Cheruiyot has four-titude

CHRIS STEVENSON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:51 AM ET

About halfway through the 35th Ottawa Marathon, a couple of grim realities were setting in for David Cheruiyot.

The defending champion was labouring with a stitch in his left side which had forced him to cut back on his pace and had put in peril both the defence of his championship and hopes for a record-tying fourth title.

Never mind his goal of bettering his own course record.

"Bad," said the 39-year-old Kenyan of the pain in his side. "It made me lose my speed."

But as the final kilometres slipped beneath his feet and he chugged along in fifth place yesterday, something marvellous happened.

The cramp went away.

In the distance he could see Ethiopia's Wegayeu Girma, at 20 almost half Cheruiyot's age, and Ahmed Baday, a 35-year-old Moroccan with a two hour, 10-minute, 59-second marathon on his resume.

"I thought I was going to be No. 3 ," said Cheruiyot, "but I saw they were going slow. I increased my pace and I caught them at 41 (km)."

POWERED BY YOUNG FOE

That led to a sprint finish with Cheruiyot powering by Girma down Queen Elizabeth Dr. toward the finish line to the cheers of the crowd that were three deep at points -- organizers estimated more than 100,000 spectators lined the route -- hitting the tape with about a 30-metre advantage. The win was Cheruiyot's fourth at the Ottawa Marathon, equalling Lioudmila Kortchaguina's record.

Bidding for a fifth title, Kortchaguina finished second in the women's race to Morocco's Asmae Leghzaoui.

Cheruiyot finished in 2:13:23, well off his course-record 2:10:35 set two years ago. Girma was timed in 2:13:29, followed by Baday in 2:13:56.

It was another remarkable performance for Cheruiyot, who continued his trend of defeating increasingly younger opponents in sprints to the finish.

"Next year, I'll be running for Masters," he joked.

Cheruiyot, who owns an auto parts store back home -- he plans to put his $15,000 winner's share into his business -- is not inclined to give up a good thing here.

"I'm going to run for another five years," he predicted. "Of course I'll come back. I want to defend until they beat me."

Cheruiyot is an incredible 4-for-5 at the Ottawa Marathon. He also won in 2005 and '07 and was fourth in '06.

'SHOES WERE TOO TIGHT'

When asked what happened in the stretch run when he was overtaken by Cheruiyot, Girma said he struggled because of his shoes.

"His shoes were too tight and his feet were bleeding," said a friend, who acted as interpreter.

"New shoes," said Girma. (I'm no expert, but I'm guessing breaking out a new set of kicks before a marathon might not be the best strategy).

Winning the Canadian men's title was Hamilton's Reid Coolsaet, who was making his marathon debut and hoping to secure a spot on the Canadian team for the world championships in Berlin in August. Coolsaet's time of 2:17:10 should be good enough, "as long as Athletics Canada sends a full team of five," he said.

Ottawa's Pete Quinn was the top local runner, in 27th place (2:42:30). He was also third in the 40-and-over division, won by Montreal's Louis-Phillippe Garnier in 2:34:41. Terry Gehl of St-Charles, Que., was second in 2:40:41.

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RESULTS

MARATHON

MEN

1. David Cheruiyot, Kenya, 2:13:23

2. Wegayehu Girma, Ethiopia, 2:13:29

3. Ahmed Baday, Morocco, 2:13:56

4. Laban Moiben, Kenya, 2:14:17

5. Ketema Amensitsa Tadesee, Ethiopia, 2:14:48

WOMEN

1. Asmae Leghzaoui, Morocco, 2:27:41

2. Lioudmila Kortchaguina, Toronto, 2:32:10

3. Irene Jerotich Kosgei, Kenya, 2:34:28

4. Salomie Getnet, Ethiopia; 2:37:22

5. Fiona Docherty, New Zealand, 2:42:11

HALF-MARATHON

MEN

1. Steve McNabb, Ottawa, 1:13:12.3

2. Nicholas Chadi, Montreal, 1:13:31.7

3. Richard Tessier, La Perade, Que., 1:15:08.6

4. Charles Nadeau, Quebec, 1:15:49.3

5. Dany Croteau, Mont St-Hilaire, Que., 1:15:58.9

WOMEN

1. Marie Danais, Quebec, 1:22:29.3

2. Leslie Sanderson, Ottawa, 1:26:48.3

3. Susan Durrell, Ottawa, 1:27:07.5

4. Lisa Balerna, Ottawa, 1:27:18.4

5. Judy Andrew Piel, Nepean, 1:28:06.5


Photos