BOSTON (AP) _ Same faces, slower paces. This year’s Boston Marathon was a virtual repeat of last year’s race.
Cosmas Ndeti won the men’s race for the third straight year, Uta Pippig won the women’s race for the second straight year, and even the winner of the women’s wheelchair race was a repeat _ for the sixth straight year.
It was the first time in Boston Marathon history that the defending champions repeated. And like last year, Pippig and Ndeti were invited to join President Clinton for a run at the White House.
About the only thing different from last year’s race was the absence of the traditional Patriot’s Day game at Fenway Park. The Red Sox didn’t play this year because the baseball strike delayed the start of the season.
Ndeti ran away from Kenyan countryman Moses Tanui over the final two miles to become only the third man _ and first foreigner _ to win three consecutive times.
He covered the course in 2 hours, 9 minutes, 22 seconds _ more than two minutes slower than his record time last year. But he beat Tanui by a full minute and celebrated his triple-triumph by raising three fingers to the crowd.
``Last year’s race was tougher,″ said Ndeti, who beat Andres Espinosa of Mexico by only three seconds in 1994. ``This year was not so tough.″
He plans to be back next year, too, ``and I’m going to win again.″
Ndeti’s victory came on the birthday of his 2-year-old son, Gideon Boston, whose middle name was added after his father won the race in 1993. Ndeti wanted to bring his son to Boston this year, but the youngster was unable to get a visa.
``He’s his good luck charm,″ Ndeti’s agent, Mark Wetmore, said before the race.
Pippig pulled away from Elana Meyer of South Africa over the closing three miles to win in 2:25:11, about 3 1/2 minutes more than the course-record she set last year.
``She showed that she’s the best marathoner in the world,″ Meyer said.
The 29-year-old German said she experienced foot problems throughout the race, but she didn’t use that as an excuse for her slower time.
``Come on, it’s not a big deal,″ she said.
Jean Driscoll, 28, of Champaign, Ill., won the women’s wheelchair race for the sixth straight year. The winning time was 1:40:42, more than six minutes slower than last year and the first time in six years she failed to set a world record.
Ndeti, who joined Clarence DeMar (1922-24) and Bill Rodgers (1978-80) as the only men to win three straight Boston Marathons, declined to reveal his successful strategy for the race.
``I have my own training methods in Kenya for this race, but I don’t want to let my secrets out,″ he said.
Ndeti said he realized victory was in his grasp at the 15.5-mile mark.
``I felt strong and I knew I was going to win,″ he said.
Despite his tremendous success in Boston, Ndeti was far from an instant star here.
The first time he ran in the Boston Marathon, race organizers misspelled his name as N’Deti. Last year, very few observers expected him to repeat.
This year, he again had his skeptics. That was because after last year’s brilliant performance, he had run poorly in other races.
He dropped out of the Chicago Marathon in October with a foot blister at 23 miles. He failed to make the Kenyan world cross country team this year with a poor effort during the trials, and he ran a slow 1:08:14 for a half-marathon at Lisbon, Portugal.
Nevertheless, he came into Boston supremely confident.
``I am very focused,″ he said three days prior to the race, ``because Boston is very important for me. My goal is to win Boston again. Then people will recognize me as the best because I have won three times and set a course record.″
Ndeti stayed with a big pack early behind pacesetter Barnabas Rotich of Kenya before moving into the lead at the 18-mile mark. He yielded it briefly to Kim Jae-Ryong of South Korea at 20 miles, but regained it quickly and widened his margin over the final six miles.
Tanui, the 1991 world champion at 10,000 meters and 10th at Boston last year, finished in 2:10:22. Luiz Antonio dos Santos of Brazil sped past Lameck Aguta of Kenya with about 100 meters left and took third at 2:11:02.
Aguta finished fourth at 2:11:03 and another Kenyan, first-time marathoner Paul Yego, was fifth at 2:11:13. The powerful Kenyans placed six in the top 10, with Sammy Ngangincha eighth and Gilbert Rutto ninth.
In the women’s race, Meyer lost valuable ground to Pippig when she twice had difficulty grabbing her water bottle in late stops. Meyer was second at 2:26:51, with Madina Biktagirova of Belarus third at 2:29.
One reason the times were faster in 1994 was the presence of a 19 mph tailwind. There was no tailwind Monday but, as it was a year ago, the temperature was ideal in the high 40s, with little humidity.
Each of the champions received $75,000 from the record purse of $500,000.
Franz Nietlispach, a 37-year-old from Rheinfelden, Switzerland, won the men’s wheelchair race in 1:25:59. He had finished second, third, fourth and eighth in previous wheelchair events at Boston.