London Marathon: Hungry Ceron runs away from poverty to paradise: Capital performances in unpromising conditions bring pounds and plaudits to imperious Mexican and dogged Dorre

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The Independent Online
DIONICIO CERON, widely acclaimed as the world's best marathon runner last year, carried on where he had left off yesterday as he became the first Mexican to win the NutraSweet London Marathon title. His time of 2hr 08min 52sec was extraordinary on a day when the wind-chill factor was worse than it had been in the event's 14-year history. It proved too much for Britain's defending champion, Eamonn Martin, who finished eighth in 2:11:05 after losing touch with the leaders after 19 miles.

Learned observers estimated that Ceron's run might have been worth a time between two or three minutes quicker in ideal conditions - making it comparable with the world best of 2:06.50 achieved by Belayneh Dinsamo, of Ethiopia, in Rotterdam six years ago. As it was, Ceron's was the third-fastest London time behind those of Steve Jones and Charlie Spedding, who finished first and second respectively in 1985 in 2:08.06 and 2:08.33. 'Ceron is quite frankly the most impressive marathon runner I have ever seen,' Chris Brasher, chairman and originator of the London Marathon, said. 'To run that time in these conditions is absolutely unbelievable.'

In contrast, the time of the women's winner, Katrin Dorre, was unusually slow - 2hr 32min 34sec was far from her best of 2:25.24. Not that the German was overly concerned after becoming the first runner to win the London event three times consecutively.

She surged away from her main rival, Lisa Ondieki, over the last four miles of what had largely been a slow, tactical race. Despite the time, she regarded it as the hardest victory of the three - 'there was a lot of pressure this time,' she said. 'It was hard in the head.'

If there was pressure on Ceron, who ran conservatively in a leading pack of 20 who went through half- way in 64min 40sec, it did not show, although he did grit his teeth over the final mile as he pushed on for a fast time.

'I went for a walk this morning at 5am, and when I saw the conditions I knew that I couldn't break the world record,' Ceron said. 'I was disappointed because I had been training for it.'

His recent performances had indicated that it was within his capabilities. At an altitude of 2,400ft, he ran 30 kilometres at 2hr 11min pace. On Tuesday he completed five km in 14min 22sec. But his disappointment was tempered by the thought of the subsequent, richly rewarding opportunities he will have to better the mark.

Ceron's victory is part of a national phenomenon. Mexicans have dominated in the four main commercial marathons recently - Ceron won Rotterdam last year, and Andres Espinosa won New York. Today, Ceron's training partner, Arturo Barrios, seeks to secure the Boston title.

What, Ceron was asked, is the secret of the Mexicans' success? 'There is no secret,' he replied with a sheepish grin. 'Only hard training.'

He did accept, however, that poverty played a part in the motivation. As he toyed with a post-race vegetarian lasagne in the press headquarters at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, he recalled the hardship of his upbringing. The eldest in a family of three boys and five girls, he was brought up in a house with just three rooms, and frequently went hungry. Corn was the staple diet. 'We had meat only twice a month,' he recalled.

His manager, the New York- based Luis Felipe Posso, illustrated the point. 'When I first met Dionicio in 1988 I was apologising to him because my apartment was so small. He told me it was paradise, and that I shouldn't complain.'

Paradise is roomier for Ceron nowadays. His winnings - dollars 55,000 ( pounds 37,000) for first place, dollars 15,000 for a sub-2hr 9min time, plus an

appearance fee likely to have been at least dollars 50,000 - will go towards finishing construction on the five houses he is building on land purchased near his native town of Santa Maria Ruion, 16 miles from Mexico City. He is likely to need more real estate before he finishes.

Martin, who revealed that he had been taking medication for a head cold which he woke up with last Monday, was characteristically phlegmatic afterwards. 'I was more concerned about the cold than all the media attention I received,' he said. 'But I am not using it as an excuse.'

He had stayed in touch with the lead until Abebe Mekonnen, of Ethiopia, surged through the 18th and 19th miles in 4min 57sec and 4:45, a move that reduced the leading group to five, and Martin was not among them.

'As they pulled away,' Martin said, 'I thought to myself, this is a marathon, things can happen. As long as they don't get too far away. . . In the end it was important to me to finish as the first British runner. I ran really hard the last five or six miles. It would have been easy to throw in the towel. I was just looking at the Did Not Finish list and reading the reasons - things like 'tired legs'. I thought, 'I had that, and I had that.' It has got to be a bit more than that for you to pull out. You've got to suffer in a marathon.'

