Cheruiyot’s sidewalk shuffle OK in Boston victory
BOSTON – He’s the next Robert Cheruiyot, and certainly not the next Rosie Ruiz.
Boston Marathon officials said Tuesday that Robert Kiprono Cheruiyot broke no rules – and gained no advantage – when he popped onto the sidewalk for a few steps on his way to shattering the course record held by the unrelated Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot.
“There are no specific out-of-bounds areas,” Boston Athletic Association executive director Guy Morse said Tuesday, a day after Cheruiyot won the 114th edition of the race. “It’s not like a tennis match.”
Cheruiyot finished in 2 hours, 5 minutes, 52 seconds – the fastest marathon ever run without a pacesetter. On Monday night, WBZ-TV in Boston aired video of Cheruiyot, hemmed in by the pack, hopping over a curb and running on the sidewalk for four seconds before popping back onto the street.
Race referee Steve Vaitones, who was on one of the vehicles in front of the leaders, said the incident happened around Mile 6 or 7, when the lead pack was thick with 15-20 runners.
“They were all hugging the curb. There was no space for Cheruiyot to go,” Vaitones said. “He either went up there or his next step could have been a pretty treacherous one.”
But this wasn’t another Ruiz, who skipped part of the 1980 race and showed up at the finish line to claim victory. Cheruiyot got no boost from his four-second sidewalk shuffle; no official who saw it thought it was a problem, and none of the other runners filed a protest.
Cheruiyot, who speaks little English, said Tuesday he was not thinking about anything but getting up the hill and keeping pace with defending champion Deriba Merga.
“I did not want to run inside (with) people,” he said.
When Ruiz claimed her victory 30 years ago, race officials were immediately suspicious of an unknown who ran what would have been the third-fastest by a woman in history and didn’t look all that tired or sweaty. Marathon officials were so unconcerned about Cheruiyot sidewalk run that they awarded him his $175,000 prize money on Tuesday as scheduled.
“Under road-running, a runner has to gain an unfair advantage by intentionally shortening the course,” Vaitones said. “There’s no advantage, and the course certainly wasn’t shortened. There’s nothing afoul of the rules.”
Different sports have different rules, of course, but also different interpretations of how they are applied.
Just a day earlier, golfer Brian Davis called a two-stroke penalty on himself in a sudden-death playoff at Hilton Head, S.C., when he inadvertently hit a loose reed in his backswing – indiscernible if not for slow motion replays. He immediately conceded the tournament to Jim Furyk.
Road racing is governed more by the spirit of the rules, and the primary issue is whether the runner gained any unfair advantage. The sport has rules that prevent runners from receiving coaching along the course, for example, or from having Tour de France-style support teams trailing them with food or spare sneakers.
Runners are allowed to leave the course if they are sick, or to go to the bathroom.
“He wasn’t cutting a corner or trying to gain some other advantage,” Morse said. “It doesn’t affect the outcome.”
Organizers called the race one of their most successful, thanks in part to perfect marathon weather. Race director Dave McGillivray noted that a life was saved when a 64-year-old man was resuscitated by fellow runners and rescue workers after having a heart attack about a mile from the finish.
The only flaw was that hundreds of runners – including one of the contenders – weren’t able to make it to Boston because of ash from an Icelandic volcano that canceled thousands of flights across Europe.
McGillivray said he wrote himself a note for next year.
“Prepare better for volcanoes,” he said. “I really, really apologize for overlooking that this year.”
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