Merga and Kosgei win Boston Marathon titles

BOSTON (Reuters) - Ethiopia’s Deriba Merga won the Boston Marathon men’s title on Monday and Salina Kosgei of Kenya won the closest-ever women’s finish.

Slideshow ( 6 images )

Merga, 28, finished in two hours, eight minutes and 42 seconds, comfortably beating Kenya’s Daniel Rono and Ryan Hall of the United States by nearly a minute in the 113th edition of the world’s oldest annually contested marathon.

The Ethiopian’s victory broke a three-year winning streak for Kenyan Robert Cheruiyot, who faded from the leading pack before the top of Heartbreak Hill, the steepest climb on the course which starts just after 20 miles, and soon dropped out.

Merga broke from the pack with about three miles to go to cruise on his own through Boston’s streets to victory.

“At 23 miles I decided that it was time to push,” Merga told reporters after winning the $150,000 prize.

The women’s race ended in drama, with Kosgei winning by a mere second in a final three-way sprint with a time of 2:32:16.

She beat last year’s winner, Ethiopian Dire Tune, who collapsed after crossing the line and was carried off on a stretcher for observation at a local hospital.

American Kara Goucher was third.

The women’s pack kept a slow pace for much of the race until the final five miles when Goucher stepped it up.

“I looked around with about five miles to go and just felt, ‘There are too many people here’,” a tearful Goucher, who was also third in November’s New York City Marathon, told reporters.

“It felt like it would be too risky to have seven women sprinting home.”

Kosgei said the slow pace early on had made her nervous.

“I’ve never run as slow a race like this today,” she said. “I was a little scared.”

African men have won nine of the last 10 editions of the 26.2 mile (42.2 km) race from Boston’s hilly suburbs to its centre. African women have won eight.

The last American woman to win was Lisa Larsen-Weidenbach in 1985, and the last man was Greg Meyer in 1983.

Editing by Jason Szep and Sonia Oxley