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Ben Kimondiu Rabbits to Win over Tergat

Heading into the final quarter mile of the LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon, 5 time world cross-country champion and world record holder in the half-marathon Paul Tergat trailed on the heels of novice 2:15 marathoner and race-rabbit Ben Kimondiu and many of the track and field "experts" assumed it was a mere formality that Tergat would outkick Kimondiu.

He did not.

Kimondiu outkicked Tergat for a 2:08:52 win and a $90,000 official payday. And in the process, he bruised the egos of all the message board aficionados who constantly are pumping up the marathon prospects of all runners with stellar 5k and 10k p.r.s if they'd just move up to the distance.  Those of us who have actually run the distance, including the great Tergat himself, know that the success at 5k, 10k or even the half-marathon doesn't equate to success in the marathon.

"The marathon is a totally different event - sport," said the upbeat Tergat afterwards in a press conference where he repeatedly talked about his novice status in the 26.2 mile event.  "All in all I had a great race. I'm still coming up (in the marathon)."

He also added, "Honestly, I know now that I am a marathoner." 

With Tergat in town for his Chicago debut, race organizers brought in four rabbits to take the lead group through half-way in a blistering 1:02:40 as they - like Tergat's coach Gabriel Rosa - also fully expected Tergat to make an assault on Khalid Khannouchi's world record of 2:05:42 which was set here in 1999.  It seemed to us that the blistering pace the rabbits were instructed to hit, would be suicidal for more than one or two men to even attempt.  We evidently weren't the only one's thinking this as no one, including Tergat, went with the rabbits.  One or two of them slowed down to run with Tergat's group which hit half-way in 1:04:10, while the other rabbits, Josephat Kariuki and eventual race winner  Ben Kimondiu hit the half-way mark in 1:03:21.  Kimondiu then basically crawled the next 2.4 miles to 25k (15.5 miles) as he let the main group catch up and the race was on.  Kimondiu ran the 5k from 20k to 25k in a very slow 15:46 while Tergat and the others ran it in 15:11.

At 25k, 9 guys were within 3 seconds of the lead, but by 30k only 3 were within 10 seconds of the lead and the three were rabbit Henry Tarus, fellow rabbit and eventual winner Kimondiu and Tergat. Tarus quickly called it a day and Kimondiu and Tergat battled to the finish.

Kimondiu wasn't a normal rabbit. He said all along he planned on finishing the race.  When asked how he felt at 30k when the race became a two-man battle, he replied, "Sometime it's hard to predict how your body is feeling. Just keep going (is what I thought)."

After emerging from a tunnel at around mile 25, Tergat was seen to be looking over his shoulders. He explained that the crowd's noise  seemed to rise in volume and thus he thought they were cheering for more experienced marathoners who he thought would be more adept at closing strong. Tergat never led near the end but a couple of times he did reel in Kimondiu when he pulled ahead by about by 5 or 6 meters.

It became clear at the post-race press conference that Kimondiu didn't have any set plan as to where to begin his final kick, at least for one very simple reason - he hadn't seen the course beforehand.

"I missed the course tour because it was in the morning (at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday)," said Kimondiu who was just one of many of the elites who found the time for the course tour to be a little too early.  "I knew nothing of the course, I was just going. "

Well, his simplicity paid off big time.  In other men's action, American Olympian Rod DeHaven solidified his status as the top American marathoner of 2001 with a 6th place finish and personal best in 2:11:40.  Rod split through half way in 1:05:10.  His wife is expected to deliver a child on Monday.

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