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”Catherine the Great” is Boston”s best

Associated Press

BOSTON – Twenty-five years after Rosie Ruiz came out of nowhere to “win” the Boston Marathon, Catherine Ndereba staged a rally almost as improbable.

Trailing by four football fields at the halfway point, the Kenyan known as “Catherine the Great” caught Elfenesh Alemu to win an unprecedented fourth women’s title Monday in 2 hours, 25 minutes, 13 seconds.

Ethiopia’s Hailu Negussie covered the 26.2-mile course from Hopkinton to Boston’s Back Bay in a heat-slowed 2:11:45 for the men’s title, earning $100,000 and breaking Kenya’s stranglehold on the event. Alan Culpepper gave the U.S. something to celebrate, finishing fourth in the best finish for an American since Dave Gordon was fourth in 1987.

Ndereba made sure the Kenyans weren’t shut out.

“In Kenya we all celebrate as a group, so when someone wins we all celebrate,” said Benson Cherono, third in the men’s race behind Negussie and Kenyan Wilson Onsare. “I gave my congratulations to her for winning. I thank God for what she did.”

Ruiz became one of the most notorious cheaters in sports history when she was declared the winner of the 1980 Boston Marathon despite running only about a mile. The real winner, Jacqueline Gareau, was brought back on Monday to claim some of her usurped spoils.

Ndereba didn’t need any trickery to beat Alemu for the second consecutive year. Last year’s 16-second gap tied the closest in the history of the women’s race, but Ndereba won this year by 1:50.

“It is more than a thrill,” Ndereba said. “I felt like my legs were kind of heavy when we started. As I kept on pushing the pace, I felt like my body was moving and I felt like, ‘Wow! I can do it.’ “

Alemu was in the lead pack from the fifth mile in Framingham, pulling away at Wellesley College to open an 80-second lead at the 13.1-mile mark. Ndereba pulled even with the Ethiopian at the crest of Heartbreak Hill, about two hours into the race.

They ran side-by-side past Boston College onto Beacon Street before Alemu fell back at Cleveland Circle in Brookline.

Alemu has finished second two times in a row. In 2002, her only other Boston appearance, she was third to Ndereba’s second.

“I am not disappointed because there is winning, and there is not winning,” Alemu said. “It happens. I am not worried … “

Kenyans had won 13 of the previous 14 men’s races, but this year they’ll have to settle for Ndereba’s victory.

“I’m proud to be the one who won for Ethiopia,” said Negussie, who was fifth last year and the only non-Kenyan in the top six. “Day and night I was thinking about winning the Boston Marathon. And I think I did what I was dreaming of.”

Culpepper of Lafayette, Colo., finished in 2:13:39, but he wasn’t the only American who did well. Peter Gilmore of San Mateo, Calif., was 10th and Ryan Shay of Central Lake, Mich., was 11th.

Ernst Van Dyk of South Africa won his fifth consecutive wheelchair race, finishing in 1:24:11 – almost six minutes ahead of countryman Krige Schabort. Van Dyk, who set a world best of 1:18:27 last year, is the first man to win five Boston wheelchair races in a row. Cheri Blauwet, of Menlo Park, Calif., also repeated in the wheelchair division, winning by 3:08 in 1:47:45.

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