Geoff Smith, attempting to set a world record, suffered leg cramps after 19 miles and had to settle for finishing the 89th running of the Boston Marathon today in a winning time of 2 hours 14 minutes 5 seconds.
Smith, a 5-foot, 130-pounder who used to be a fireman and soccer player in Liverpool, England, became only the seventh runner in the marathon's history to win two straight titles, and the first British runner to do it.
Lisa Larsen Weidenbach, 23, of Marblehead, Mass., was the first woman to complete the 26-mile 385-yard run from Hopkinton, Mass., to Boston. Her winning time was 2:34:06, more than three minutes off her best.
Both winners led from the start in temperatures that reached the low 70s by the start and caused many of the runners to run slower times. Smith's was the slowest winning time since Canada's Jerome Drayton won the 1975 race in 2:14:46.
Smith was the only elite runner to compete in the world's oldest marathon, which was passed up by many world-class runners because the race directors do not offer prize money. But the absence of the top competitors didn't seem to bother the more than 5,800 starters. It merely caused Smith to run the entire race by himself. He raced through the first half of the race in 1:02:51, far faster than world-record pace, and more than three minutes ahead of Mark Helgeston of Cincinnati.
But a few hundred meters from the 20-mile point at the top of the last of four heartbreak hills, Smith stopped for a couple of seconds and grabbed his right hamstring. He threw his arms up in disgust and kicked out his leg to stretch the muscle.
"The legs cramped up on me and I said 'Damn, it's all over,' " Smith said. "So I tried to relax and concentrate."
Smith continued to run, but his pace was slowing dramatically, to six-minute miles. Luckily for Smith, the rest of the field was slowing, too.
"I heard he was slowing but I was doing the finish shuffle too," said Gary Tuttle, who placed second in 2:19:11. "At about 24 miles, I was going for second. I felt good until about 22 miles then I felt nauseous."
Smith jogged the last two miles. As he rounded the last corner with 100 meters remaining, he clutched his left hamstring and hobbled across the finish line, exactly six minutes off the world record he had hoped to break.
"Of course I'm disappointed," Smith said. "I came to run as fast as I could. I came to break a record. But I'm still happy I won. From 20 miles, I was just waiting for someone to pass me.
"The last five miles, I don't know how I did it. I just kept trying to put one foot in front of the other."
Tuttle, 37, of Ventura, Calif., stayed back in the pack until the 15-mile point, when he moved into fourth and then, by 20 miles, into second past Helgeston. Helgeston finished third in 2:21:15.
Among the women, Larsen Weidenbach also was a heavy favorite after an impressive string of victories this spring, including a U.S. record in the Nike Cherry Blossom 10-Mile run in Washington two weeks ago.
She established a large lead and won by one of the largest margins in the 14 years women have been allowed to run here.
"It was the hardest marathon I've done," said Larsen Weidenbach, whose winning time was three minutes off her best. "I started out running how I felt, then I started working at 17 miles. There, I really started laboring.
"Last night, I thought I was on target for a 2:30, but when I woke up and it was hot, I said 'forget it.' "
Lynne Huntington of Houston and Karen Dunn of Durham, N.H., followed in 2:42:15 and 2:42:27, respectively.
George Murray of St. Petersburg, Fla., won the wheelchair division by nearly two minutes in 1:45:34. Andre Viger of Quebec, the 1984 Boston wheelchair winner, finished second in 1:47:33, followed by Jim Knaub of Long Beach, Calif., in 1:48:44.
In the women's division, Candale Cables Brooke of California finished first with a time of 2:05:26. She was followed by Angela Leriti, of Canada, at 2:21:11, and Amy Doofenbaker, also of Canada, at 2:34:42.
Two-time winner Johnny Kelley today celebrated the 50th anniversary of his first victory by finishing for the 51st time.
Kelley, 77, retraced the Hopkinton-to-Boston route in 4 hours 31 minutes. In 1935 he triumphed with a time of 2:32:07. Ten years later, Kelley won his second crown in 2:30:40.