Tergat wins New York marathon in final meters
NEW YORK (Reuters) - World record holder Paul Tergat pushed ahead in the final few meters to defeat defending champion Hendrick Ramaala of South Africa in a thrilling finish to the New York City Marathon on Sunday.
The Kenyan, five-times world cross country champion, and Ramaala ran side by side over the last 100 meters in Central Park, trading the lead in a sprint the Kenyan won by less than a third of a second as Ramaala collapsed after crossing the line.
Tergat, competing in his first New York Marathon, clocked two hours nine minutes 29.90 seconds with Ramaala at 2:09:30.22 in the closest finish in the 36-year history of the race.
"I had to give all that I had at the end," said Tergat, who needed a last surge in the final 20 meters to win. "It was very hard."
A disappointed Ramaala said: "I was beaten by a great champion. He's one of the greatest runners ever."
Third place went to 2004 runner-up and Olympic silver medallist Meb Keflezighi of the United States in 2:09:50.
The women's race, like the men's, began with a large pack of lead runners bunched together on a warm, humid day, but boiled down to a duel between Jelena Prokopcuka of Latvia and Kenya's Susan Chepkemei, with the Latvian pulling away.
Prokopcuka, who finished fifth last year, overcame a pain in her right side that caused her to drop back before a late charge brought her victory with a time of 2:24:41 and made her the first Latvian winner of the New York race.
"New York is a very important, huge marathon," said Prokopcuka, who won her first major marathon after claiming victory this year in Osaka. "Now maybe I want to win in Chicago, Boston and London."
Kenya's Chepkemei, also runner-up last year just three seconds behind Briton Paula Radcliffe, finished 14 seconds back in second place.
The Kenyan was struggling physically toward the end, vomiting as she fought to hold her lead after Prokopcuka charged up to challenge her.
Twice Olympic 10,000 meters champion Derartu Tulu of Ethiopia finished third in 2:25:21.
Tergat, 36, received $100,000 for his victory, while Prokopcuka collected $130,000 -- the highest guaranteed purse in marathon history thanks to an added $30,000 for the women's winner put in by the sponsor.
Foggy conditions made it humid, but kept temperatures down as runners started from Verrazano Narrows Bridge in Staten Island for the race through the five boroughs of New York with more than 2 million people cheering them on.
The women's lead group numbered eight until the 20-mile mark, while 17 men ran in a pack until reaching the Queensboro Bridge that brings the race into Manhattan at the 16-mile mark.
Ramaala surged as they made their way up First Avenue in Manhattan, putting in a blistering 4:21 mile as he tried to separate from the field.
Kenyan Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot, Keflezighi and Tergat stayed with the South African.
Ramaala tried a number of breakaways, but Tergat stayed close and turned the marathon into a sprint at the end.
"The weather was very hot but I tried to keep cool," Tergat said about staying just off the pace set by Ramaala.
"New York is one of the greatest races in the world," added the 36-year-old Kenyan. "This is very special to me."
"Who wants to go the last 100 meters with Paul?" Ramaala said about the agonizing finish. "I gave it everything I could. Paul didn't want to lose, I didn't want to lose.