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Ndereba Gets Her 2nd World's Marathon Title (Race Results Weekly Recap)
By David Monti
(c) 2007 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

OSAKA (02-Sep) -- Facing reporters in a muggy post-race press conference beneath Nagai Stadium, Catherine Ndereba kept one bad of ice pressed to her head, while she shifted two more between her cramping feet.  Although she had just become the only woman to win a second world championships title in the marathon, reclaiming the title she lost to Paula Radcliffe in Helsinki in 2005, she simply looked like any working mother who had just finished a tough day at the office and had a headache.

"This marathon was one of the hardest in my running career," said the 35 year-old Kenyan shaking her head.  "The weather was a challenge and everybody was competing well."

But Ndereba, a four-time Boston Marathon champion, competed best of all.  Running most of the race well off the lead, and not joining the lead pack until after 25 km, the Olympic silver medalist waited until the 30°C (86°F) heat had softened up her key rivals, Zhou Chunxia and Zhu Xiaolin of China, Reiko Tosa of Japan and her Kenyan compatriot Rita Jeptoo.

"I was amazed to see at the 39 kilometer mark we were more than three runners," said Ndereba who was part of a lead pack of eight at 35-K.  "I couldn't even think how I was going to get the gold medal.  Thank God after 40 kilometers I had something."

By the 40-K mark only Zhou remained for her a serious concern.  The 29 year-old who had so handily won last April's Flora London Marathon in a world-leading 2:20:38, now found herself out of fuel as Ndereba launched her final push for victory.  The Kenyan entered the stadium well clear of Zhou, and became the oldest (and slowest) marathon world champion ever in 2:30:37, with Zhou winning China's first-ever marathon medal at a world championships seven seconds behind.

That Ndereba had won on the very same course at the Osaka International Ladies Marathon in January, 2006, counted for little, the athlete said.  "I guess the Osaka marathon in the summer and the winter are two different things," she said suddenly becoming animated.  "In January I raced the whole time with my gloves on and something under my singlet.  Today, I would run naked if I could do it!"

Ndereba suffered a scare at the 35 km fluid station when Jeptoo reached for her bottle and knocked both hers and Ndereba's off the table.  Instantly assessing the situation, Ndereba decided it was prudent to go back for the bottle.  She had to squeeze between two tables and go around the inside towards the curb to fetch it.

"At 35 km water it was kind of a disaster," she said.  "One of my colleagues missed her bottle.  I noticed very quickly.  I decided just to collect it."

While Ndereba and Zhou were battling for the title, a different sort of drama was playing out for the bronze medal.  On the last day of these championships, Japan's final chance to win a medal in any event was now resting on the narrow shoulders of Tosa. She was visibly suffering, her mouth agape and sweat pouring off of her body.  At 40-K she was two seconds behind Zhu and appeared to be out of medal contention after leading the race through 35 km.  The crowds lining the streets were cheering for her madly.

"The last five kilometers I thought was a very crucial moment," she said through an interpreter.  "I thought that was the starting point and I pushed very hard.  I thought I was likely to get the medal so I pushed it very hard."

Her left leg still hurting from a bruise sustained in a fall while training for this race in China, Tosa found the strength to leave the 23 year-old Zhu before entering Nagai Stadium.  In one of the most emotional moments of these championships, Tosa emerged from the tunnel and hit the track in sole possession of third place.  The crowd roared in approval and Tosa crossed the finish line in 2:30:55 to take the bronze medal 26 seconds clear of Zhu.  She immediately began to cry tears of both agony and joy and she limped away from the finish line.

"I think the cheering to me was so great I felt I was very lucky that this championship was hosted by Japan," she said.  "I really feel that all the support on the course made the medal."

A resurgent Lidia Simon of Romania, a three-time world championships medalist, finished fifth in 2:31:26.  Japan's Kiyoko Shimahara was sixth (2:31:40) and Jeptoo, who ran most of the race at the front, finished seventh (2:32:02).

In the Marathon World Cup team competition, Kenya repeated as champions in seven hours, 35 minutes and two seconds, 50 seconds ahead of second place China.  Japan, who was hoping to win the team title, finished third in 7:37:39.

It was a tough day for the United States who have been enjoying a successful meet in the sprints.  The top American finisher was Ann Alyanak of Bellbrook, Ohio, who finished 31st in 2:42:23.  Zoila Gomez of Alamosa, Colo., was 35th in 2:44:49 and Dana Coons of Charlottesville, Va., was 38th in 2:46:12.  The Americans finished sixth out of seven teams in the World Cup.

In all, 67 women from 32 nations started the race, and a surprisingly small sum of nine failed to finish.  The final finisher was 32 year-old Melissa Henderson of Belize.  Stiff-legged, she shuffled around the track for the final 300m and was warmly applauded by the fans.  As she finished in 3:52:35, neary one hour and 22 minutes behind Ndereba, she raised her arms as if in victory.  Perhaps, for her, it was.

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