Tune wins women's title by two seconds; Cheruiyot claims 4th men's crown

BOSTON -- Dire Tune outkicked Alevtina Biktimirova to win the Boston Marathon by 2 seconds in the closest finish in the history of the women's race, while Robert Cheruiyot won the men's title for his fourth victory Monday.

Tune and Biktimirova came into Kenmore Square side by side, jockeying for position. Biktimirova appeared to get an edge when Tune nearly missed one of the final turns and ran into a camera vehicle. The Ethiopian quickly composed herself and took the lead before the last turn.

Biktimirova caught her and regained the lead briefly, but Tune pulled ahead for good in the last 100 yards on Boylston Street to beat Biktimirova to the line.

The previous closest women's finish came two years ago, when Rita Jeptoo beat Jelena Prokopcuka by 10 seconds. Jeptoo finished third this year, 69 seconds behind Tune.

"I tried to run away from her for the last miles, but she's very strong," the 22-year-old Tune 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.

"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."

Despite their 1-2 finish, neither runner is assured of making her 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.

Both runners have won marathons before.

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

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

In the men's race, Cheruiyot ran away from the pack to finish in a blistering 2 hours, 7 minutes, 46 seconds. He missed the course record he set two years ago by 32 seconds, but became the fourth man to win the world's oldest annual marathon four times.

After crossing the finish line, Cheruiyot dropped to his knees to kiss the ground before standing up and counting off his four victories with an upraised arm.

"This was the hardest," Cheruiyot said. "Boston is not a very easy course, it's very difficult. [But] I enjoy running the hills."

Although he repeatedly checked his watch as he ran alone for the last miles, Cheruiyot did not challenge the course record of 2:07:14 he set two years ago.

His problem: no one to race with.

"It's very difficult when you're running alone here in Boston," he said. "You need company."

Cheruiyot and Tune, who finished in 2:25:25, each earned an enhanced prize of $150,000 -- the biggest in major marathon history.

Morocco's Abderrahime Bouramdane finished 1:18 back of Cheruiyot while countryman Khalid El Boumlili came in third, another 1:31 behind. Nicholas Arciniaga, of Rochester Hills, Mich., was 10th to give the Americans a top-10 finish for the fourth straight year.

With his third straight victory, Cheruiyot gave Kenya its 15th men's victory in 17 years. Tune was the first Ethiopian woman to win since Fatuma Roba won three straight from 1997 to '99.

Cheruiyot pulled away from a pack of four at the base of the Newton Hills, running the 19th mile in 4:37 to finish Heartbreak Hill 27 seconds ahead of his Moroccan pursuers. He passed defending women's champion Lidiya Grigoryeva, with the two No. 1 bibs running side by side, just before the 24-mile mark.

Cheruiyot remained on a record pace as he approached Kenmore Square before slowing over the last mile.

The wheelchair division had two wire-to-wire winners Monday, with both the men's and women's champions finishing without a competitor in sight.

South African Ernst Van Dyk won in 1 hour, 26 minutes, 49 seconds, setting a record with a seventh victory in the men's wheelchair division.

In the women's race, Japan's Wakako Tsuchida won her second straight, beating her closest competitor, Canadian Diane Roy, by nearly 8 minutes.

Tsuchida finished in 1:48:32, nearly 5 minutes better than her time last year. Roy finished in 1:56:18.

Van Dyk's time was the second slowest of his seven wins. Countryman Krige Schabort was second in 1:30:39.

Van Dyk said he started fast, a strategy he's used in past wins in Boston.

"Halfway, I really regretted it, because I was really in pain," he said. "But then I just settled, I suppose. Then I kept it going and saved something in case somebody would catch up to me and it would be a sprint."

Last year, Van Dyk failed in his bid for a seventh straight Boston Marathon victory, losing to Japan's Masazumi Soejima. This year, Soejima finished third in 1:33:00.

The race came a day after the U.S. Olympic women's trials featured the top American runners fighting for a berth in the Beijing Games. Deena Kastor, Magdalena Lewy Boulet and Blake Russell finished in the top three to earn a chance to run in the Olympics.

With the three new Olympians serving as grand marshals, more than 25,000 runners left Hopkinton under cloudy but calm skies and temperatures in the 50s -- a major improvement over last year's monsoon that threatened to scuttle the race.

Among those in the event's second-largest field: seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, who finished 496th in 2:50:58.

Before the race, Spyros Zagaris, mayor of Marathon, Greece, presented Hopkinton with a replica of a cup that was given to the winner of the first modern Olympic marathon in Athens in 1896. He vowed to build strong ties between his city and Hopkinton, both homes of the start of famous marathons.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.