Erick Kimaiyo and Elvira Kolpakova again ruled the roads of Baltimore, albeit with considerably more suspense.
Kimaiyo repeated as the men's winner in Under Armour's Baltimore Marathon yesterday as the coughing Kenyan waited until the final quarter mile to ditch his protege, Christopher Kipkosgei. Kimaiyo covered the 26.2 miles in 2 hours, 18 minutes and 40.2 seconds, just 3.4 seconds ahead of Kipkosgei.
The third annual Baltimore Running Festival also had a familiar feel on the women's side. Kolpakova drafted off Lee DiPietro for 17 miles, then hitched onto a man in the Geico Direct Team Relay and pulled away from DiPietro, a Ruxton resident.
The only women under 3 hours, Kolpakova was timed in 2:48:49.4, with DiPietro repeating as runner-up, less than two minutes behind.
Both winners earned $4,000 in prize money.
It was Kolpakova's third victory in as many years here. Counting the Maryland Marathon's run from 1973 to '89, the 31-year-old Russian became the first person to claim three marathon titles in Baltimore. No man had ever won twice here before Kimaiyo came along.
Kimaiyo, 34, had not run a marathon since last year's victory, as he had been slowed by a hamstring injury and his job.
Kimaiyo is a coach in Fila's Discovery Kenya program, directing training at a rugged camp that lies at an altitude of nearly 10,000 feet. He's from the village of Marakwet, and that's where he went to recruit Kipkosgei, who's been with Fila for less than a year.
Bothered by a poor night's sleep and a wracking cough, Kimaiyo warned Kipkosgei that he needed to be prepared to take the initiative yesterday, but it was the elder Kenyan who made the decisive move, near where the statue of Babe Ruth marks the entrance to Camden Yards.
For the previous 26 miles -- including a brief turn off course a few blocks earlier -- the two were never separated by more than two paces.
"I know everything about him," Kimaiyo said of Kipkosgei. "I'm his coach. I know he cannot resist my speed."
Kipkosgei also knew what was coming.
"He was going to [out]-kick me," said the 24-year-old, who made his marathon debut with a fourth in Spain last April.
The Fila teammates had company as the lead pack of five marathoners was escorted through the midway point near the Inner Harbor by Joel Brusewitz and Jesse Williams, running the first two legs for the Falls Road Running Store, which made it a three-peat in the team relay.
Charles Kamindo, who ran the first 22 miles with Kimaiyo last year and made friends with his countryman afterward, was coming off a tough half-marathon in Colorado. He lost touch in the 20th mile, but maintained his third place.
Sergey Nochevny, a 34-year-old from Moscow, had shoe trouble on the third mile for the second straight year, but rejoined the leaders and finished fourth.
For the second time in three years, Columbia's Chris Chattin was the first local, finishing in 2:39:10.
There was quite a contrast between the second-place finishers. Kipkosgei stands all of 5 feet 3. DiPietro was headed to a black-tie affair last night, but joked that, "I never wear heels." The 45-year-old former triathlete is a tall woman, and for much of yesterday she served as a windscreen for Kolpakova.
"The wind was tough," DiPietro said. "If Elvira had helped out, it would have been nicer."
Up McCullough Street, down Falls Road and St. Paul Street, out and back Fort Avenue, Kolpakova tucked in behind DiPietro. Two-thirds in, Kolpakova made a move and joined two male marathoners. DiPietro followed, but when Kolpakova surged again in the 17th mile with a fresh relay runner just into his 10-mile anchor leg, DiPietro couldn't respond.
"I know Elvira," said DiPietro, who trailed her Russian rival by a little more than three minutes last year. "She has another gear. I was hoping it would blow up, but it didn't. She's an ultra-marathoner. It's hard to break someone like that."
Working a third course in as many years, Kolpakova again lowered her Baltimore best. Her forte is longer distances, and in each of the last two years, she was coming off of a world championship race of 100 kilometers (62 miles).
This year's worlds won't be contested until next month, and even though she won the Detroit Marathon 13 days earlier, Kolpakova talked of feeling stronger than in years past.
"I'm happy," was the extent of Kolpakova's English, in response to a translated question.
"It's exciting. She made history here," said Konstantin Selinevich, her Gaithersburg-based manager. "She likes Baltimore. We drove up [Interstate] 95 this morning in the dark. She saw the lights in the skyline and said, 'I like that.' I told her she should buy an apartment here."