Tune wins women's race at Boston Marathon in thriller

Updated: April 21, 2008, 3:39 PM ET
Associated Press

BOSTON -- When Dire Tune couldn't pull ahead of Alevtina Biktimirova with a few miles left in the Boston Marathon, she decided to bide her time and outkick her opponent at the end.

The plan worked to perfection -- barely.

The pair ran shoulder to shoulder from Heartbreak Hill on, exchanging the lead from time to time before Tune pulled away on the final turn to win in 2 hours, 25 minutes, 25 seconds on Monday to take the closest women's race in Boston Marathon history.

"I tried to run away from her for the last miles, but she's very strong," the 22-year-old Ethiopian said through a translator. "I was confident when I was not able to run away from her, I could save myself for the final kick."

Tune won in her first try at Boston. Biktimirova finished in 2:25.27, with 2006 champion Rita Jeptoo third in 2:26:34.

"I was fighting until the end," said Biktimirova, who finished sixth the only other time she ran Boston in 2006. "And in the end I just didn't have enough speed."

Tune and Biktimirova were part of a group of 10 women who immediately broke from the pack within the first mile and stuck together until about mile 15. One by one the others dropped back until Tune, Biktimirova, Jeptoo and Askala Tafa Magarsa were left.

Magarsa dropped off the pace at mile 18 and Jeptoo, who had some pain in her legs, was left behind a mile later. But Tune and Biktimirova seemed to get stronger, matching each other stride for stride and running a 5:08 split at mile 22.

"If anyone moved, I was going to follow," said Tune, who has won four marathons in two years. "That was the only thing in my head."

It was no accident that Biktimirova was able to make her move in the Newton Hills. The landscape reminded her of where she trains in her native Russia. She even appeared to be smiling as she tackled the terrain, but that's just the natural expression of her face.

"It's not pain, it's not smiling," she said.

Despite their 1-2 finish, neither runner is assured of making their nation's marathon team for the Beijing Olympics. That's up to others to decide, Tune said.

"I ran a pretty good time today, but it's not enough to say whether I make the Olympic team," Biktimirova said.

The previous closest women's finish was 10 seconds in 2006, when Kenya's Jeptoo finished in 2:23.38 to beat Latvia's Jelena Prokopcuka, who finished fourth on Monday.

Biktimirova won the Honolulu Marathon in December. Tune won her second straight Houston Marathon in January and won Hong Kong in February 2006.

Ashley Anklam of Bloomington, Minn., was the top American woman, 15th overall in 2:48.43. Most of the top American women ran in Sunday's Olympic trials in Boston.

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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