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After going all out, Maiyo ran down

Kenyan couldn't keep up the pace

Benjamin Maiyo (5) had company on the flat roads, but once he stepped up the pace, only Robert Cheruiyot (8) remained in the chase.
Benjamin Maiyo (5) had company on the flat roads, but once he stepped up the pace, only Robert Cheruiyot (8) remained in the chase. (Globe Staff Photo / Jonathan Wiggs)

Benjamin Maiyo and a few of his Kenyan running buddies had decided Sunday night that they weren't going out for a holiday jog yesterday. ''We said, 'Let's try to run a fast race,' " Maiyo said, after he finished a depleted second to countryman Robert Cheruiyot in the Boston Marathon. ''Let's not go very slow."

Maiyo had run 2 hours 7 minutes 9 seconds while finishing second in Chicago last autumn. Why couldn't he do 2:07:14 here? ''My tactic was to run the course record," he said.

The topographical differences -- Chicago is shaped like a flounder, Boston like a three-humped camel -- didn't bother him.

''They were saying there's a lot of hills, but I had good training," said the 27-year-old Maiyo, who hadn't glimpsed the layout until four days ago. ''I was not feeling that the course would be a problem."

So he lit out like a cottontail being chased by a coyote, pushing the pace with the leaders through Ashland and Framingham and Natick. And when Tanzania's John Yuda faded and his clubmates Timothy Cherigat and John Korir dropped off coming into Wellesley, Maiyo kept pushing, stringing together 4:43, 4:43, and 4:41 miles.

When he hit the half-marathon in 1:02:44, Maiyo was more than two minutes quicker than Cosmas Ndeti was when he set the course record in 1994. That was insanely fast -- or maybe it was just insane. Coming down into Newton, Maiyo threw in a 4:38. Only Meb Keflezighi and Ethiopia's Deriba Merga, a couple of Boston newbies, dared stay with him once the tachometer was revved that high.

''I went for it," said Keflezighi, who ended up third in his bid to become the first US winner since 1983. ''Benjamin kind of was not patient and I wanted to be a little more patient."

On this course, where the hills don't begin until 18 miles, knowledge defeats audacity every time. The patient man was Cheruiyot, who'd had the full spectrum of experience in his three previous outings here. He won in 2003, dropped out in 2004, and faded from second to fifth last year after winner Hailu Negussie busted him along the Haunted Mile before Cleveland Circle.

Yesterday, Cheruiyot sidled up alongside Maiyo in the hills, affably declined his invitation to take over, then blew him away going up Heartbreak Hill. By the time he reached the ''Cemetery of Lost Hope" after the downside, Maiyo was 20 seconds behind and he might as well have been interred.

''The last 3 kilometers, I was very tired," said Maiyo, who finished in 2:08:21, still the 12th-fastest time in race history. ''So I was trying to see the finish line only."

He got there faster than everybody but one man, yet more than a minute slower than he'd planned. But Maiyo learned a lesson they've been teaching in this town for 110 years. The only checkpoint time that matters is the final one.

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