BOSTON — Let him be known from Copley Square to Kenya as "Robert the Younger" – the second man named Robert K. Cheruiyot to win the Boston Marathon and the first person ever to run the legendary course in under 2 hours, 6 minutes.
Robert Kiprono Cheruiyot won the 114th Boston race Monday, finishing in 2:05:52 to shatter by 82 seconds the course record set by unrelated four-time winner Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot. American Ryan Hall, who finished third last year, missed another spot on the podium by 2 seconds, but his time of 2:08:41 was the fastest ever for U.S. runner in Boston.
"Today was a breakthrough day," said Hall, who was 6 seconds faster than Bob Kempainen was in 1994. "Guys are paving new territory, and that's good for us, too."
Teyba Erkesso of Ethiopia took the women's title in 2:26:11, sprinting to the tape to win by 3 seconds in the event's third-closest women's finish. Russia's Tatyana Pushkareva smiled and waved at the TV cameras as she closed what had been a 90-second gap, but she could not quite catch Erkesso on Boylston Street.
Cheruiyot, 21, surpassed the time of 2:07:14 set in 2006 by his namesake, who is 10 years older. The younger Cheruiyot, who owns a farm back home, earned a bonus of $25,000 for the course record on top of the $150,000 – and a golden olive wreath from the city of Marathon, Greece – that goes the men's and women's winners.
"I am going to buy some cows," Cheruiyot said.
The Cheruiyots are not the first namesakes to win in Boston.
When John J. Kelley won in 1957, he was destined to be confused with 1935 and '45 champion John A. Kelley, a beloved patriarch of the Boston Marathon who continued to run the race each year until 1992, when he was 84. When he could no longer complete the distance, "Johnny the Elder" would serenade the competitors at the starting line with "Young at Heart"; a statue of him in his younger and older days greets the runners at the base of Heartbreak Hill in Newton.
Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot won his first Boston in 2003 and three more times from 2006-08 to cement his place among the Boston Marathon greats. On Monday, acting on the advice his elder gave him in a meeting two months ago, "Robert the Younger" produced a blistering pace to join them.
"Most of the people already confuse me with Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot," said the 2010 champion, who finished fifth in Boston last year after winning in Frankfurt in his marathon debut. "With me and Robert, we talk the same language, but in different stripes. I think people can see me and they can see him and compare."
Cheruiyot finished 91 seconds ahead of Ethiopian Tekeste Kebede to give Kenya its 18th men's victory in 20 years. Defending champion Deriba Merga was third, followed by Hall and fellow Californian Meb Keflezighi, the reigning New York City Marathon winner; no U.S. man has won the race since Greg Meyer in 1983.
"We are training hard, but that doesn't mean we're going to hit a home run every time," said Keflezighi, who was trying to be the first American to win in New York and Boston back-to-back since Alberto Salazar in 1982. "We take big pride in being among the favorites. We put it on the line. We don't go for second. I think the crowd appreciated it, because they were shouting 'U-S-A! U-S-A!'"
A temperature of 49 degrees and a 13 mph headwind greeted more than 26,000 runners at the start in Hopkinton, including an unprecedented 71 competitors who came from Greece to help celebrate the 2,500th anniversary the Battle of Marathon. It was there, in 490 B.C., that a messenger named Pheidippides was dispatched the roughly 26 miles to Athens to deliver news of a victory over Persia – and then dropped dead.
This year's edition of the world's oldest annual marathon was decided, like so many before it, at Heartbreak Hill.
Merga surged ahead at the firehouse that marks the start of the Newton hills, drawing Cheruiyot along with him, while the rest of the lead pack – including Keflezighi and Moroccan Abderrahim Goumri – fell off the pace. Goumri, the fastest man in the field, dropped out of the race around Mile 18.
Merga and Cheruiyot ran shoulder-to-shoulder through parts of Newton and into Brookline, before the Kenyan inched ahead at Coolidge Corner with about 2.5 miles left and pulled away.
Hall, who led most of the way last year, led early again before falling to 17th in Natick and then retaking the lead in Wellesley. He lost ground at the halfway point but with a sprint through the final mile was almost able to catch Merga on Boylston Street.
"I always thought I had a shot to get back in it," said Hall, who is neighbors with Keflezighi in Mammoth Lakes, Calif. "If you're trying to be the big elephant – the guy who gets to sit wherever – you've got to be confident."
Erkesso opened a lead of more than 90 seconds and held on, grabbing her side as she ran along Beacon Street in the last four miles. Defending champion Salina Kosgei was third, and Paige Higgins of Flagstaff, Ariz., was the top American woman, in 13th.
The men's wheelchair race was also close, with South African Ernst Van Dyk finishing 4 seconds ahead of Krige Schabort for his ninth win – an all-divisions record in Boston. Van Dyk has won three in a row, and he also won six consecutive years from 2000-06; Jean Driscoll won eight Boston women's wheelchair races.
Wakako Tsuchida of Japan won her fourth straight women's wheelchair title.
EDITS throughout; SUBS 12th graf to clarify Keflezighi trying for first Boston-New York double since 1982; SUBS 15th graf to CORRECT spelling of Goumri.