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Heartbreak Hill Claims Another Victim

April 16, 1996

BOSTON (AP) _ A record field of more than 38,000 waited at the starting line to begin the 100th Boston Marathon. And yet Moses Tanui knew how few of them would be around when the real race began.

Tanui pulled away from three-time defending champion Cosmas Ndeti as they left Heartbreak Hill, then finished off Ezekiel Bitok three miles later. Although the breakaway pack of Kenyans chatted in Swahili to encourage each other early on, the Newton hills signaled the end of the niceties.

``We feel that was the start of the race,″ said Tanui, who cramped on the 187-foot climb last year and placed second to Ndeti by one minute. ``We can talk while the race is still young. ... But after (20 miles), it depends on the individual.″

The world record holder in the half-marathon, Tanui earned his first marathon victory when he upset Ndeti to win in 2 hours, 9 minutes, 16 seconds. The Kenyans took the first five places in the men’s race and seven of the top eight.

Another Kenyan led the women’s race by 30 seconds at the 24-mile mark before slowing dramatically. Meanwhile, Germany’s Uta Pippig overcame an upset stomach and menstrual cramps to win her third consecutive women’s race.

So ill was Pippig that she had to literally wash herself off in the middle of the race, rest before her victory press conference and see a doctor today to figure out what was wrong.

``I felt not nice. I was thinking several times to drop out because it hurt so much,″ she said before flashing the smile that has made her a local favorite. ``But in the end, I’m OK because I won.″

Pippig finished 85 seconds ahead of Kenyan Tegla Loroupe, with Japan’s Nobuko Fujimura third.

Jean Driscoll of Champaign, Ill., won an unprecedented seventh consecutive wheelchair race. Only Clarence DeMar, who won seven men’s races, has won as many titles in the history of the longest-running long run in the world.

Heinz Frei of Switzerland took the men’s wheelchair division, leading the official field of 38,706 _ four times the previous record _ across the finish line.

``I think all of us who worked the start were ecstatic at the way everything went,″ technical director David McGillivray said after getting the field across the starting line in 28 minutes _ one-third the time some expected.

But at the finish, not everything went as well.

Swedish runner Humphrey Siesage had a heart attack just after the finish line and was taken to Massachusetts General Hospital, the race’s medical director said. Siesage, of Stockholm, was pronounced dead at 6:06 p.m. He was 61.

Three others were taken to hospitals for fractures and one for a seizure, race officials said. A total of 1,300 people were treated in the medical tent for more minor injuries.

Also, computer problems kept marathon organizers from releasing official times Monday night. The problem was computer-related, race spokesman Jack Fleming said, but not due to the transmitters each runner tied to his shoes to announce his arrival to the finish-line computer.

``We’re going through the 18 miles of computer lines and dozens of computer programs trying to figure out where the problem is,″ he said, setting his sights on today for the official results.

Except for a sometimes stiff headwind, the conditions were ideal for the marathon’s 100th edition, and defending champion Ndeti was predicting that he would set a new course record.

He started on pace to do just that before slowing between the 15- and 20-mile checkpoints.

``I must say Cosmas took it too fast. He did not calculate his race,″ said Isaiah Kiplagat, the president of the Kenyan Amateur Athletic Association. ``Psychologically, he was thinking of winning the fourth time. Too much stress, I think.″

Unlike the United States, whose best marathoners are preparing for the Atlanta games elsewhere this week, Kenya uses Boston as its Olympic trial. But that doesn’t by itself explain the success Kenyans have had here, winning the last six Boston Marathons.

``We normally look after cattle and sheep. We normally run to school, then to lunch time, then back to school,″ said Tanui, who said he would skip the marathon at Atlanta in favor of the 10,000-meter run. ``This is where I began to run.″

Despite falling behind on Heartbreak Hill and losing a chance at an unprecedented fourth consecutive men’s title, Ndeti was not heartbroken.

``I’m not disappointed. Losing is not a big shock,″ he said. ``I can still say I am the, best because I hold the course record and I won here three times in a row.″

Now, so has Pippig.

After falling as much as 220 yards behind Loroupe at the 23-mile mark, Pippig caught her in the 25th mile and easily passed the Kenyan as they crossed the Massachusetts Turnpike on their way into Kenmore Square.

The 30-year-old German seemed to have surprised herself as she hammed for the cameras while crossing the one-mile-to-go mark before finishing in 2:27:12.

Although her three consecutive victories constitute an official record for the women’s division, in reality it only puts her in the top three. Roberta Gibb won from 1966-68 and Sara Mae Berman won it the next three years, when women were not yet officially allowed in the race.

The race went coed in 1972 and women have gained a measure of equality since then. Not everything has changed _ they still use pink paper for the women’s results and blue for the men _ but there were more than 9,800 women in the record-setting field, more than the total field in any other year.

And the progress did not escape Pippig.

``I thought a lot this last week about the whole situation, about the marathon, about Roberta Gibb,″ Pippig said. ``It was a milestone that so many women could start here.

``I feel good about it, of course, because it’s equal now. Men and women start together and run together. It’s just nice, because everyone should have the same right to do anything on Earth that he wants.″

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