CHICAGO - 2006 Boston Marathon champion Robert Cheruiyot of Kenya outran countryman Daniel Njenga by five seconds to capture his second title in a World Marathon Majors event today at the LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon. Cheruiyot turned in a time of 2:07:35 as Njenga finished in the runner-up position for the third time, running 2:07:40. Berhane Adere of Ethiopia captured the women's title in 2:20:42.
Continuing to show great promise over the marathon distance, two-time U.S. Olympian Abdi Abdirahman (Tucson, Ariz.) lowered his personal best by over two minutes, running 2:08:56 to place fourth overall. Brian Sell (Rochester Hills, Mich.) placed sixth, also running a personal record of 2:10:47.
Despite the cold, windy conditions that were waiting for the crowd of 34,698 at the start, the early pacesetters hit their goal pace of 4:49 per mile with a lead pack of more than a dozen men passing the half-way point in 1:03:13. By 35 km, the group had thinned to four contenders, including Cheruiyot, Njenga, Jimmy Muindi (KEN) and Abdirahman.
At 40 km Cheruiyot, Njenga and Muindi had pulled 35 seconds ahead of Abdirahman, yet it was not evident which of the three would emerge as the champion. Passing the 25 mile mark on Michigan Avenue, Muindi began to fade as Cheruiyot and Njenga began their duel to the finish.
Just before making the turn on to Roosevelt Avenue, Cheruiyot pulled away from Njenga only to see him regain contact as they made their way to the final turn on Columbus. With one more push at 200 meters to go, Cheruiyot made the break to take him to victory but he was unable to enjoy his celebration as he slipped and fell, hitting his head, just as he crossed the finish line. Because his torso crossed the finish line he was declared the official champion, Cheruiyot was transported to the hospital as a precaution and was unable to commemorate his win at the awards ceremony.
In the women's race, pre-race favorite Constantina Tomescu-Dita of Romania made a bold charge to the lead from the gun in an effort to meet her goal of running under 2:20. Though Tomescu-Dita was running near world record pace for nearly ten miles before beginning to feel the effects of the pace, she managed to hold a lead of nearly two minutes through 30 km.
With her lead slowly evaporating, Adere and Galina Bogomolova of Russia made a late charge to overtake Tomescu-Dita just before 24 miles and the former World Half Marathon Champion quickly faded, struggling to hold on for fifth place.
Making their way up Michigan Avenue, the pair looked to be setting the stage for an encore of the men's duel to the finish but Adere would make good use of her kick to pull away from Bogomolova in the final kilometer to go on to a 1:12 personal best and five second win. Adere also led the first four women to respective national records for Ethiopia, Russia, Australia and Mexico. Elva Dryer (Gunnison, Colo.) was the top U.S. woman, running 2:31:48 to finish 12th in her marathon debut.
Cheruiyot's dramatic victory today not only secured him $140,000 in prize and bonus money, it also moved him into a commanding lead in the chase for the $500,000 that is awaiting the winner of the World Marathon Majors Series in 2007. Adere's win moved her from a tie for fourth in the standings into a narrow five-point lead over Kenya's Rita Jeptoo.
The Chicago race was the fourth of the five WMM events that will take place in 2006, the next and final one of the year being the ING New York City Marathon on November 5.
Record number of U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon Qualifiers
U.S. distance running again saw another highpoint with 44 men and 25 women qualifying for the 2008 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, the most in a single race to date. Each earned The LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon's American Development Bonus and time bonuses for posting the qualifying times.
The American Development Bonus offered an $80,000 prize purse to U.S. citizens in The 2006 LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon and will be split among the first twenty-five (25) U.S. male citizen finishers and first twenty-five (25) U.S. female citizen finishers.
The American Development Bonus will also pay an additional incentive for the U.S. athletes who ran under the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials qualifying times. A bonus of $2,500 will be paid to the 20 men and three women who met the respective "A" Standards of 2:20:00 and 2:39:00. A bonus of $1,500 will be paid to the 24 men and 22 women who met the respective "B" Standards of 2:22:00 and 2:47:00. The Time Bonuses are based on gun/clock time finish and are not cumulative.
For more information on the 2006 LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon visit www.chicagomarathon.com.