Bill Rodgers made it four in a row yesterday, winning the ninth annual 10-mile Perrier Cherry Blossom Race with a time of 47-minutes 17 seconds.
His time was nine seconds behind his record-setting pace here a year ago, but seven seconds ahead of his nearest opponent, Greg Fredericks of State College, Pa.
Laurie Binder of San Diego easily took first place among women runners, crossing the finish line in 56:44, a half-minute ahead of Georgetown University sophmore Pia Palladino. Binder's time was 1:10 behind the women's course record set last year by Anne Sullivan, a student at Brown University.
A stiff head wind, with gusts up to 35 miles per hour, appeared to affect the times. A field of 4,500 traversed the course on a humid and overcast morning, looping the Tidal Basin once and East Potomac Park twice before returning to the finish on Ohio Drive near the Lincoln Memorial.
Frederick, 30, a two-time Olympic runner and former proprietor of a sports equipment store, battled Rodgers for the lead all the way to the nine-mile marker. Rodgers, America's most successful road runner, then pulled ahead to win by about 25 yards.
"I ran it mile by mile. I feel great. This is a good race and I'm real pleased," said Rodgers, 33, coming off a two-week bout with the flu.
"There is no question that Greg Fredericks is one of the best 10-milers in the country. I have a lot of respect for him," Rodgers continued.
Rodgers said his strategy was to open up an eight-second lead at the nine-mile marker. He would then run the last mile in 4:40, making it difficult for anyone to overtake him.
"I was running right along with Billy," said Fredericks, "and when he wasn't able to break me after eight miles, I figured I had t made. Then he surged ahead at nine miles and that was the race right there."
John Gregorek, 20, a junior at Georgetown and a member of the U.S. Olympic team, ran even with Fredericks and Rodger for most of the race. But he began to fall behind shortly after the lead runners rounded the tip of Hains Point for the final straightway dash along the river bank to the finish line, with the wind now at their backs.
Gregorek said later he had developed a cramp on his right side. He still finished third.
From the outset of the race, a pack of six runners -- Mike Slack, Andy Palmer and Mike Roche, in addition to the top three runners -- dominated the field. But shortly before the five-mile maker, Roche, who has the best time in 10 miles this year, began to fall behind.
Palmer and Slack gradually lost ground over the next two miles, leaving the final straightaway to the top three runners.
Binder, 33, a 2:35.31 marathon runner who has twice won San Francisco's Bay to Breakers Race, was running in her first 10-mile race.
"I got the lead in the first mile, and I never looked back to see where the second woman was," said Binder, who plans to run two weeks from now in the Boston Marathon.
Said Palladino, whose prerace strategy was to stay with Binder from the beginning of the race: "I thought I was in first place, but I never even saw her. I had never met her so I didn't recognize her."
Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) finished the course in 1:11, but Agriculture Secretary John Block scratched at the last minute.
Mike Sabino of Baltimore holder of the men's age-group record for the 10-mile run for ages 36 through 40, set the record for 41-year-olds at 53:38.
Victor Grossman, 78, Silver Spring was the oldest runner to finish, completing the course in 1:50.
About a half-dozen of the race contestants yesterday competed in wheelchairs, including Howard Cohen, 28, of Alexandria, who covered the course in 1:10.30.
"The other runners were tremendously supportive of us," said Cohen, whose legs were paralyzed in an auto accident three years ago. "I'm a former soccer player, and if I weren't in a wheelchair, I'd be running in this race."