,000 meters, at 28:59.

The last American to win the Boston Marathon outright was Greg Meyer, in 1983, and LeMay acknowledged that at times he feels like he's in a different league from the Kenyans.

''I feel like I'm not really in contention, although I did beat a few Kenyans today,'' he said. ''They run the first half faster than me, regardless, and I just try to pick up the pieces.''

He put his time in perspective.

''I guess it's getting to be a little prestigious to be the first American - I mean, 2:16 is not bad, but it's really not a very good time, taking into account the rest of the world,'' he said. ''But I'm still very happy with it.''

This story ran on page F08 of the Boston Globe on 04/20/99.
© Copyright 1999 Globe Newspaper Company.

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