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Boston Marathon Course section

Zakharova distances herself from the pack

By Michael Smith, Globe Staff, 4/22/2003


Road rave
Zakharova takes women's title
Boston street smarts
Kimutai got over the hump
Runyan fifth after battle
Denisova knew her place: 2d
Hellebuyck leads the way
Ripp, Van Dyk: Spin control
Russian contingent was rushin'
Wellesley voices carry
Heart, sole are put to the test
Hopkinton's just the beginning
Pushing the human body
Up-close view for this father
Girl OK after wheelchair collision
In the running

R. Cheruiyot 2:10:11
Benjamin Kosgei Kimutai 2:10:34
Martin Lel 2:11:11
Timothy Cherigat 2:11:28
Christopher Cheboiboch 2:12:45
Fedor V. Ryzhov 2:15:29
Rodgers Rop 2:16:14
David Kiptum Busienei 2:16:16
Elly K. Rono 2:17:00
Eddy Hellebuyck 2:17:18
| Men's Top 25 |

Svetlana Zakharova 2:25:20
Lyubov Denisova 2:26:51
Joyce Chepchumba 2:27:20
Margaret Okaya 2:27:39
Marla Runyan 2:30:28
Albina Ivanova 2:30:57
Firaya Sultanova-Zhdanova 2:31:30
Milena Glusac 2:37:32
Jill Gaitenby 2:38:19
Esther Kiplagat 2:38:43
| Women's Top 25 |

Ernst F. Van Dyk1:28:32
Krige Schabort1:30:07
Kelly Smith 1:30:52
| Complete list (men & women) |

Christina Ripp1:54:47
Cheri A. Blauwet1:54:57
Edith Hunkeler1:56:54
| Complete list (men & women) |

Search BAA database of all finishers

The last time, her first time, was like a bad blind date. Svetlana Zakharova was 26 then, single (her last name was Vasilieva), and not very experienced. She thought she had the running world all figured out, but in reality, she wasn't completely aware of what she was getting herself into when she entered the 1996 Boston Marathon. That Patriots Day went so poorly she decided she never again wanted to see the course. She finished 15th with a time of 2 hours 39 minutes 59 seconds. Don't bother calling.

Seven years later, Zakharova had a change of heart, thanks to a greater sense of confidence gained through running three to four marathons a year and a rigorous training regimen in the mountains of Russia, and some encouragement from her coach/husband, Nikolay Zakharova.

''It was a very difficult experience,'' she said yesterday, through an interpreter, of her first race in Boston. ''It was a very difficult recovery after that race. I wasn't ready to run such a big race and prestigious marathon. It was difficult to make this decision to come to Boston.''

Getting her back for a third time should not be quite so difficult, for Zakharova won the women's division of yesterday's 107th Boston Marathon in 2:25:20 -- a minute and a half ahead of countrywoman Lyubov Denisova.

Zakharova, her country's national record-holder (2:21:31 in Chicago last year) became the first Russian woman to win here since Olga Markova in 1992-93. This also marked the first time Russian women finished first and second.

''Now I'm No. 1,'' said Zakharova, who also is $80,000 richer. ''And I know this course is not something I cannot run. I'm very happy and just overwhelmed at this moment.''

As for putting an end to a run of three consecutive Kenyan victories and six straight wins by African runners, ''It just happened here that the Russian women ran stronger,'' she said. ''I don't really know how to explain why we did better. Maybe because it's a difficult course and the Russian women, we like to go through the difficulties. Maybe that's the reason.''

An American woman has not broken the tape in Boston since 1985, but three finished in the top 10 yesterday, led by 34-year-old Marla Runyan of Eugene, Ore., who finished in fifth place (2:30:28). Coming off a New York City Marathon in which she posted the fifth-fastest time (2:27:10) by an American woman, Runyan started strong and led after the first mile. She fell behind defending champion Margaret Okayo of Kenya and was in the lead pack (briefly moving back in front near the 10-mile mark) until Zakharova surged ahead near Wellesley. As the gap widened between Zakharova and Runyan on Washington Street, winning moved down Runyan's priority list.

''I had a cramp [in her side and calf] at the 16- to 17-mile point,'' said Runyan, who is legally blind and had a cyclist riding alongside her to warn of hazards.

Zakharova was setting the pace until Okayo overtook her as they approached Newton. Zakharova, known as a strong second-half marathoner, reclaimed the lead at 19 miles, but Denisova edged back in front as they neared Chestnut Hill. That's when Zakharova showed just how much she'd matured since the 100th Boston Marathon.

She took command at, of all places, Heartbreak Hill, and by the time she reached Brookline she was comfortably ahead.

''Most of my races have been different strategy than this race,'' Zakharova said. ''For this race, my coach and I decided to accelerate after the 10K point and push as hard as I could through the difficult parts.''

It appeared as though she would have a difficult time keeping up with Okayo when the defending champ opened a 10-foot cushion in Newton Lower Falls. But she wasn't dealing with the same wide-eyed rookie of seven years ago. And, Okayo acknowledged, she started a bit too quickly.

''I noticed that Margaret was running a little different this year,'' Zakharova said. ''I ran against her in New York, and I was confident that I was in better shape this time. I saw that Margaret fell back and tried catch up again, and that's probably not the way to do it. I had a lot of confidence that I would be able to overtake Margaret, especially on the hard part of the course. So I wasn't really concerned about Margaret or any of the other runners.''

This story ran on page C1 of the Boston Globe on 4/22/2003.
© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.

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