The Briton duly suffered. Now he has earned a rest, and does not envisage racing seriously again

until mid- or late June. The timing of the British 10,000 metres trials for the European Championships - in Corby on 30 May - could hardly be less convenient for him. He will concentrate on beating the required time of 29 minutes by the required deadline of 12 July.

The women's race was, in the absence of the Chinese, a far thinner affair than the men's, where Mekonnen earned second place in a sprint finish with the German Silva, who was completing his first marathon. Silva - wouldn't you know it - is Mexican.

Once Dorre began to pull away from Ondieki in the final stages the result was decided. 'I was running fast in the last four miles,' Ondieki said. 'But Katrin was running super-fast.' Mile splits of 5.39, 5.24, 5.23 and finally 5.05 gave evidence of the way in which the German had paced herself.

She said afterwards that she would have been in shape to run under 2hr 25min had there been either a pacemaker for the women, as well as the men, or a joint start. Next year, if Brasher has his wish, the event will revert to a joint start.

----------------------------------------------------------------- LONDON MARATHON RESULTS ----------------------------------------------------------------- MEN 1 D Ceron (Mex) . . . . . . . . . . . .2:08:53 2 A Mekonnen (Eth). . . . . . . . . . .2:09:17 3 G Silva (Mex) . . . . . . . . . . . .2:09:18 4 S Bettiol (It) . . . . . . . . . . . 2:09:40 5 G Gajdus (Pol) . . . . . . . . . . . 2:09;49 6 M Pitayo (Mex) . . . . . . . . . . . 2:10:58 7 T Negere (Eth) . . . . . . . . . . . 2:10:59 8 E Martin (GB) . . . . . . . . . . . .2:11:05 9 R Vera (Ecu) . . . . . . . . . . . . 2:11:15 10 C Patricio (Por) . . . . . . . . . .2:11:42 11 M Flint (GB) 2:12:07, 12 F Couto (Por) 2:12:15, 13 S Brace (GB) 2:12:23, 14 T Bekele (Nor) 2:12:24, 15 A Castro (Bra) 2:12:44, 16 J-E Montiel (Sp) 2:12:48, 17 M Hudspith (GB) 2:12:52, 18 L Shvetsov (Rus) 2:13:00, 19 J Romera (Sp) 2:13:15, 20 B Deacon (Can) 2:13:35 WHEELCHAIR 1 D Holding (GB). . . . . . . . . . . .1:46:06 2 I Newman (GB). . . . . . . . . . . . 1:46:08 3 H Eriksson (Swe). . . . . . . . . . .1:50:22 WOMEN 1 K Dorre (Ger). . . . . . . . . . . . 2:32:34 2 L Ondieki (Aus). . . . . . . . . . . 2:33:17 3 J Mayal (Bra). . . . . . . . . . . . 2:34:21 4 S Ellis (GB). . . . . . . . . . . . .2:37:06 5 S Eastall (GB). . . . . . . . . . . .2:37:08 6 H Nash (GB). . . . . . . . . . . . . 2:39:04 7 Z Marchant (GB). . . . . . . . . . . 2:40:09 8 J Coleby (GB). . . . . . . . . . . . 2:40:31 9 L Rushmere (GB). . . . . . . . . . . 2:40:46 10 S Rigg (GB). . . . . . . . . . . . .2:41:03 11 S Lynch (GB) 2:41:47, 12 A Hulley (GB) 2:42:40, 13 A Rose (GB) 2:45:55, 14 P Griffin (Irl) 2:45:57, 15 M O'Reilly (Irl) 2:46:04, 16 A-M Mejia (Mex) 2:46:15, 17 T Djabrailova (Ukr) 2:46:17, 18 T Thomson (GB) 2:47:31, 19 T Swindell (GB) 2:48:09, 20 C Mijovic (GB) 2:48:31 WHEELCHAIR 1 T Grey (GB) . . . . . . . . . . . . .2:08:26 2 R Hill (GB). . . . . . . . . . . . . 2:08:30 3 T Lewis (GB). . . . . . . . . . . . .2:28:34 -----------------------------------------------------------------

(Photograph omitted)

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