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Kosgei, Merga win in Boston

KENYA'S Salina Kosgei outkicked Kara Goucher and defending champion Dire Tune in the last mile of the Boston Marathon on Monday, going back and forth with Tune in the final blocks of Boylston Street to win the closest women's finish in event history.

Ethiopia's Deriba Merga overcame his fade in the Olympic marathon at Beijing to win the men's race, with Ryan Hall picking up another third place for US runners - their best showing in more than 20 years.

Merga had pulled away by the bottom of Heartbreak Hill, winning in 2 hours, 8 minutes, 42 seconds - 50 seconds ahead of second-place finisher Daniel Rono of Kenya, with Hall another 8 seconds back.

Merga led much of the Olympic marathon last August before he wilted in the heat and was passed in the last quarter-mile, finishing fourth.

His victory on Monday gave Ethiopia its second in five years; Kenya had won in 16 of the past 18 years, and will have to be satisfied with a women's title - its seventh since the turn of the century.

"Boston is one of the biggest marathons in the world," Merga said. "Because of that, our people are very happy."

The men seemed undaunted by a stiff headwind that slowed the women to a methodical pace - 6:28 for the first mile. Though the elite women were given a half-hour head start, Merga began passing the women's stragglers as he left Wellesley and threatened to catch the leaders. After finishing, he had to wait for his laurel wreath because Kosgei had not had a chance to climb the podium.

"I was a little bit embarrassed," said eighth-place finisher Colleen De Reuck, a 45-year-old four-time Olympian who grabbed the lead at several points out of frustration. "You come to a marathon - and a big marathon like this - you get paid a lot of money to come and run and I think you should race."

Goucher led the three women as they crossed above the MassPike into Kenmore Square with 1 mile to go, but the two Africans began to pull away from her as they dueled. One year after Tune outkicked Alevtina Biktimirova to win by 2 seconds in what was then the closest women's finish ever, the Ethiopian traded places with Kosgei several times on the last long stretch to the tape.

"I was a sprinter before," Kosgei said. "So I know about the sprinting."

The only closer finish in the 113-year history of the event was the men's race in 2000.


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