Mark Saina has led a triple Kenyan sweep at the Athens Marathon, a 42-kilometer race that follows the ancient route for which the event is named.
Saina won in two hours, 18 minutes, 17 seconds Sunday after fending off a late challenge from John Moiben and Elijah Korir. Moiben was 25 seconds behind Saina, while Korir trailed by 35 seconds. The three top Kenyans were among about 20 elite runners invited to Athens in an effort to raise the standard of the long-neglected Greek race ahead of the 2004 Olympics.
German runner Sonja Krolik-Oberem, who placed third at the Munich marathon three months ago, won the women's competition in 2:37:21. She broke the tape a full ten minutes ahead of Georgia Ambatzidou of Greece (2:47:22). Russian Victoria Zueva was third among the women (2:49:24).
More than 2,500 runners registered for the marathon and another 1,500 for a 10-kilometer race which both ended at Athens' marble Panathenian stadium. The race, from the village of Marathon to Athens, was inspired by the legend of Pheidippides, the ancient messenger. He brought Athens news of victory in the 490 B.C. Battle of Marathon against an invading Persian army. The marathon was first run to the marble stadium in 1896, when the ancient Olympics were revived in Athens. An almost identical route will be followed at the 2004 Summer Games.