SAN DIEGO, Calif. - (June 5, 2005) - The third time was a charm for Kenyan Christopher Cheboibich as he captured the 2005 Coca-Cola Zero Rock 'n' Roll Marathon title in near perfect running conditions Sunday morning in San Diego. Cheboibich, who finished second here in 1998 and fifth in 2000, won the 26.2-mile race in a time of 2 hours, 9 minutes, 17 seconds. Three-time Olympic medalist Gete Wami of Ethiopia won the women's race in 2:30:55.
Both champions took home $20,000 and a new vehicle for their victory.
After the pack of 17 men reeled off five consecutive sub-5 minute miles, from the halfway point to 17 miles, the group finally separated. It was Cheboiboch, 28, in front, along with countrymen Stephen Kiogora, Benson Cherono and Simon Bor. Two miles later, Bor had dropped back and by mile 20 it was Cheboiboch and Kiogora and the race had begun.
The two Kenyans jockeyed back and forth before Cheboiboch slowly started pulling away. He opened up a 100 yard lead at mile 23 and ran the final two miles solo. It was a race for second place from there, with Kiogora crossing at 2:09:51 and Benson Cherono at 2:10:01.
"I knew I had to persist and stay behind the rabbit," said Cheboiboch, who had battled the flu since his arrival in the United States last week. "I feel lucky I ran this time. Today was my day. You have to be patient. You have to be proud of the runners from your country. You cannot win all the time. I'm proud of my countrymen, but even with the flu, today was my day."
It was a tactical race on the women's side as the group ran very conservatively thru the first 25K, and went thru the halfway mark at 1:16:51. There were still seven women together at the 30K mark. After dropping a 5:18 mile from 20 to 21, Ethiopian Elfenesh Alemu strung out the pack, taking along Wami and Kenyan Hellen Kimutai.
Wami and Alemu ran side-by-side to the 26-mile marker. It was a short distance battle at that point with Wami, an Olympic silver (10,000m) and bronze (5000m/10,000m) medalist, versus the true marathoner who finished fourth in the distance event at the 2004 Olympic Games. The track speed played to Wami's advantage as she was able to out-kick Alemu with just about a quarter mile to go. Alemu finished in 2:31:08 and Kimutai was third at 2:31:15.
"The pace was very slow today, everyone was watching each other," said Wami, the 1999 10,000m world champion. "I expected somebody to take action, but nobody did. It was difficult to do at that pace. I was expecting Elfenesh to take action, and she didn't go, so I did."
Over 20,000 participants from all 50 states and numerous foreign countries competed in the original musical marathon.
Among them were more than 3,500 Team In Training runners, who raised an astounding $12.5 million (net) for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, bringing the eight-year total to $97.1 million (net).
MEN 1) Christopher Cheboiboch, 28, Kenya, 2:09:17, $20,000, plus vehicle 2) Stephen Kiogora, 30, Kenya, 2:09:51, $20,000 3) Benson Cherono, 21, Kenya, 2:10:01, $10,000 4) Simon Bor, 36, Kenya, 2:12:38, $7500 5) Tekeste Kebede, 25, Ethiopia, 2:13:16, $5000 6) Philip Tarus, 30, Kenya, 2:13:42, $2000 7) Ondoro Osoro, 37, Kenya, 2:13:56, $1300 8) Laban Chege, 35, Kenya, 2:15:46, $1200 9) Nelson Njeru, 27, Kenya, 2:17:04, $1100 10) Michael Rotich, 22, Kenya, 2:18:03, $1000 WOMEN 1) Gete Wami, 30, Ethiopia, 2:30:55, $20,000, plus vehicle 2) Elfenesh Alemu, 29, Ethiopia, 2:31:08, $20,000 3) Hellen Kimutai, 27, Kenya, 2:31:15, $10,000 4) Kerryn McCann, 38, Australia, 2:32:29, $7500 5) Joyce Chepchumba, 34, Kenya, 2:32:49, $5000 6) Malgorzata Sobanska, 36, Poland, 2:33:16, $2000 7) Margaret Atodonyang, 25, Kenya, 2:33:33, $1300 8) Lina Usmanova, 23, Russia, 2:40:14, $1200 9) Tatiana Titova, 39, Russia, 2:40:34, $1100 10) Elena Burykina, 33, Russia, 2:44:34, $1000 MASTERS Men (40+) 1) Salvador Rodriquez, 44, San Diego, CA, 2:42:01, $1000 MASTERS Women (40+) 1) Lourdes Cruz-Torres, 41, 2:46:46, Portugal, $1000