Fatuma Roba is still looking for Heartbreak Hill.
Competing on a course she had never run, the 26-year-old Ethiopian became the first African woman to win the Boston Marathon, proving that her Olympic victory in Atlanta wasn’t just a one-race breakthrough.
Roba finished in 2 hours, 26 minutes, 23 seconds Monday, the first runner - male or female - to win in Boston after the Summer Games.
She did it on a demanding, undulating stretch known for its steep hills - including the famed Heartbreak Hill.
“I am told there is a hill, but I didn’t find it,” she joked afterward.
Kim Jones, 38, of Spokane, again was the first American woman to finish, placing ninth in 2:32:52, but wasn’t pleased with her performance.
“It was a rough day for me,” said Jones, a two-time runner-up here (1991 and 1993). “I had worked more on my speed, but it didn’t seem to help today. I just don’t like the wind.”
For the men, Lameck Aguta ushered in the marathon’s second century the same way its first century ended - with a Kenyan champion.
Fourth the previous two years, he became the seventh consecutive Kenyan winner and third different champion in three years.
The 25-year-old pulled away toward the end, finishing in 2:10:34.
“It is magic,” Aguta said. “I have been waiting all my life for this.”
Uta Pippig of Germany, trying to become the first four-time women’s winner, finished fourth in 2:28:51, more than 2 minutes behind Roba. She did not decide to seek a fourth consecutive title until March 7.
Pippig has been beset by physical problems. She was forced to drop out of the Olympics because of a stress fracture while leading, then developed another stress fracture four weeks later.
“I had less training than in other years,” she said, with her usual gracious smile. “I’m fourth, it’s OK.”
The victories by Roba and Aguta in the 101-year-old marathon appeared to signal the end of an era not only for Pippig but Kenya’s Cosmas Ndeti, the Boston champion from 1993-95 and third-place finisher last year. Ndeti, never in contention, finished 27th in 2:22:56.
“My training didn’t go as well as the last four years,” said Ndeti, who set the course record of 2:07:15 in 1994. “The other guys still have some homework to do, though, because they didn’t break the course record.”
As expected, the men’s race materialized into a battle between the Kenyans and the Mexicans, who never have won at Boston.
The Mexicans had a strong contingent of three-time London Marathon champion Dionicio Ceron, two-time New York City Marathon winner German Silva and 1993 New York City champion Andres Espinoza.
As late as 25 miles, Ceron and Kenya’s Joseph Kamau were within 2 seconds of Aguta. But the rangy Aguta, trained by Pippig’s coach, Dieter Hogen, then began pulling away and beat Kamau by 12 seconds.
Kamau, timed in 2:10:46, was followed by Ceron in 2:10:59 in his Boston debut. Silva, also in his first race at Boston, finished fourth at 2:11:21 and Tanui was fifth at 2:11:38.
Tanui developed bronchitis a week ago and had little stamina.Aguta’s time was the slowest since Ibrahim Hussein’s 2:11:06 in 1992, but the runners were plagued by a headwind throughout the 26 miles, 385 yards.
Aguta and Roba each earned $75,000 from the purse of $500,000.
Franz Nietlispach of Switzerland, the 1995 champion, regained the men’s wheelchair division in 1:28:14, and Louise Sauvage of Australia ended the seven-year reign of Jean Driscoll of Champaign, Ill., winning the women’s division in 1:54:29.
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