SAN DIEGO, Calif. — June 1, 2012 – Don’t confuse the Robert Cheruiyot who won the 2010 Boston Marathon with the Robert Cheruiyot, who won the Boston Marathon in 2003, 2006, 2007 and 2008. The first and last names are the same, but that’s one of the few resemblances. The more recent Boston winner is 23, the other is 32. The 2010 winner’s middle name is Kiprono, the other’s is Kipkoech. The younger Cheruiyot will be heading a strong professional field for Sunday’s 15th annual Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Marathon. The other Cheruiyot will not be competing.
“We are not related,” Kiprono said on Friday. “I’m not the one who won Boston four times. But now I have done it and I’m very happy to have done it.”
Both Cheruiyots live in Kenya, but a great distance apart. The older one lives in Nairobi, the younger in the village of Sarucha.
When Kiprono returned to his little township two years ago after his Boston triumph, he was greeted like a conquering hero. He estimates that about 20,000 people from villages all around his home base turned out to greet him and threw him a celebratory party. They also presented him with five cows, which he gave to his mother. Should he win in San Diego on Sunday, the celebration won’t be as large, but it will be significant, he said.
Cheruiyot will be fighting some difficult odds in his San Diego debut. One, he still is recovering from a right hip injury that prevented him from running Boston again in April. Secondly, his preparation for the race was disrupted when his luggage was misplaced on the long trip from Nairobi through Amsterdam and Atlanta to San Diego, preventing him from doing his usual workout Friday morning.
Still, he is confident. “I don’t want to say I will win, but I will do my best to improve my time,” he said. “If we (the other top runners in the field) run together, maybe we can run 2:07. If the humidity is good, we can run good. If not, I will do my best.”
Cheruiyot’s best marathon time is 2:05:52 from his Boston victory, a clocking that broke the course record at the time. He ran each of his first four marathons in 2:07:30 or better. He made his international marathon debut in 2008 at Frankfurt, Germany, and won in a course record 2:07:21.
Sunday’s entrants include Pastrick Ivuti of Kenya, a winner at Chicago, Prague and Honolulu, with a best time of 2:07:46; William Kipsang of Kenya, a winner at Rotterdam with a PR of 2:05:49; and Ambesse Tolosa of Ethiopia, the San Diego champion in 2006. The top American is Jeffrey Eggleston of Flagstaff, Ariz., winner of the 2011 Pittsburgh Marathon.
Heading the women’s marathon field are Azelosh Woldeslasse of Ethiopia, who has a best of 2:25:23; Alevtiva Ivanova of Russia, a winner of the Nagano (Japan) Marathon; and Woynishet Garma of Ethiopia, last year’s Honolulu champion. Topping the U.S. list is Ashley Grosse of Palo Alto, Calif.