This time the Americans mean business in Boston

BOSTON - When Ryan Hall, pictured, needs a little something to get him through the rigours of marathon training, he turns to YouTube for old clips of Bill Rodgers slogging through the streets to one of his four Boston victories.

BOSTON - When Ryan Hall, pictured, needs a little something to get him through the rigours of marathon training, he turns to YouTube for old clips of Bill Rodgers slogging through the streets to one of his four Boston victories.

"I've drawn a lot of inspiration from him," Hall said this week as he prepared for the 113th running of the Boston Marathon. Watching the videos ... it gives me goosebumps just thinking about it."

Robert Cheruiyot of Kenya is going for his fifth Boston Marathon title - it would be his fourth straight - and Ethiopia's Dire Tune will try to repeat as women's champion when the field of more than 25000 runners leaves Hopkinton today for the 42.2km race to Boston's Copley Square.

Another win for Cheruiyot would be Kenya's 17th men's title in the last 19 years, and Ethiopia is second only to Kenya with four women's victories in 12 years. But there's another country in the discussion this year: the US, which with Hall and Kara Goucher has contenders in both races for the first time in decades.

Rodgers, 61, will be back on the course this year for the first time in a decade, but with a goal of four hours he's no threat to win the race or even the over-60 division. That leaves Hall, who has the fastest time in the field, as the top American hope to end a streak almost as old as he is.

Rodgers won the race in 1975 and again three straight times from 1978-80, and Salazar outsprinted Beardsley to win the '82 race by two seconds. Greg Meyer won the next year and no US man has won in Boston since; no woman has won here since Lisa Larsen-Weidenbach in '85.

From 1994-2001, there were no men in the top 10 at all. And it's not just Boston: American men won the first 13 New York Marathons - including four straight for Rodgers followed by three in a row for Salazar - but haven't taken first since '82.

Every few years, the word goes out that the Americans are about to make a breakthrough. Top contenders like Deena Kastor and Marla Runyon or naturalised citizens like Meb Keflezighi and Khalid Khannouchi have threatened the Kenyans and Ethiopians but couldn't reach the podium.

New York City Marathon director Mary Wittenberg insists this is not the typical annual American finger-crossing. Hall's time of 2 hours, 6 minutes, 17 seconds from London last year is the fastest personal best in the field; Goucher finished third in New York last year in 2:25:53 in her marathon debut, the fastest ever for an American woman. - Sapa-AP

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