BOSTON – Let him be known from Hopkinton to the Back Bay as "Robert the Younger" — the second Kenyan 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 four-time winner Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot, who's not related. 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 in 1994. "Guys are paving new territory, and that's good for us, too."
Ethiopia's Teyba Erkesso took the women's title in 2:26:11, sprinting to the tape to win by 3 seconds in the third-closest women's finish in event history. 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 course record of 2:07:14 set in 2006 by his 31-year-old countryman. A farmer back home, he earned a bonus of $25,000 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 champions.
"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 — "Johnny the Elder" — a beloved patriarch of the Boston Marathon who continued to run the entire race until 1992, when he was 84. When he could no longer complete the distance, he would serenade the competitors at the starting line with "Young at Heart" before riding to Boston in a convertible as the grand marshall.
A statue of him in his younger and older days greets the runners at the base of Heartbreak Hill in Newton.
Robert Kipkoech Cheruyiot won his first Boston in 2003 and won three more times from 2006-08 to cement his place among the Boston Marathon greats. On Monday, acting the advice his elder gave him in a meeting two months ago, "Robert the Younger" produced a blistering pace to join them.
"I tried to show my talent," he said.
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 and Hall and fellow American Meb Keflezighi, the winner in New York last fall, rounded out the top five; no American has won the men's race since Greg Meyer in 1983.
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 — there were three last year — 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 a lead pack — including Abderrahim Gourmi, who had the fastest personal best in the field, and Keflezighi — fell off the pace.
The two leaders ran the 21st mile — the steepest part of the course — in a split of 4:55.
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 sprinted through the final mile and unsuccessfully chased Merga down Boylston Street.
"I always thought I had a shot to get back in it," said Hall, who like Keflezighi is from 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 Arizona 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.