Evans Cheruiyot of Kenya celebrates after winning the men's Chicago Marathon, Sunday, Oct. 12, 2008 in Chicago.
CHICAGO -- Stranded in France by a manager three years ago, Evans Cheruiyot never considered quitting.
He was too determined, and now, he's reaping big rewards.
Cheruiyot captured his second marathon in two tries, pulling away late from fellow Kenyan David Mandago before finishing in 2 hours, 6 minutes, 25 seconds to win the Chicago Marathon on a warm Sunday morning.
A winner at Milan in December, the 26-year-old Cheruiyot grabbed the lead in the 24th mile and was all alone as he crossed the finish line for his first major marathon victory. Mandago clocked in at 2:07:37 in his first major marathon, with fellow Kenyan Timothy Cherigat third at 2:11:39.
It was a good day for Russia's Lidiya Grigoryeva, too.
The 2007 Boston Marathon champion breezed to her second major victory, clocking in at 2:27:17 and finishing more than two minutes ahead of runner-up Alevtina Biktimirova of Russia (2:29:32). Japan's Kiyoko Shimahara (2:30:19) was third, and Olympic gold medalist Constantina Tomescu-Dita of Romania (2:30:57) took fourth. Two-time defending champion Berhane Adere of Ethiopia (2:34:16) placed 10th.
The field featured 33,033 runners, with $100,000 going to the winners.
"I'm very happy," Cheruiyot said.
Three years ago, that wasn't the case. Cheruiyot said he and 14 other runners were living in a cramped house in France and their manager left them stranded with no money, food or shelter after competing in several races.
The Kenyan embassy rescued them and Cheruiyot went home in January 2006.
He'll leave Chicago with enough money and a wide smile after another sweltering marathon.
Last year, with heavy humidity and temperatures soaring into the high 80s, the race was stopped after about four hours. Organizers were accused of not supplying enough water, and about 50 people were hospitalized. A 35-year-old man died, although coroners blamed it on a heart condition and said tests showed no evidence he was dehydrated.
The weather was almost as rough this time, with the temperature climbing from 65 at the start to the high 70s while the elite runners were still on the course before reaching in the mid 80s late in the morning. A weather warning system consisting of signs, colored flags and a public address system was implemented to keep runners in the know. Yellow flags (less than ideal) at the start of the race were switched to red (potentially dangerous) as the temperatures climbed in the afternoon.
Even so, Cheruiyot managed to set a quick pace and appeared to be in good shape as he crossed the finish line.
He was in the lead pack with Mandago and fellow Kenyan Emmanuel Mutai as they headed south back through downtown and the West Loop midway through the race. Mutai, who finished fourth at London in April, dropped off in the 18th mile. Mandago momentarily took the lead but mostly ran alongside Cheruiyot before the heat caught up to him.
While Mandago faded on the 24th mile, Cheruiyot made his move as they headed up Michigan Avenue toward the finish line and became the sixth straight Kenyan to win in Chicago.
"Mandago was not strong at that time," Cheruiyot said. "But me, I was pushing my best. ... Mandago was coming slow, but me, I just pushed."
The women's race followed a somewhat similar pattern, with Grigoryeva and Biktimirova jumping ahead midway through and Grigoryeva putting her away in the latter stages.
"The hot weather played well for me today because the race starts slowly, develops slowly," Grigoryeva said through an interpreter. "I was very confident in my speed."
Tomescu-Dita and Adere fell out of contention early on.
Dressed in gold just seven weeks after she became the oldest woman to win an Olympic medal, the 38-year-old Tomescu-Dita could not deliver another big performance.
The winner here in 2004 and runner-up in 2003 and 2005, a leg injury sidelined her for four months last year and prevented her from running in Chicago after she finished fifth in 2006. She also divorced her husband, who is also her coach, this year, but the emotional and physical pain didn't stop her from becoming the oldest woman to win an Olympic marathon medal.
Running her fourth marathon in 81/2 months, Tomescu-Dita acknowledged she was a little tired. She stayed with the leaders for the first half but could not make up ground after Grigoryeva and Biktimirova pulled ahead.
"It was not impossible to go with them, but they were going very fast," said Tomescu-Dita, who did not want to run out of energy.
That the leaders did not trail off was not a surprise to her. Grigoryeva was surprised, though, that no one challenged them.
"They dropped very fast," said Grigoryeva, who plans to donate part of her winnings to a Russian orthodox church and children's hospital back home. "It was a very big surprise that nobody came with us."
Temperatures for Sunday's Bank of America Chicago Marathon may not have climbed as high as last year's steamy race, but several runners still needed medical attention.
Sunday's heat may have kept some people away, especially after last year's fiasco, and that was just fine with Carey Pinkowski, race director.
"There's nothing causal about this (marathon)," he said.
Dr. George Chiampas, medical director for the marathon, said there were 110 calls for medical transport during the race, including people transported to medical-aid tents along the race course. Of the 110, 61 runners were taken to hospitals.
He said race officials expect life-threatening medical problems at marathons, but he could not say whether the 61 people taken to hospitals were suffering from life-threatening problems.
Ray Orozco, Office of Emergency Management and Communications executive director, said the city used none of its resources during the marathon because marathon officials had taken care of the emergency responders who handled medical problems along the way.
How well the city handled this year marathon will be scrutinized by International Olympic Committee officials in town, keeping a watchful eye on Chicago as a candidate city for the 2016 Games.